From PEOPLE Magazine Click to enlarge
Jane Seymour has done plenty to be proud of over the years: giving birth to four kids, winning an Emmy, being named an officer of the Order of the British Empire by the Queen. But she'd never gotten a compliment quite like this one: "My husband was saying that Howard Stern was discussing my backside on his show"—and comparing her 56-year-old rear favorably to those of some of her younger competitors on Dancing with the Stars. "I said, 'That's ridiculous!'" says Seymour, curled up in a tank top and leggings in the airy living room of her six-bedroom, ocean-front Malibu home. "My husband said, 'Howard has a point.'"

Yes, that slinky mambo queen really is Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman. Six weeks into Dancing with the Stars, Seymour—the oldest female contestant ever on the show—has pulled off moves and skimpy costumes most women half her age would envy. She's proud of the body she's showing off—and frank about what she did to get it: Yes, she had breast implants; no, she resisted lipo. (See box, above.) But even better, the Brit who first sizzled as a Bond girl at age 22 has built enough strength to all but eliminate the back pain she has struggled with since suffering a herniated disk seven years ago—and lived out her childhood dream of becoming a dancer. "I have so much energy," she says. "Maybe because I am happy."

The jive she performed on Oct. 29 earned the lowest score of the night from the judges, and she missed the next night's show with what cohost Tom Bergeron said was a suspected case of food poisoning. But the voters kept her in—no surprise to her husband of 14 years, producer and director James Keach. "This isn't, like, bring out the lame," says Keach, 59, dad to her 11-year-old twins Kristopher and John. "She's moving her chi-chis, baby!"

Along the way, Seymour has weathered setbacks small—bleeding blisters—and enormous: Her mother died on Oct. 1, and three weeks later, the Malibu wildfires forced her from her gated home. One morning two weeks ago, she was lying in bed when her Dancing pro partner, Tony Dovolani, called to warn her of encroaching fires. "I looked outside the door, and maybe half a mile away were black smoke and flames," she recalls. "I ran inside and said, 'We've got to get out.' I grabbed the kids—and completely ridiculous things: passports, jewelry, an antique vase, family photos, two cocktail dresses, two pairs of Manolo Blahniks and two workout outfits. I forgot underwear and pj's."

In the end, her home was unharmed (Keach stayed to keep watch), and she continued Stars without interruption, spending several days living in a hotel. But the same was not true when, minutes after finishing her mambo in week No. 2, Keach pulled her aside with heartbreaking news: Her mother, Mieke, 92, who had been sick since she suffered a stroke earlier this year, had died. Seymour skipped the next day's show and flew home to England—with her family and Dovolani at her side. In her last months, Mieke's greatest pleasure had been hearing about Seymour's Stars success (the eldest of three girls growing up outside London, Jane had studied ballet as a child, but gave it up because her knees gave out). Seymour's sisters told her, "You cannot disappoint her," Dovolani says. Exhausted and grieving, Seymour fit in rehearsal around the funeral, flew back to L.A.—and dedicated her tango to her mom. "My mother was with me," says Seymour. "She took me out there and made it happen. It was a gift she gave me."

And a reminder of what really matters to her: "Family," says Keach. His wife, he says, has taught them all "about struggle, discipline, dedication and even failure. She falls down and gets back up." Even if that has taken a little extra effort throughout the intense Dancing competition. "My body wakes up in the morning and says, 'What did you do?'" At night, she says, she "hobbles" home, "and I climb in the tub. I am singing the praises of Epsom salts. And I live in Ugg boots."

In some ways, Seymour is ready to return to a gentler routine, making the twins breakfast (she is also mom to Katie, 25, and Sean, 22, from a previous marriage), going to their Little League games, overseeing their homework, painting the watercolors she loves and dreaming of slipping into her Manolos after the blisters on her feet have healed. But she wouldn't give up a moment of Dancing with the Stars—or the body she has to show for it. "My stomach muscles are astounding," says Seymour—and those legs: "I have never, ever liked my legs—ever. And now I look in the mirror and say, 'Who do these belong to?' And then I look up and there's my face. I say, 'They are yours. Thank you.'"

  • Contributors:
  • Bryan Alexander/Malibu.