DWTS Kicks Off with New Stars and New Twists

DWTS Kicks Off with New Stars and New Twists

03/09/2009 AT 12:00 AM EDT



Dramatic. Exciting. Emotional. That’s what the eighth season of Dancing with the Stars has been -- and it hasn’t even started yet!

It could be Dancing’s most unpredictable season yet. Already, two competitors, singer Jewel and Access Hollywood’s Nancy O’Dell, had to drop out due to injuries sustained while rehearsing.

In a show-must-go-on spirit, Dancing will kick off its new season Monday night on ABC (8 p.m. ET) with two new dancers -- The Bachelor’s Melissa Rycroft and Girl Next Door Holly Madison -- who will perform on the live telecast having had only days to rehearse, PEOPLE has learned. While the show has dealt with many ups and downs, “There’s not a Dancing curse!” two-time DWTS champ Cheryl Burke insists to PEOPLE. “It’s not a curse, it’s who have never danced before and you don’t realize but dancing is a sport. If your body is not used to it then you’re easily injured.”



Thirteen couples will perform live on the two-hour Monday night premiere. Then in one week all 13 couples will return to the ballroom, this time to perform a second dance. Audience votes and judges’ scores from both performances will be combined.

In the spirit of keeping the audience on its toes, a new Tuesday results night twist has been put into place for the early weeks of competition starting on March 17. After the judges’ scores and the audience votes have been tallied, the bottom two couples facing elimination will do a "dance off." The judges will score this final dance to determine who will stay for another week and who must exit the competition. --Monica Rizzo

Scott Kirkland/INF; Craig Sjodin/ABC

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