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New ‘Dancing' cast makes its ballroom debut

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(AP, ABC7) - "Dancing With the Stars" unveiled its new ballroom and new cast Monday, and when all the dancing was done, singer Chynna Phillips and actor J.R. Martinez topped the judges' leaderboard.

“Every week we want people to see the rise and the climb and, you know, how we get to a certain place. It's not going to be easy but we're going to get there,” Martinez said.

Soccer star Hope Solo and her partner are just a point behind. Solo said dealing with the pressures of her soccer career has her well prepared to take on the Dancing contestants.

“I do know how to block out pressure and deal with pressure too. I've done that my entire career for 20-plus years so I can handle the lights and the camera, I think,” she said.

Solo appeared on the "Late Show" with David Letterman along with teammate Abby Wambach, attended the New York City premier for the final season of HBO's "Entourage" with teammate Alex Morgan, and landed high-profile endorsement contracts with Gatorade and Bank of America.

Now she's dancing with the stars. "It's been a whirlwind," she said simply.

Phillips and Martinez each earned 22 points out of 30 for their Viennese waltzes - the night's highest score. Basketball star Ron Artest landed in last place with 14 points. Head judge Len Goodman called Artest's cha-cha "all sizzle and no sausage."

Solo is partnering with "Dancing With the Stars" veteran Maksim Chmerkovskiy on the popular ABC television show, which pits athletes, celebrities and other personalities in a dance contest in which viewer votes help determine the winner. Chmerkovskiy has worked with sports stars before: boxer Laila Ali, volleyball star Misty May-Treanor, and ESPN personality Erin Andrews.

Fans are already cheering for their favorites, and letting the candidates know who they support.

“I have received so many phone calls and letters and emails from viewers to cheer me on,” said TV personality Nancy Grace.

Chaz Bono may be the most controversial of the 11 contestants. The show's first transgender contestant, the 42-year-old author and activist has attracted hateful blog posts, some even calling for a DWTS boycott.

But groups such as the Transgender Law Center and the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation have voiced support for his appearance on the show.

Also making their dancing debut on the hit ABC show were reality stars Robert Kardashian and Kristin Cavallari; TV personality Ricki Lake; actor David Arquette; and Italian actress Elisabetta Canalis, who may be better known in the United States for being George Clooney's ex-girlfriend.

Find out more about the show and contestants on the ABC website.

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