After three months, gallons of sweat and a lifetime supply of cha-cha-chas and pasodobles, the final of Dancing with the Stars 2022 is almost here. It’s been an epic season. Or, at any rate, more epic than the previous series in 2020, which had to be cut short because of Covid, with the semi-final hastily repurposed as the grand decider.
Such a fate has, thank goodness, been avoided this year. And so, preparations are proceeding for Sunday night’s dance-off. Here is what you need to know.
Who is in the final?
It's a four-way contest, with jockey Nina Carberry, Paralympian swimmer Ellen Keane, rugby sevens star Jordan Conroy and singer Erica-Cody vying for the Glitterball trophy.
Tell me more about the finalists.
Nina Carberry has been the frontrunner throughout and remains bookies' favourite. Her experience on the race-course has imbued her with a steely discipline, to which she has added a natural athletic quality and a competitive streak. "Fearless" was how judge Loraine Barry characterised Carberry in the semi-final, when her pasodoble with pro partner Pasquale La Rocca earned her a perfect score of 30.
Keane, dancing with Stephen Vincent, has also lit up the floor. She pushed Carberry all the way in the semis and likewise scored full points, for her Charleston. "Great Gatsby, great characterisation. Greatest we've seen you this season," says judge Brian Redmond. "The little details. Heel stabs. Fantastic."
Jordan Conroy has brought a feel good factor. He has a matey charm and a puppyish enthusiasm. Athletes always do well on DWTS – dashing about under pressure comes naturally to them – but Conroy also has a slightly wide-eyed quality. His dancing has been improving, too. Early on in the contest he seemed a little awkward and self-conscious. But, mentored by pro partner Salome Chachua, he's grown into the part. "Awesome energy. Jordan you look so smart," said judge Arthur Gourounlian during the semi-final.
Erica-Cody has a popstar presence which has proved invaluable throughout the contest. But she has sometimes lagged behind her rivals and, in the semi-final she and partner Denys Samson received a relatively underwhelming mark of 21 from the judges. "You seem like you enjoyed it," commented Gourounlian. It was something a teacher might say when trying to break bad news without wishing to hurt your feelings.
Who will win?
It is shaping up to be a two-way battle between Carberry and Keane. Carberry has been the more consistent dancer across the series. But Keane has shown a capacity for surprises and has been getting better with each passing week. And yet, if the bookmakers reckon it is Carberry’s to lose, speaking to the media this week, the judges were more circumspect.
"I think looking at the final over the last weekend, the one thing that I've learned over the past five years is, I have no idea. You know, going into the last final I would have said there's no chance Lottie Ryan can win this," said Brian Redmond. "Because although she's been the best dancer in my opinion of that particular season, she'd been in two dance-offs."
“I feel like they’re all my children. I think they’re all amazing finalists and they really deserve to be there for me,” added Gourounlian. “And whoever wins, Hallelujah. It’s all about the public but to be honest with you, they are literally all winners for me. Yeah, I love them all.”
Any shocks this season?
Aslan guitarist Billy McGuinness making it through to week nine was regarded as a shock as the musician was not previously known for busting moves mid-gig. And it was a surprise to see author, and self-confessed dancing fan, Cathy Kelly booted out in the first elimination round.
Nor did newsreader/Gaeilgeoir icon Gráinne Seoige create much of an impression (she departed in week eight after a blah-blah-blah cha cha cha). The other new factor has been judge Gourounlian, replacing Julian Benson. He's taken to the format like a natural and has brought the same gushing enthusiasm that was a Benson signature.
Has Covid caused much disruption?
A little. Presenter Jennifer Zamparelli missed week three after a positive test, with 2020 DWTS winner Lottie Ryan stepping in. And several dancers have had to cry off from individual episodes due to Covid. But the show has rumbled on and, somehow, here we are looking forward to the final.
When’s it on?
The final starts at 6.30pm on Sunday with the winner to be decided by public vote.
What does the future hold?
A new season has yet to be green-lit. The judges, though, are keen to return. “Anything is possible but you have to leave it in the hands of the people who control it,” said Loraine Barry.
“I hope it’s back and I hope I’m back,” commented Gourounlian.
Redmond agreed: “The public want it back and we want it back.”