This week on RTÉ's Dancing with the Stars, the Dreaded Dance Off – aka The DDO – makes its first appearance and RTÉ news correspondent Teresa Mannion is struck down and out as its very first victim.
Mannion and her partner John Nolan were up against Red Rock’s Denise McCormack and Ryan McShane, who are the usually the show’s highest scoring couple.
As Storm Ewan rages outside, perhaps Mannion was pulled away from her natural habitat and it affected her paso doble this evening. Mannion’s routines have teetered on the safe side but this week she took some necessary risks as a fiery flamenco dancer, particularly when Nolan flung her like a frisbee on to the floor for their big finish. But for all of the risks they took this week, it couldn’t save her from The DDO and we’ll miss Mannion’s delightful ways.
Every week, McCormack raises the standards in the competition so it’s a huge surprise that the voters placed her in the bottom two. In rehearsal footage, McCormack was quite certain that this salsa routine might kill her and even though she survived the part where McShane took a run and jump before he threw his legs around her neck like Grace Jones in A View to a Kill, dancing in The DDO is likely to have shaken her confidence.
Last week, boyband star Dayl Cronin was paired with Valeria Milova for switch up week and his salsa routine with a side of hip-hop earned him the first full marks of the show.
This week he is barefoot and back in the arms of Ksenia Zsikhotska for a round of contemporary ballroom, with plenty of athletic lifts, to The Script’s Hall of Fame.
Judge Darren Bennett (who is standing in for Julian Benson, who is recovering from a bout of pneumonia) compliments the artistry involved in their routine and Brian Redmond agrees saying that it was a brave performance. With 28 points, they are at the top of this week’s leaderboard.
We see a different side to Des Cahill this week. Dancing the Viennese Waltz to The Dubliners' The Marino Waltz, he says in rehearsal footage that The Marino Waltz "strikes a chord in my heart".
Such is his fondness for the song and for The Dubliners that his partner Karen Byrne very sweetly surprises him with a visit John Sheehan, the last surviving member from the original Dubliners line-up, who plays the fiddle as they practice.
This left our Dessie totes emosh and it undoubtedly fuelled his performance, making it his best so far and the judges, who were left a little dewy-eyed after their performance, give the couple 19 points; their highest score so far.
Comedian Katherine Lynch is at her best when she plays a fun character within her routines and she got to do that this week by channelling a 1920s flapper for her Charleston with partner Kai Widdrington.
Dancing to Cabaret by Liza Minnelli, she takes on the persona of a true performer and she wouldn’t look out of place in a high-end musical. So if that opportunity ever comes knocking, Lynch, take it. Bennett praises her commitment to character and says the way she plays the room is amazing and the judges give her 23 points.
Last week, Aidan O’Mahony was at the bottom of the leaderboard and the judges’ relief this week was palpable when they could dish out compliments rather than criticisms for his waltz to Buddy Greco’s Fly Me to the Moon.
Bennett says that a “true sportsman takes the hit and comes back fighting” and that is exactly what he did. He scores 22 points, a huge improvement from last week’s 15 points.
Aoibhín Garrihy and Vitali Kozmin's paso doble to Florence and the Machine's Spectrum is full of theatrics, with the set converting to a stormy bedroom scene usually reserved for Meat Loaf music videos.
Garrihy and Kozmin rarely have to rely on big moves to woo the judges because their movements are so fluid no matter what dance they are doing. Scoring 26 points, they’re in the top half of the judge’s leaderboard and it’s likely that they’ll be safe until the final.
For the next few weeks, The DDO will see the bottom two couples – based on a combination of the judges’ scores and the viewers’ votes - dancing for a second time to compete for their spot on the following week’s show, with the judges ultimately deciding on who gets to stay. The DDO is set to unnerve our six remaining couples for the next four weeks, bringing new levels of competition and tension to everyone’s Sunday evening.