Dancing with the Stars: Why are people voting for Fr Ray Kelly?

TV review: Michael Carruth knocked out as pirouetting padre survives to unnerve us again

Out for the count: Michael Carruth, with Karen Byrne, voted off Dancing with  the Stars. Photograph: Kyran O’Brien

Out for the count: Michael Carruth, with Karen Byrne, voted off Dancing with the Stars. Photograph: Kyran O’Brien

 

The planet is burning, a former reality TV star sits in the White House, Paypal co-founder Elon Musk has just released a banging techno single. But if you want irrefutable evidence that the world truly has lost the plot look no further than Father Ray Kelly’s continued participation in Dancing With The Stars.

He is spared from elimination again this week, with the knock-out public vote instead flooring boxer Michael Carruth. The Dubliner is off to spend quality time with his Olympic gold medal. Pirouetting padre Kelly, meanwhile, survives to unnerve us all another day. Surely even he is by now starting to suspect the Irish viewing public works in mysterious ways.

Fr Ray Kelly with Kylee Vincent. Photograph: Kyran O’Brien
Fr Ray Kelly with Kylee Vincent. Photograph: Kyran O’Brien

Because whatever else his supporters are voting for it isn’t his footwork. Kelly, dancing with the excellent Kylee Vincent, delivers his umpteenth awesomely wonky performance this week, to the strains of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah (as performed by Ray Kelly).

The song holds huge significance for Fr Kelly as it was the viral success of his version, belted out from the altar during a wedding, that got his career off the ground. Still, you can’t help wonder why the Co Meath priest didn’t opt for the more obvious Cohen classic First We Take Dunshauglin (Then We Take Trim).

Of course whatever the music, with Fr Kelly the dance is always essentially the same. He sways, though not necessarily in time to the tempo. At one point his posterior appears to take on a life of its own. A terrible booty is born.

“You have the most magnificent singing voice,” says diplomatic judge Julian Benson. “It had the kicky-flick feel of jive . . . a shame it was supposed to be a waltz,” agrees his colleague Brian Redmond. Kelly scores a not very heavenly 10 – though it’s the first time he make double figures.

The theme this week is music that means something to the celebs. The conceit is that when they’re feeling wistful, the cast of Dancing with the Stars like to express their feelings via the medium of interpretive hoofing. Just like the rest of us then. Only with Nicky Byrne gazing from the wings and the punters voting on who to eliminate.

B*witched singer Sinead O’Carroll with Ryan McShane. Photograph: Kyran O’Brien
B*witched singer Sinead O’Carroll with Ryan McShane. Photograph: Kyran O’Brien

Sinead O’Carroll is up first and dancing to C’est La Vie by B*witched. Why did you pick that, Sinead? It’s horrible dross-pop from the darkest days of the post- Stock Aitken Waterman era. Oh, you were IN B*Witched? Sorry… I was thinking of that other band… B*watched. Yeah, THEY were rubbish. B*Witched – amazing!

Alas, it’s no Vie for Victory as the panel are unmoved by her cha-cha-cha. “Good concept, just need a little more technique,” says Redmond, for once the most positive of the judges. O’Carroll’s score is a reasonable but not earth-scorching 19. Her favourite’s tag has slipped just a little.

She is followed by RTÉ presenter Mary Kennedy, dancing a waltz to Secret Garden’s 1995 Eurovision winner Nocturne. Secret Garden – 50 per cent Irish courtesy of Naas violinist Fionnuala Sherry – are a personal favourite of Kennedy’s and with good reason as she was the presenter of that year’s Song Contest at the Point.

“Haunting,” says Julian Benson. He refers not to the Eurovision but Kennedy’s dance. “We got that beautiful chemistry and connection.”

“You’ve started to develop some real consistency in your performances . . . the feet were beautiful,” agrees Redmond. “A pretty good attempt at a waltz.” She comes away with a respectable 16.

Mary Kennedy and John Nolan. Photograph: Kyran O’Brien
Mary Kennedy and John Nolan. Photograph: Kyran O’Brien
Brian Dowling with Laura Nolan. Photograph: Kyran O’Brien
Brian Dowling with Laura Nolan. Photograph: Kyran O’Brien

Next up it is Big Brother winner Brian Dowling and Laura Nolan delivering a cha-cha-cha to Sister Sledge’s We Are Family. Dowling dedicates it to his younger sister and to his mother, who died in 2018. Clearly it’s an emotional moment for the Kildare native, who struggles to holds back tears.

“Great entertainment but the cha cha cha technique not great,” says Redmond. “What you need for the cha cha cha is . . . a lot of cheekiness,” counters an approving Loraine Barry, who adds that the dance “could have been a lot better in the feet”. Dowling scores 17, which feels harsh. Surely the added emotional component should have bumped up his total?

