11/17/2008 at 12:00 AM EST
’s most injury- and illness-riddled season ever, four contestants have survived to compete in Monday night’s semifinal performance show.
“It’s a perfect top four,” judge Carrie Ann Inaba
tells PEOPLE of season seven celebrity finalists Cody Linley, Brooke Burke, Lance Bass
and Warren Sapp
. “It will be the best dancing we’ve ever seen in a semifinal."
What makes the competition so exciting at this stage, says Inaba, is that "Everyone is so different. Brooke and Lance are already strong dancers. Warren is so charismatic and the way he is able to move his feet is beyond understanding for his body shape and size. It defies gravity. And Cody has made a phenomenal transformation from week one to now.”
Inaba says while Burke and Sapp have been praised as the season’s front-runners, the ones to watch are Bass and Linley, who reunites with partner Julianne Hough
on Monday for the first time in three weeks following her appendectomy
“I thought Cody did great with Edyta
(Sliwinska, who filled in while Hough recuperated)," says Inaba, "but I like him better when he performs with Julianne because it brings out all the great aspects of who he is … fun, lively, energetic and a little bit silly."
As for Bass, Inaba says, "it’s all about the momentum at this stage and the luck of the draw which dances they get.” Each couple will perform two dances on the live Monday night telecast.
Tuesday’s results show will determine which three couples will move on to the finals -- and promises to be deliver a must-see entertainment lineup. For the first time ever, three musical guests … Aretha Franklin, John Legend
and two-time Dancing
… will perform. Also, returning to the ballroom for the first time since capturing the season six mirror-ball trophy will be Kristi Yamaguchi
and Mark Ballas
. --Monica Rizzo