Tears are shed and heartstrings tugged remorselessly as Dancing With The Stars (RTÉ One, 6.30pm) arrives at the annual weepathon that is Dedicated Dance Week. True to the evening’s spirit of kindness and generosity, eliminations have been put on hold, with the winner on the night gaining immunity in the next episode.
So forget about the tooth-and-claw tension of the knockouts – tonight, it’s blubbers on the dance floor. Among those turning misty-eyed is Grand National-winning jockey Davy Russell, who, with Kylee Vincent, scores his highest ever personal total of 26 and then tops the public vote with his contemporary ballroom dedicated to wife Edelle.
But if the performances are emotional, canned banter between hosts Jennifer Zamparelli and Doireann Garrihy is less cockle-warming. If anything, it is positively cockle-chilling. The duo attempt some recreational joshing before the celebs get going. Alas, their continual absence of chemistry sucks all the fun out of the room. As colleagues, they no doubt get on perfectly well. Yet when they start to trade zingers, the awkwardness is unbearable.
Happily, the dances have more than enough oomph to compensate. First up is Belfast drag queen Blu Hydrangea. Blu excels with a Paso Doble to RuPaul’s Sissy That Walk. In an evening all about emotions, it’s a reminder that this is still a contest and that Blu, together with pro Simone Arena, has what it takes to win.
“Lovely surge of intense energy all the way through,” says judge Loraine Barry. “You smashed that ... I felt I couldn’t see who is the celebrity and who is the pro. You were boogying into a Paso doble – who does that?” agrees Arthur Gourounlian. Blue scores 24.
Next is Paralympic gold medallist Jason Smyth with Karen Byrne. There’s some unfinished bunny business to their Viennese waltz, which features a fluffy stuffed rabbit belonging to one of Smyth’s kids. “A beautiful Viennese waltz,” says Loraine Barry, though she expresses concern about the “internal battle” between Smyth’s upper and lower body.
Wild Youth’s David Whelan is here to honour his father, Jim – a former champion dancer and ballroom teacher. Together with Salome Chachua, the one-time Eurovision contestant dances to Fields of Gold by lute-fancying rock icon Sting.
“A beautiful rumba,” says Barry. “So powerful. Your hips, your hand, your head – your whole body was screaming rumba to me,” says Arthur. Whelan receives 28 – and goes top of the leader board.
Even before the music strikes up, it’s been an emotional week for Virgin Media presenter Katja Mia, who bravely spoke out against online trolling. She puts that behind her with a tango dedicated to her sisters, Andrea and Fiona Louise.
“Something in it for everybody – hip action in tango, I loved it,” says Brian Redmond. “Lots of great tango content as well.”
Then it’s DJ and presenter Laura Fox honouring grandmother Nora – aka “Nono”. She does so with a quickstep to Galway Girl. Thankfully, not that Galway Girl – the Ed Sheeran crime against music, Galway and people named Ed. Instead, it’s the Sharon Shannon/Mundy recording of the superior Steve Earle song.
“Bam out on the floor – super, super light,” says Loraine Barry. “After that performance, Nono will be screaming yes yes,” says Arthur. She receives 25.
Fox has grown into the contest since January. As has Eileen Dunne, the news reader who, while unlikely to be in the final shakedown, has fun honouring Montrose bestie Mary Kennedy. She performs foxtrot to Proud Mary by Creedal Clearwater Revival.
“Some timing issues,” says Brian Redmond. “The professional that you are, you smiled all the way through it.” Dunne scores 16. The real disappointment, though, is that Mary Kennedy has opted to go instead go to Las Vegas to see U2 play inside the giant lava lamp where they’ve been living for the past six months (to her credit, she offered to cut short the holiday and fly home).
It’s a red letter night for Rosanna Davison, who dedicates her rumba to her dad, Chris de Burgh and his biggest hit, Lady In Red. With Chris watching on, it’s a moving moment – though you do wish Davison had chosen one of her father’s superior songs. A Sunday night stomp to Don’t Pay The Ferryman is something we’d all sit through.
“Thank God your dad’s happy!” says Jennifer Zamparelli. “I hope I made you proud,” says Davison, trying not to cry on her way to a score of 26. That performance brings down the curtains on dedicated dance week – an evening that, as Rosanna Davison’s dad might warble, is high on emotion.