Dancing with the Stars 2024: Who are the contestants, when is it on and more

RTÉ will breathe a sigh of relief at the return of Dancing with the Stars – here is everything you need to know

Dancing with the Stars 2024 - Celeb dancers

After a challenging 12 months, RTÉ will breathe a sigh of relief at the return of Dancing with the Stars (DWTS) this Sunday. Amid recent turmoil, DWTS has represented a solid ratings winner for the broadcaster – though as recently as last November, producer Larry Bass told reporters RTÉ could well “pull the plug” on the show as question marks remained over Montrose’s finances. But the lights have stayed on, and this year’s batch of celebrity contestants are ready to join presenters Jennifer Zamparelli and Doireann Garrihy under the disco ball. Here is everything you need to know.

When is it on?

DWTS begins on RTÉ One on 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 Gourounlian.

Who are the contestants?

Rosanna Davison (partnered with Stephen Vincent)

Rosanna Davison is a former Miss World and daughter of Chris de Burgh. She is also a reality TV veteran, having appeared on Celebrity Come Dine with Me and Celebrity Salon. The qualified nutritionist says she wants to prove to her kids that she is much cooler than they take her for. “My family like to say that I’m awkwardly ‘uncool’ when I’m on the dance floor, so I’m going to show them a thing or two,” Davison says. “You forget who you used to be when you become a mum... your children take over your life, your world and your thoughts and I’m slowly starting to remember the person I used to be. I’m doing this show for my kids as well, I want them to be really proud.”

Eileen Dunne (partnered with Robert Rowiński)

The face of RTÉ News for decades, newsreader Eileen Dunne has been looking for new challenges since presenting her final bulletin in November 2022. “I know it will be hard in ways, it will be challenging but I think I’m going to love every minute of it,” Dunne says. “I took very few Irish dancing lessons and attempted to take dancing lessons at one point... Bar dancing in Tamangos or The Grove in Clontarf or wherever as a teenager – that’s about the height of it.”

David Whelan (partnered with Salome Chachua)

Wild Youth singer David Whelan knows all about the spotlight and the ups-and-downs of social media, having represented Ireland at last year’s Eurovision, where Wild Youth were eliminated in the semi-finals. He is no stranger to dancing. His father is a dance teacher, and Whelan studied at Billie Barry stage school. “It’s a new experience, especially with a partner,” Whelan says of DWTS. “Getting used to that is one thing, getting used to the fake tan is another. I don’t mind the sequins; I’ve worn some crazy stuff in my life so far. Apart from a nightclub dance floor when I was in my mid-20s, I wouldn’t say I danced a lot, but I’m loving it.”

Blu Hydrangea (partnered with Simone Arena)

Belfast drag queen Blu Hydrangea is best known for winning the All-Stars season of RuPaul’s Drag Race UK and appearing as a mentor on ITV’s Queens for the Night. “I didn’t think it was going to happen because I was a bit lazy, and now, I’m here, and I get to do it in front of the world, so that’s exciting. I danced on Drag Race if you could call it that,” says Blu. “I’m sure some people would have some words to say about my dancing.”

Miriam Mullins (partnered with Montel Hewson)

Miriam Mullins first came to prominence on TikTok during the pandemic, posting prank videos and comedy sketches. Last year, she swapped social media for the airwaves when joining RedFM in Cork. Previously courted by the producers of Love Island, she makes her reality TV debut on DWTS. “It’s such an amazing opportunity, a chance to meet loads of new people, make loads of new friends and hopefully show off my dancing skills,” Mullins told RTÉ. “I don’t know if I have them or not. We’ll see. I’ve done the odd TikTok dance here and there. That mightn’t have gone down very well with the audience, but this is a different type of dancing.”

Laura Fox (partnered with Denys Samson)

After reaching the finals of Miss Ireland in 2014, Laura Fox moved into broadcasting and hosts a weekend breakfast show on RTÉ 2FM. She is also the latest presenter of Ireland’s Fittest Family. But can she pass the glitzier endurance test that is DWTS? “Ireland’s Fittest Family has put me on a new trajectory,” Fox says. “And even though it has been overwhelming – it has been overwhelming in a good way because people are supportive and there’s so many lovely messages – I’m hoping that they’ll do the same for Dancing with the Stars and get behind me.”

Shane Quigley Murphy (partnered with Laura Nolan)

Soap stars are a familiar presence on DWTS. That tradition is upheld by Fair City actor Shane Quigley Murphy, who has also appeared on small screen blockbusters Outlander and Foundation, in addition to Kin and Netflix’s Vikings: Valhalla. He describes DWTS as a step into the unknown. “The spray tan caught me by surprise, but hey, I’ll try anything once,” Quigley Murphy says. “I’m not quite sure what to expect, but that’s why I love it. I love a challenge, and this is definitely a challenge for me. The last time I danced was at my brother’s wedding, and honestly, that wasn’t a pretty sight.”

Davy Russell (partnered with Kylee Vincent)

Jockey Davy Russell will know the form book is in his favour with fellow turf champ Nina Carberry winning Dancing With The Stars 2022. Russell earned a place in the history books as the first jockey of the modern era to win back-to-back Aintree Grand Nationals on the same horse. He describes Dancing with the Stars as “a new venture”. “It’s really hard to keep it a secret from friends and family, I have itchy fingers and I’m ready to pull the trigger. My wife always told me we need to get dancing lessons before our wedding. I said no, and now I’m regretting this decision,” Russell says.

Katja Mia (partnered with Ervinas Merfeldas)

Katja Mia had her first success as a model but went on to host The Six O’Clock Show and Ireland AM on Virgin Media One. She is a graduate of Maynooth University, where she studied international finance, economics and German. “I was a stage school kid growing up but I haven’t done anything like Latin dancing, ballroom dancing, anything that’s quite technical like that,” Mia says. “So that’s the daunting part, but between that and just going out with friends and dancing in clubs – I think I’ve got a bit of rhythm, so I should be okay.”

Rory Cowan (partnered with Jillian Bromwich)

Rory Cowan is best known for his time on Mrs Brown’s Boys. He has narrated Gogglebox Ireland and joined Fair City in 2019 – the same year he released his memoir, Mr Cowan’s Boy. “Last year I couldn’t do it because I had back surgery,” Cowan says. “But this year it’s going to be fantastic because I’m 64, I’m turning 65 in July and I just want to go out with a bang. I’m not going to be doing anything else after this.”

Jason Smyth (partnered with Karen Byrne)

Gold-medal-winning Paralympics sprinter Jason Smyth will make history as the first legally blind contestant on DWTS. Smyth, whose central vision is affected by Stargardt’s disease, is relishing a different kind of challenge. “It’s quite a step away from the world on the athletics track to the dance floor. So, I think there are elements I’m excited about and elements that I’m just a little bit nervous about as well,” Smyth says. “I wouldn’t even say I was someone who dances loads. I have two girls, eight and five, and they both love to dance, so I’ve had to learn to bop around more and more, but it’s usually to princess songs or something slightly different.”

What can we expect?

Zamparelli and Garrihy gelled well when Garrihy took over from Nicky Byrne in 2023. The real question, of course, is how the contestants will fare. Bookies have installed presenter Laura Fox as favourite while Eileen Dunne is seen as the likeliest to suffer an early elimination. But we will not know for sure until the lights go down and the music strikes up.

What to watch for

The contestants will not have to worry about elimination in week one. Nerves could still be a factor – so look out for the occasional flailing limb and off-key twirl as they become familiarised with the dance floor.