NEW YORK Motown week proved the ironic undoing of singer Gladys Knight on Tuesday's "Dancing With the Stars," but her final "dance duel" against the other bottom-finisher, Roshon Fegen, brought a split decision from the three judges as to who should go home.
In the end, it was the singer who was escorted off the ballroom floor for the final time. She had started off rocky in the first weeks of season 14 on the hit TV dance competition, but had shown recent improvement and was never in the bottom two until this week. Yet her rumba to "My Girl" on Monday's performance show earned the lowest score, 21, from the judges.
Disney Channel star Fegen fared only marginally better with a judges' score of 23. But after fans voted the two as the lowest finishers, they had to face off in the newly introduced dance duel, in which the judges decide who is eliminated.
Knight, a 67-year-old Grammy-winning singer who was partnered with professional dancer Tristan MacManus, was poised and gracious in defeat, saying she was "amazed at this journey."
Judge Carrie Ann Inaba wanted to keep Knight over Fegen, but was outvoted by fellow panelists Len Goodman and Bruno Tonioli.
"I learned so many things, and found so many friends and family," she said. After Monday's performance she was prepared for her demise, saying "More than likely they're going to have us in the dance duel," before adding "What-ever!"
Two other dancers, Melissa Gilbert and Maria Menounos, were also declared in jeopardy early on, but had good enough scores and enough fan votes to keep them from the final dance-off.
Opera singer Katherine Jenkins, who has wowed judges and fans consistently all season, scored a 29 as did Jaleel White, she with a samba and he with a cha-cha-cha.
Musical highlights of the Tuesday's elimination round included Boys II Men performing "One More Dance" and Natasha Bedingfield singing "Wild Horses" to accompany a dance performance.
"Dancing With the Stars" is among the top-rated U.S. TV shows, pairing B-list celebrities, sports stars and singers with professional dancers performing sambas, waltzes and other dances across a ballroom floor.
Viewer votes combined with judges' ratings decide which stars face elimination each week, with the new dance duel judges' decision being the final word.
Seven stars remain in the competition, including pro football player Donald Driver and Telemundo star William Levy.
(Reporting by Chris Michaud; Editing by Bob Tourtellotte)