"Dancing With The Stars" is back for its 24th season, and we're excited to bring you highlights from the show moving forward.
Until then, here’s a sneak peek at the dancers making their debut in the ABC ballroom this season -- and the roles they'll be filling. Because as every fan of the show knows, the kinds of stars you can dance with are of a select and limited range, covering a set span of archetypes and fulfilling particular needs for the show.
There’s nothing the producers of “DWTS” love more than an athlete translating their impressive physicality into daring ballroom moves: Football players, ice skaters and gymnasts have all performed well, and brought in viewers. It’s no wonder they’ve got one of each this season (plus a professional baseball player, for good measure).
Rashad Jennings was drafted into the NFL in 2009, but unlike a lot of rookies he continued to build on his promise and had a breakout year in 2015. He’s a free agent so "DWTS" could help raise his profile if he wants to stay in the NFL -- or get him poised for a post-NFL broadcasting or hosting career. There have been plenty of football players on "Dancing" over the years, but fellow running back Emmitt Smith is the one Jennings will want to emulate: He won his season, and our hearts, way back in Season 3.
David Ross knows about overcoming the odds: He was a part of the 2016 World Series champion Chicago Cubs team, and also won a ring with the Boston Red Sox a few seasons prior. Newly retired from baseball, he keeps himself busy as an analyst and has a memoir coming out soon. Ross is actually the first MLB player to appear on the show -- and while we doubt his skills as a catcher will translate as easily to ballroom as, say, being a running back or ice skater, we always love an underdog.
Nancy Kerrigan was unquestionably one of the most beloved ice skaters in the 1990s, even before the brutal attack that made her tabloid fodder for years to come. She’s still a dedicated athlete and choreographer, and will undoubtedly bring some fierce intensity -- like former contestant Kristi Yamaguchi, who won Season 6. Kerrigan will dance with longtime troupe member and relatively recent pro partner Artem Chigvintsev.
At age 19, Simone Biles is already considered one of the all-time great gymnasts. Her unparalleled power is combined with a sense of whimsy and creativity that will make her one to watch throughout the season. Her teammate Laurie Hernandez took home the Mirrorball trophy last season -- and we’re calling it right now, Biles and partner Sasha Farber are the top contenders to take it home this season.
The Saucy Mature Lady
If you’re under 30, you probably know Charo as the tiny lady in tinier dresses who says “Cuchi, cuchi!” a lot and often appears on “RuPaul’s Drag Race” -- but she has been in the entertainment business for most of her life, and is a renowned classically-trained Flamenco guitar player. She has tons of energy and pizzazz, and she'll be right at home in super short ballroom dresses with lots of fringe and sequins: This season's Betsey Johnson, or Miss Patti LaBelle. Lots of sass, lots of personality, and a style all her own. She’ll be dancing with Keo Motsepe -- who had a string of early exits over the seasons, until being partnered with Jodie Sweetin.
The Funny Man With Feelings
Chris Kattan, known best for his lengthy stint on “Saturday Night Live,” will possibly follow in the footsteps of past male comedians with emotional turmoil, like David Arquette and Andy Dick. He will undoubtedly hit the stage at some point this season to “What Is Love” by Haddaway, the theme song of his "Roxbury" sketches with Will Ferrell. He’ll be dancing with Witney Carson -- probably the only pro who won’t tower over him.
The Overcomer of Adversity
At age 29, Bonner Bolton had a meteoric rise as the world’s #1 ranked professional bull rider... Until a fall, a little over a year ago, resulted in a broken neck and temporary paralysis. Doctors said his chances to walk again were one percent, but 14 months later he’s walking down fashion runways, and preparing to move across the dance floor. He’s partnered with Sharna Burgess -- who also teamed up with past inspirational overcomer-of-odds Noah Galloway, and also performed an incredible switchup dance with Deaf fashion model Nyle DiMarco a few seasons back.
The Ingenues with Skills
Heather Morris is best known for “Glee” where -- like castmate and past "DWTS" winner Amber Riley -- she showed off her dancing chops and vocal talents. It’s true that other dance experience doesn’t always translate well to ballroom, but since she’s paired with Maks Chmerkovskiy we’re going to go ahead and guess she’s great -- after all, her dancing was easily the best thing about "Glee."
Normani Kordei from Fifth Harmony joins the ranks of other girl-group performers, like Nicole Scherzinger of the Pussycat Dolls, who have performed on "DWTS" -- in fact, Scherzinger won her season. Normani will dance with Maks’ brother Val Chmerkovskiy -- so we won't be surprised to see her next to Heather in the eventual Top 4.
The Real Housewife
If you are not a current "Real Housewives" fan, you probably assume that Erika Jayne will fumble a bit, like past Housewives Lisa Vanderpump and Kim Zolciak-Biermann. But we’re calling it right now: She’s going to blow you away. Erika Jayne is a consummate professional, with several #1 songs on the Billboard Dance Chart, and she knows how to use her body like no one’s business. She’s paired with former Vanderpump partner Gleb Savchenko, and we can’t wait to see her destroy it. Housewives don’t usually have the fanbase of other contestants -- but she could be a dark horse if the show lets her demonstrate her winning personality.
The Pop Culture Icon from Days of Yore
Mr. T will be bringing his iconic mohawk, gold chains, and that curious, charming combination of effervescence and gruffness to the dance floor this season with partner Kym Herjavec (nee Johnson; she married her dance partner of a few seasons ago, Robert Herjavec from “Shark Tank,” last year). Herjavec has also partnered with another nostalgia icon from decades past -- Jaleel White of “Family Matters” fame. Unless Mr. T is fleeter of foot than we think, he likely faces an early exit, a la Suzanne Somers.
The Obligatory “Bachelor” Bachelor
Nick Viall has apparently run out of “Bachelor” properties to appear on, so he has finally landed on "DWTS" for his final lap around ABC. He’ll join other uncommitted Bachelors, like Sean Lowe and Chris Soules, who made it to the middle of their seasons thanks to uninspired but competent-ish dancing. We suspect Nick will be no different, based on everything about his personality and work ethic thus far -- which is a bummer, because he’s paired with the always-excellent Peta Murgatroyd, who is notably named "Peta Murgatroyd."
“Dancing with the Stars” airs Mondays from 8-10 p.m. ET/PT on ABC.