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Exclusive: Patrick Swayze's widow on Jennifer Grey's 'Dancing with the Stars' breakdown

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lisa-niemiImage Credit: Adam Larkey/ABC; Ida Mae Astute/Getty ImagesLisa Niemi, the wife of the late Patrick Swayze, told EW.com exclusively that she was “caught off-guard” by the outpouring of emotion displayed by Jennifer Grey during the Dancing with the Stars premiere on Monday and “didn’t expect there to be so much focus on Patrick.” The season 11 opener featured a video segment of Grey bursting into tears when she and partner Derek Hough began to rehearse to “These Arms of Mine,” a song featured on the Dirty Dancing soundtrack.

“A friend asked me if I thought Jennifer was being sincere, and I said absolutely. I thought she was sincere,” said Niemi. “There’s got to be some part of her that knows it will help her chances a little bit. But does that cancel out whether she really does care? No, it doesn’t. I think her feelings are very true and at the same time, I think she’s going to win!”

Despite the breakdown, Grey, 50, and Hough went on to earn the highest score of the night – 24 out of 30 — by performing the Viennese waltz. It even brought judge Carrie Ann Inaba to tears. “Of course, Jennifer is hugely associated with Dirty Dancing, and if you think about it — her dancing ballroom again — how could it not remind her of moment in time that was very important?” says Niemi. “Jennifer is a very talented and very sensitive individual. It didn’t surprise me that she got so emotional.”

Niemi said she sent along her good wishes via email to Grey before she began Dancing with the Stars. She and Swayze often ran into Grey over the years and always had “warm feelings” for her. Says Niemi, “Jennifer is a very unique individual and she looks like dynamite. I’m sure some people thought Jennifer had all this dance training, which she hasn’t, but she has a lot of natural abilities. Coupled with her acting abilities, she’s a unique personality. She has a lot to bring to the show.”

“There is a lot of good will out there for Dirty Dancing,” Niemi continued. “Will that little magic help her? I think it may because she was such a big part of Dirty Dancing. Go girl and win it if you are going to do this kind of thing, I think!”

After co-authoring Time of My Life with Swayze, Niemi is working on a new book in which she’ll address how she coped with Swayze’s illness in his final years and his tragic passing last year.