Dancing with the Stars review: Jockey Nina Carberry the ‘dark horse’ of the season

The competition has returned with glitz and glam as we meet the first six contestants
Dancing with the Stars review: Jockey Nina Carberry the ‘dark horse’ of the season

Jockey Nina Carberry and Pasquale La Rocca during the Dancing With The Stars live show

Dancing with the Stars returned to our screens after almost two years and it was clear the contestants, judges and presenters were thrilled to be back on the dancefloor, as was reigning champion Lottie Ryan who delighted viewers with the Dora the Explorer-inspired salsa that impressed during her winning season.

For the show’s opening episode on RTÉ One, half of the contestants made their dancing debut amid a sea of glittery gúnas and tight trousers while the rest will be entertaining us next weekend, with the first elimination taking place on week three.

Comedian Neil Delamere and Kylie Vincent
Comedian Neil Delamere and Kylie Vincent

First to perform was funnyman Neil Delamere, who kicked off the season with a suitably upbeat paso doble performed to ‘I Believe in a Thing Called Love’ with his professional partner, Kylee Vincent. “I’m very impressed,” Loraine Barry raved, though new judge Arthur Gourounlian said Delamere was sometimes “too intense” and Brian Redmond advised he needs to be “a little calmer, a little more relaxed.” “I think it's fair enough to say that we redefined dance,” Delamere joked to presenter Nicky Byrne. 

Missy Keating and Ervinas Merfeldas
Missy Keating and Ervinas Merfeldas

Model, influencer and Boyzone offspring Missy Keating was up next and danced an American Smooth to ‘Baby Love’ with her partner Ervinas Merfeldas while dad Ronan watched from the audience. The judges praised her moves and “courageous” lifts during her first dance, and Gourounlian noted the pair’s blossoming chemistry.

Cyclist Nicolas Roche and Karen Byrne
Cyclist Nicolas Roche and Karen Byrne

Taking on a jive, cyclist Nicolas Roche showed off his dancing style with Karen Byrne to ‘Blinding Lights’, though Redmond described his moves as “out of synch” and Gourounlian said he had expected more from Roche, who said he relishes being out of his comfort zone.

Author Cathy Kelly and Maurizio Benenato
Author Cathy Kelly and Maurizio Benenato

The judges warmed to author Cathy Kelly following her Cha Cha Cha to Whitney Houston's iconic ‘How Will I Know?’ with pro dancer Maurizio Benenato. Barry described it as sassy and fun, with Gourounlian saying it was clear she was “loving life on the dancefloor”. Redmond noted her characterisation was great, though said she needs to work on her technical moves before he can have his own “love story” with her.

Jockey Nina Carberry and Pasquale La Rocca
Jockey Nina Carberry and Pasquale La Rocca

Retired jockey Nina Carberry made her debut with partner Pasquale La Rocca who danced the quickstep to the very appropriate ‘Black Horse and the Cherry Tree’. Gourounlian called her “the dark horse of the night” and Redmond exclaimed “giddy up, girl” before praising her elegance and skill. Barry agreed that Carberry caught her attention too. Carberry scored 19 points from the judges, the highest of the night.

TV Presenter Grainne Seoige and John Nolan
TV Presenter Grainne Seoige and John Nolan

TV presenter Gráinne Seoige was the final contestant to perform, dancing the waltz with partner John Nolan to ‘With You I'm Born Again’. “That is a Gráinne Seoige we’ve never seen before,” presenter Jennifer Zamparelli noted. Redmond complimented the softness and strength within her performance, with all the judges urging her to come out of her shell further while Gourounlian was impressed by the “femme fatale”.

Next Sunday we will see Erica Cody, Aengus Mac Grianna, Matthew Mac Nabb, Ellen Keane, and Jordan Conroy make their first impressions on the dancefloor.

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