Dancing With The Stars is ringing in the changes in 2023, with a new presenter and with the show reduced to a penny-pinching 11 episodes from the previous 12.
Nicky Byrne of Westlife has exited as one of the faces of the ratings blockbuster and is replaced by Doireann Garrihy, who takes on hosting duties alongside Jennifer Zamparelli. With budgets under pressure at RTÉ, the season has meanwhile been trimmed by a week – meaning the headcount of contestants is also down to 11 from 12.
The speculation is that this is to reduce overheads as it will cut down on accommodation expenses and other costs. Last summer, DWTS producer Larry Bass said independent producers were under increasing pressure amid rising costs. “We are expected to cut budgets to deliver future shows. It is unsustainable,” he said.
There are also rumours that this is to be the final season of DWTS, due to the cost of bringing it to the screen. In response to a query from The Irish Times, RTÉ said “We are firmly focused on Dancing with the Stars 2023 and look forward to bringing our audiences a terrific new series in January.”
When’s it on?
DWTS begins on RTÉ One, Sunday night at 6.30pm, and runs until 8.30pm. But there will be no eliminations – the knockouts don’t begin until week three. The series returns with judges Loraine Barry Brian Redmond and Arthur Gouroulian
Who are the contestants?
Kevin McGahern: Comedian McGahern is best known from rural chortle-fest Hardy Bucks, and as a presenter of Republic of Telly and Clear History. He said: “I’m delighted to be a part of this year’s Dancing with the Stars. It’s a very different world to what I’m used to. I’m a little scared but looking forward to giving it my best.” On opening night he will be dancing a Viennese Waltz with pro partner Laura Nolan.
Dr Marie Cassidy: The former state pathologist, now resident in London, swaps the mortuary lab for the dance floor. The bookies think she’s could go all the way to the final. At odds of 10/1, she’s fourth favourite to walk away with the Glitterball Trophy. She will start her big adventure dancing a jive to Love Really Hurts Without You by Billy Ocean, with partner Stephen Vincent.
Stephanie Roche: Soccer star Roche already knows all about the spotlight, having been nominated for the 2014 Fifa Puskás Award for goal of the year (for a dinger scored for Peamount United). She has since worked as a pundit for RTÉ, most recently for the World Cup from Qatar.
“I’m excited and nervous to get started on Dancing with the Stars,” she says “This is a whole new experience for me and one that will definitely take me out of my comfort zone, but I’m excited to learn to dance and to enjoy the whole experience.”
She kicks off DWTS dancing a cha cha to Crazy What Love Can Do by David Guetta, Becky Hill & Ella Henderson with pro partner Ervinas Merfeldas.
Damian McGinty: The Glee! actor is favourite to walk away with the Glitterball Trophy. In 2011, the Derry-born singer and actor won a reality show, The Glee Project, that led to an 18-episode arc on Ryan Murphy’s cult song-and-dance dramedy. He portrayed foreign exchange student Rory Flanagan. He continues to perform in the United States, where he is based.
“Dancing With The Stars is a major challenge for me. One I am really excited for but also very nervous about it,” he said. “Dancing has never been a strong point of mine, quite the opposite, but I’m eager to get to work.”
He begins with a tango to Shivers by Ed Sheeran, dancing with partner Kylee Vincent.
Brooke Scullion: Brooke broke Irish Eurovision hearts when she was undeservedly eliminated in the Turin semi-finals last year with her bopper That’s Rich.
“I’m so excited to be joining the Dancing with the Stars family and to be part of an iconic Irish series,” said the Derry singer. “What girl doesn’t want to get on her dancing shoes every Sunday night?! It’s a dream come true – bring on the sequins.”
Her exploits begin on Sunday night with a salsa to Let Them Know by Mabel. She will be accompanied by pro partner Maurizio Benenato.
Panti Bliss: History will be made as Panti – aka Rory O’Neill – becomes one-half of the first-ever same-sex couple on DWTS Ireland. O’Neill is Ireland’s most famous drag queen – and became celebrated all over again as a campaigner when advocating for the 2015 Marriage Equality referendum.