There are more wobbling lips as Fair City actor Ryan Andrews twirls to Coldplay’s Fix You. Coldplay? Did Chris Martin’s numbing croon get Andrews through a period of insomnia (it would be fair enough – apparently Martin puts on Fair City when he can’t sleep).

Ryan Andrews with Giulia Gotta. Photograph: Kyran O’Brien
Ryan Andrews with Giulia Gotta. Photograph: Kyran O’Brien

But no – in 2008 the then 14 year-old Andrews was told that, as a sufferer of scoliosis, he would never dance. Well here is with Giulia Dotta performing a rumba to Martin and the gang. It is true that Coldplay and “genuine emotional moments” feel like a contradiction. Fix You, in particular, is essentially anaesthetic pumped straight into your soul. But Andrews – the boy who was told he never could dance – brings the house down. It’s a Billy Elliot moment that conjures goosebumps.

“This was just classy,” says Loraine Barry. “A beautifully masculine, moving rumba,” nods Julian Benson. Andrews is rewarded with a heart-warming 26.

Fr Ray Kelly is next and – shudder – let’s just move on shall we?

The existential horror is happily dialled down several notches with the appearance of 2FM’s Lottie Ryan. Her chosen year is 2011 when she landed her dream job at 2FM. She and partner Pasquale La Rocca zip through a tango to Beyonce’s Radio.

“I think I”m in love with my radio,” sings Queen Bey – a sentiment few 2FM listener have voiced. Nonetheless, Ryan cements her status as one of the front-runners with another impressive turn.

“The acceleration you showed was phenomenon,” says Redmond, though he adds that he was a “little conflicted” because Ryan’s performance carried echoes of some of her earlier routines. “The dance of the tango was very good,” says Loraine Barry. “Firecracker – that’s what you are.” Ryan places a reliable second place with a score of 22.

We then zip forward seven years to 2018. Gráinne Gallanagh and Kai Widdrington are celebrating that year as it marked the Donegal native’s victory in Miss Universe Ireland. They stomp about to Sia’s Unstoppable which, if you stop to think about it, is a weird choice as Sia is famous for not showing her face in public and thus probably wouldn’t get very far in Miss Universe Ireland (I don’t know much about Miss Universe Ireland - maybe I’m wrong).

“A fierce contemporarily ballroom – you are going from strength to strength,” says Benson. “I maybe lacked a little bit of self-belief . That was top drawer.” Her score of 27 sees her rocket to the higher echelons of the leaderboard. We have a new contender.

Up next is one of the season’s featherweights. Michael Carruth has struggled to bring the ferocity he showed in the ring to the dance floor. He honours his Olympics medal win by dancing to a tango. In a perfect world he would have picked Born Under Punches by Talking Heads. But this isn’t perfect world, as we are reminded via his choice of Gold by Spandau Ballet.

“Karen definitely brought out that inner dancer in you,” says Benson. “There were moments of Carry On Dancer in there as well [But] you’re on the right road.”

“You’re getting better,” agrees Redmond. “It’s not gold just yet. But it was another step up that rostrum.” So Carruth swings – and sort of connects with a score of 13. Sadly it’s his last shot at being a contender as the public decide to chuck him out on his ear.

And then it’s Kilkenny hurler Aidan Fogarty with Emily Barker. Fogarty is celebrating 2006 when Kilkenny wrested the All-Ireland from Cork (as a Cork supporter can I assure Aidan we will wrest it right back . . . any decade now). With a Kilkenny hurler the potential song choices are obviously endless: Cool for Cats by Squeeze, Cody by Mogwai, Timber by Coldcut. In fact, the Charleston he performs is soundtrack by that GAA staple Bingo Bango by Basement Jax (this may cause conflict back home as rumour has it Brian Cody is more a Bentley Rhythm Ace man).

“Maybe just a bit too cool for school for a Charleston,” says Redmond. “The Charleston is all about the sassiness – but there was this element of stomping and bumping . . . not my cup of tea,” says Loraine Barry. She really isn’t impressed. You half suspect she’s going to produce a hurley from under the desk and leap over to give Fogarty a cautionary crack across the shines. Benson, though, loves it. Fogarty finishes with a steady-as-he-goes 21.

So it’s the end of the road for Carruth. For the rest of the celebs, further excitement awaits seven days hence as they swap dance partners for Switch Up Week. Julian Benson promises a “big surprise” for the episode. The real shock would be Fr Kelly receiving his marching orders. He is at this point performing the reality television equivalent of walking on water. Keep it up and who knows how far he might go? 

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