The new cast of Dancing with the Stars was announced Tuesday morning on Good Morning America, and it features ’90s sitcom stars, a Star Wars icon and a pair of U.S. Olympic champions from the recent Sochi games. There’s also a huge, game-changing twist that will be added to this year.
Here’s a quick glance at the stars and their pro partners for Dancing with the Stars season 18, with more details below:
The Wonder Years Star Danica McKellar and Val Chmerkovskiy
Australian Pop Star Cody Simpson and Witney Carson
Star Wars Actor Billy Dee Williams and Emma Slater
Long-Distance Swimmer Diana Nyad and Henry Byalikov
The Real Housewives of Atlanta Star NeNe Leakes and Tony Dovolani
Big Time Rush Singer James Maslow and Peta Murgatroyd
Former NHL Player Sean Avery and Karina Smirnoff
The Price Is Right Host Drew Carey and Cheryl Burke
Full House Star Candace Cameron Bure and Mark Ballas
Olympic Ice Dancer Charlie White and Sharna Burgess
Olympic Ice Dancer Meryl Davis and Maksim Chmerkovskiy
Paralympic Snowboarder Amy Purdy and Derek Hough
The Big Twist
Also, at some point during the season, the stars will all switch partners, and America will get to vote for who their new pro partners should be. I guess this is their way of canceling out the Derek Hough advantage. This gimmick already sounds like a terrible idea to me, because while it will even things out, part of the joy of the show is seeing the bonds between the contestants and their partners.
Following their Gold-medal victory at the 2014 Sochi Olympics in Ice Dancing, Meryl Davis and Charlie White will try non-ice dancing, competing against one another and nine other celebrities on this season of Dancing with the Stars. Expectations are high since past Winter Olympic ice skaters have done very well on DWTS, including wins for Apolo Anton Ohno and Kristi Yamaguchi and a second-place finish for Evan Lysacek.
Another athlete this season is former NHL star Sean Avery, who once dated DWTS season 1 contestant Rachel Hunter. He’s the first NHL player to ever appear on the show and completes a trio of professional ice skaters this season.
A fourth cold-weather athlete is paralympic snowboarder Amy Purdy. Due to a disease, she lost both of her legs and has prosthetics, making her twice as impressive as Heather Mills. She also competed back on the 21st season of The Amazing Race.
The dance floor will also be invaded by one of the most iconic actors from Star Wars: Billy Dee Williams, aka Lando Calrissian. At 76-years-old, he’s certainly one of the older contestants to compete on DWTS (though not the oldest man, thanks to Buzz Aldrin).
Another slightly older star is 55-year-old Drew Carey, host of The Price is Right and former star of his own sitcom. I guess that makes him the token funny guy, but living up to Bill Engvall’s standard is not going to be easy.
Then there are two tween heartthrobs, with James Maslow of the Nickelodeon show Big Time Rush and 17-year-old Australian pop star Cody Simpson. Simpson will become the youngest male star to ever compete on DWTS, beating out Cody Linley, who was 18 when he competed in season 7. However, Simpson is not the youngest ever, as Zendaya was 16 when she danced in season 16 and when season 8 winner Shawn Johnson began her DWTS journey, she was two weeks younger than Simpson will be at the start of this season.
For the women, The Real Housewives of Atlanta star NeNe Leakes will compete, following Real Housewives of Beverly Hills star Lisa Vanderpump from season 16. Real Housewives of Miami star Joanna Krupa has also been on DWTS, though she danced before joining the Bravo reality franchise.
Full House star Candace Cameron Bure (D.J. Tanner) will become the first star of that famous series to appear on DWTS. In a fun bit of trivia, her husband, Valeri Bure, was a professional hockey player who was traded to the L.A. Kings in 2005, where he would’ve played with Sean Avery if not for a back surgery that forced Bure to retire before playing a single game with the team.
And she’s not the only female sitcom star. Danica McKellar (Winnie Cooper from The Wonder Years) will hit the dance floor. Since she’s a nerd who writes math books, she’s my early favorite.
Finally there’s Diana Nyad, better known as that old lady who swam from Cuba to Florida last year. Along with Williams and Carey, that makes three contestants over the age of 55 this season.
The Pro Partners
Most of the pro partners for season 18 are familiar faces, but with a few changes. Maksim Chmerkovskiy is making his triumphant return to the ballroom after leaving for the past two seasons.
There are two first-time pro partners for DWTS season 18: former troupe members Henry Byalikov and Witney Carson. Byalikov turned up last season during the Trio Challenge, playing Len Goodman in a routine with Leah Remini and Tony Dovolani. Carson, like Lindsay Arnold, Lacey Schimmer and Dmitry Chaplin, is a former So You Think You Can Dance contestant. She also appeared in the season 17 Trio Challenge in Corbin Bleu and Karina Smirnoff’s perfect 30 routine.
Notable absences include Tristan MacManus, who was a pro partner for the past five seasons in a row, as well as season 17 newbies Tyne Stecklein and Sasha Farber. However, the other season 17 new pro, Emma Slater, is back.
Long-time partners Cheryl Burke and Tony Dovolani continue their streak, now partnering for 17 seasons in a row. Five-time champion Derek Hough is also back, looking for a historic three-peat.
Dancing with the Stars season 18 premieres Monday, March 17 at 8pm on ABC.
(Image courtesy of NBC)