“It’s happening! I cannot wait to take to the dance floor with my partner – and it’ll help me get back into shape after the lockdowns,” said O’Neill. “I feel really privileged to be part of the first same-sex couple competing on Dancing with the Stars from the very start of a series. It’s a really exciting time”
Panti dances a cha cha to I Wanna Dance with Somebody by Whitney Houston with pro partner Denys Samson.
Suzanne Jackson: Stylist and influencer Jackson was last seen kicking off a new season of makeover show the Style Counsellors. Now she’s giving herself a makeover as she hits the DWTS floor. “I’m ... a bit of a thrill seeker so I’ve been looking for a new challenge and here we are,” she wrote on Instagram. “Now, I’m not the most flexible person in the world. I did Irish dancer before when I was young like I think every girl in Ireland. And I thought ‘Okay I might be able for this since I did a bit of Irish dancing’. How wrong was I? They are not alike in any way, shape or form.”
Her sparkling adventure kicks off with a samba to Woman by Doja Cat. She dances with pro hoofer Michael Danilczuk.
Leah O’Rourke: Best known for playing Derry Girls’ resident Little Miss Perfect Jenny Joyce, Newry actress O’Rourke bites off an entirely different challenge with Dancing With The Stars. Not that she isn’t familiar with the spotlight: she became a one-woman meme with her knowingly toe-curling take on Stay by Shakespeare’s Sister on Derry Girls. She described DWTS as “the opportunity of a lifetime”, adding “If I’m brave enough to showcase terrible singing on Derry Girls, I’m hoping I’ll be brave enough to showcase my attempts at dancing.”
She dances a paso doble to School’s Out by the cast of Glee!, with pro dancer John Nolan.
Paul Brogan: All-Ireland-winning Dubliner footballer Brogan swaps the blue of his native county for the sparkle of Dancing With The Stars. Athletes tend to do well on DWTS – all that sweat and applause potentially reminding them of their day jobs – and Brogan is looking forward to the challenge.
“I’m so excited to be part of this show. I am a competitive person, but this is way out of my comfort zone and from what training I have done so far, I know it is not going to be easy,” he said.“ It will take a lot of hard work, but it’ll also be a lot of fun. Rehearsals have been great so far and I’m looking forward to the live shows. It will be a great experience and a new test.”
He will be hoping to be off to a winning start when he opens his account by dancing an American smooth to Come Fly With Me by Michael Bublé, accompanied by Salome Chachua.
Carl Mullan: Mullan is best known for anchoring the 2FM breakfast slot with new DWTS host Doireann Garrihy. But he also knows a few things about publicly strutting one’s stuff: in 2015 he went quasi-viral spoofing the dance moves from the movie Magic Mike for 2FM’s social media accounts. “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I can’t wait to get going,” he said of Dancing With The Stars. “It’s completely outside my comfort zone, I’ve never done any form of dancing before, but I’m determined to get my head down and do everything possible to make sure my partner and I get all the way to the final”
He begins on Sunday with a foxtrot to Daydream Believer by The Monkees, accompanied by Emily Barker.
Shane Byrne: Former rugby international Byrne used to be known for his eye-grabbing mullet. But now he’s swapping the maul for the dance hall, and is looking forward to diving in head first.
“I’m really looking forward to hitting the dance floor on Dancing with the Stars in January,” he said. “It’s not like anything I’ve ever done before – it’s a long way from the rugby pitch – but I’ll give it my all and I know I’ll have a lot of fun along the way.”
He kicks off dancing a quickstep to Help! by the Beatles, along with Karen Byrne.
What Can We Expect?
Nicky Byrne and Jennifer Zamparelli had a hokey chemistry. And so it will be interesting to see how quickly newcomer Garrihy settles into hosting. On the dance floor bookies see Glee! star McGinty as a frontrunner while Carl Mullan and Shane Byrne are tipped for early elimination. But things can change once the lights go down and the music strikes up, so it will be fascinating to discover who soars and who flops.
What to Watch For
Opening night nerves are always a factor on DWTS. Some contestants take naturally to the dance floor and thrive under pressure. With others, you can see the terror in their eyes the moment the cameras roll. The evening will meanwhile kick off with a pro dancer group performance to What Are You Waiting For? by The Saturdays.