Dancing with the Stars: Twinkle toes Marty Morrissey takes a bow

Review: The stars of this year’s show may yet shine brighter than those of the last series

RTÉ sports commentator Marty Morrissey shows off his dancing skills, along side partner Valeria Milova, in the latest series of Dancing with the Stars. Video: RTÉ

 

As this year’s cast of Dancing with the Stars open up the new season with their group dance, it’s hard to deny the fact that this year’s competition is all about one man and one man only: Marty Morrissey.

They can flaunt their footwork as much as they like but this is Marty’s world and we’re just living in it. The next 12 weeks of competition are just a side show to the Marty Party.

The GAA correspondent and commentator gets the biggest roars of the night – even when he’s offstage – so all the other contestants pale in comparison. They’ve even named their WhatsApp group the Marty Party. The competition hasn’t even begun and he is wearing the crown.

Amanda Byram and Nicky Byrne return to Ardmore Studios as glamorous hosts and as they introduce us to judges Brian Redmond, Loraine Barry and Darren Bennett who is standing in for Julian Benson. They are asked if they will go easier on the dancers this year. Brian is quick to say that if they go easy on the class of 2018, last year’s stars will be up in arms. He later proves that point by dishing out a measly two points to 2FM presenter Bernard O’Shea, which Byrne confirms is the lowest mark ever doled out on Dancing with the Stars Ireland.

Olympian Robert Heffernan is the first act of the night as as the only Irish athlete to win medals in the three major championships: European, worlds and the Olympics, the fast-pact jive comes naturally to him. Dancing with Emily Parker to One Direction’s One Way or Another and wearing a greaser leather jacket and a beautiful sequin blouse, his footwork is agile. Bennett says he came into the show like a sprint, but the next 12 weeks will be a marathon. He wonders if he can handle the pace, before the judges award him 17 points.

Among the couples for Dancing with the Stars are Nora Casey and Vitali Kozmin with Karen Byrne with Jake Carter and Marty Morrissey with Ksenia Zsikhotska. Photograph: Cyril Byrne
Among the couples for Dancing with the Stars are Nora Casey and Vitali Kozmin with Karen Byrne with Jake Carter and Marty Morrissey with Ksenia Zsikhotska. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Even though the other athlete of the night, Tomás O’Leary, has worn the Irish and Munster jersey with pride, he says that he couldn’t pass off the opportunity to wear the outfits and glitter that Dancing with the Stars has to offer. The rugby player’s strengths lie, well, in his strength; and he proves a dab hand in his footwork. He begins his stint on the show doing the foxtrot as he gently lifts up his partner, Giulia Dotta, like a feather without taking her feet off the ground because that is forbidden in the rules of foxtrot. The judges swoon and Bennett claims that he is the most self-assured performer of the night; he also walks away with 17 points.

With just four words, O’Shea seals himself as the charmer of the series. “Hello, I’m Marty Morrissey,” he declares in rehearsal video. His partner, Valeria Milova, whom he lovingly calls DeValeria, may have won last year’s show but he assures her there will be no victory for them. Throwing in comedic headbutts and subtle slapstick to distract from the fact you can see him counting the steps of his tango, Loraine Barry says that while she is not too keen on the comedy he has the shoulders of a ballroom dancer and there is great promise in him. The judges dish out a low 10 points, but there’s hope for him yet.

Before we get to the big two show stoppers of the night – a true star and a national treasure – the female celebrities come together for a one-off group dance. Much like a hen night taking place in Ardmore Studios, they dance to J. Lo’s Ain’t Your Mama and with legwork that would your eye out are flung around by their partners like wet tea towels. Dragon’s Den star Norah Casey says she has never been more sore, scared or sparkly in her life, but advises everyone to kick Dry January to the side and do Dance January instead.

Now. Here we go. On to the final two performances of the night. Last year, professional dancer Karen Byrne was the real star. As Des Cahill’s partner, she worked hard and turned him into a hero. No one can outshine her. No one.

Jake Carter and Karen Byrne dancing the salsa on Dancing with the Stars. Photograph: Cyril Byrne
Jake Carter and Karen Byrne dancing the salsa on Dancing with the Stars. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Not even pop star brother of Nathan and panto performer Jake Carter. In rehearsal footage, Byrne says she is surprised by how stiff the 19-year-old Liverpudlian is but when they hit the dance floor for the salsa to Little Mix and CNCO’s Reggaetón Lento (Remix), they flaunt their youth and the judges give them the highest score of the night, 19 points. A point for every year that Jake has been alive.

The judges’ comments are redundant because Marty Morrissey is already the people’s champion. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

But what does all of that matter when you have the Marty Party to attend? Dancing the quickstep to Joe Dolan’s Good Looking Woman, Morrissey and partner Ksenia Zsikhotska know what they’re doing. By showcasing enthusiasm for any lack of actual dancing talent, they enthral and entertain an already enamoured audience. The judges’ comments are redundant because Morrissey is already the people’s champion.

The two athletes have set the bar quite high for the series. But one of the greatest things to see is the progress and O’Shea may be the dark horse in this season’s show.

While it’s early days yet, well, it’s the first day – but it feels like the stars of this year’s show may shine bigger and brighter than the last series. These are fighters and with King Marty leading the charge, I feel brave enough to say them.

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