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TV

Meet the dancing kings and queens competing for the 2022 Dancing With The Stars crown

Which celeb will win?

By Sebastian van der Zwan
We introduce the Kiwi celebrities set to samba, salsa shimmy and sway on the upcoming season of Dancing with the Stars. This year's competitive celebs share their D-floor disasters, greatest fears and signature moves
'I'm always first on the dance floor!' - Sonia Gray, actress and Lotto presenter
The former Shortland Street villain says, "I'm always first on the dance floor at a wedding – and the last to leave!" But will Sonia make it to the grand finale of Dancing With The Stars? The anxious actress, who recently appeared in the Netflix rom-com The Royal Treatment, admits she'll struggle to remember all the moves and that "looking natural is going to be a challenge". She explains, "My signature move is 'mouth open' – I always dance with my mouth open, which my friends give me a really hard time about, but when I'm happy, I just can't shut my mouth!"
Sonia also tells Woman's Day she's "not great with criticism" and sometimes falls when hoofing it in high heels, but she's looking to make her twin daughters, Thandie and Inez, proud. "They're pretty excited, as you can imagine!" And she might just do that with two-time winner Aaron Gilmore – who took home the mirrorball trophy with Samantha Hayes in 2018 and Lorraine Downes in 2006 – as her dance partner. The song that always gets Sonia on the dance floor? Hot In Herre by Nelly.
'I'm old, short and fat...I can't dance!' - Kerre Woodham, Newstalk ZB host
Asked what she'll find toughest on DWTS, the veteran TV and radio presenter laughs, "Have you seen me? I'm old, fat, short and stiff, with no length of bone or natural elegance. If dancers are thoroughbreds, I'm a pit pony!" But Kerre adds, "Just 'cos I can't dance, it doesn't mean I don't." Her signature move? "Arms above the head, hips swinging, eyes closed and singing along to the words – I am that rock star, baby!"
Kerre admits she's "absolutely terrified" of appearing on "the only television show I watch", adding that any criticism will probably make her cry. But she notes, "I've talked to friends who have done the show before, including Beatrice Faumuina and Rachel Hunter, and they all said it's the most amazing, uplifting experience." And anyway, it can't get any worse than what Kerre calls the "Incredible Flying Panty Shield Incident of 1990", where her pantyliner flew out of her new satin knickers and across the dance floor while she was boogying with "the ubiquitous randy uncle" at a pal's wedding! The star's favourite tunes include M People's One Night In Heaven and OutKast's Hey Ya. She'll be partnered by "beautiful, kind and brilliant" new dancer Jared Neame.
'I'm doing this for my son!' - Eric Murray, two-time Olympic gold medallist
The retired rower reckons his biggest challenge on the Three reality show will be "juggling life and having people look after my boy while I'm not home", referring to his 10-year-old son Zac, who has autism. But Eric – half of Aotearoa's "Golden Pair" alongside Hamish Bond – is determined to "give 100% to the training" as he's dancing for a charity close to their hearts, Autism NZ. "It's important for me to raise awareness and try to help those in the community in need. If I can do my bit to help, I feel like a winner already."
Asked about his signature dance move, Eric admits, "There's nothing signature about these long limbs – I just move to the beat. I've never been a massive mover on the D-floor, but I move and loosen up with good music." The Olympian is not sure he'll be as graceful as he was on the water in London or Rio de Janeiro, but he says, "I feel like it's my duty to try and if I can entertain some people along the way, it's a win-win situation." He's paired with dancer Loryn Reynolds, who helped fellow sportsman Manu Vatuvei to a win in 2019.
'I crash easily!' - Jazz Thornton, activist, author & filmmaker
Having been commended by the Queen for her work in suicide prevention, the mental health advocate is dancing to raise funds for Youthline. "They've played a huge part in my journey – I remember first contacting them when I was about 13 and struggling," she explains. Jazz's biggest challenge on the show will be "having to focus for huge amounts of time in rehearsals", she says. "I have ADHD, so I crash easily and it's so hard to keep myself going when that happens."
Her signature move is the full routine to the song From Now On from the film The Greatest Showman. "I learnt it on TikTok and it's become my go-to ever since." But the social media platform has also led to her most embarrassing moment ever: "I once broke my foot doing a TikTok dance and it was caught on camera!" Jazz is partnering with new dancer Brad Coleman.
'I'm worried about how I'll look' - David Letele, Motivational speaker & Retired boxer
Also known as the "Brown Buttabean", the former boxer admits, "My biggest challenge will be dropping my guard, and not worrying about how I look and what people are thinking of me." However, David's the first to poke fun at himself, describing his signature move as the "David Brent dance from The Office"! He's had his fair share of dance-floor disasters, recalling, "I once split my pants when I was trying to drop it like it's hot after a few too many drinks."
The health advocate says the "nerves have kicked in", but he's in safe hands with pro dancer Kristie Williams, who has previously partnered Mike McRoberts and Colin Mathura-Jeffree. "She's already taught me a lot and we've got a good chance of winning. This is totally out of my comfort zone, but that can only be a good thing for personal growth."
'Boys can dance with boys!' - Eli Matthewson, comedian & radio host
The Edge Breakfast presenter will be making history as half of Dancing With The Stars' first same-sex couple, partnering with pro Jonny Williams, who's back for his seventh season. "It's about time!" declares Eli. "I'm very excited, but it's daunting to be the first one. It would've been so cool for me to see that on screen when I was a teenager growing up in Christchurch and thinking, 'Oh, boys can dance with boys!'"
Asked about his signature move, the funnyman jokes, "My boyfriend always says he can tell when I've had my third drink because that's when my hands travel above my head and all my moves involve me pointing up at the sky." Hopeful he'll develop abs during the competition, he adds, "I'm quite terrified of tripping up and face-planting on live TV, especially considering I sometimes trip on nothing when I walk down the street."
'I split my jeans!' - Brodie Kane, journalist and producer
She's anxious about looking "elegant, graceful and light on my feet, like a gazelle" while trying to remember her moves, but surely it can't get any worse than the time the former Breakfast, Seven Sharp and Fair Go star split her jeans "on both sides, from the knees all the way up, in front of an entire house party"! Brodie says she's looking forward to being pushed out of her comfort zone and if we're lucky, we'll get to see her signature move – an entire routine to Tina Turner's Proud Mary. "It gets wild. Ask my friends, who've seen it many times!"
She's partnered with fellow "troublemaker" Enrique Jones, who has previously danced with Jay-Jay Feeney and Shavaughn Ruakere, and is raising funds for Assistant Dogs of New Zealand, which trains dogs to change the lives of young people living with disabilities.
'I can't stop sweating!' - Rhys Mathewson, stand-up comedian
A regular on 7 Days, Seven Sharp and Have You Been Paying Attention?, the funnyman's greatest fear is dropping his partner, new dancer Phoebe Robb. He says, "I'm so worried I'll accidentally break her hip!"
Describing himself as an "unfit big boy", Rhys adds that perspiration could also be a problem. "The moment I start any form of physical exercise, I begin sweating. I'm concerned about turning the front row of our live audience into the splash zone. I need to hide some small towels around the studio." Though he learnt to tap-dance as a child – "it feels good to be back in sequinned shorts!" – Rhys reckons he doesn't have a signature move. "I just do what feels good! I think if dancing feels good, it looks good and I'm sure that theory will stay true under the scrutiny of the entire nation."
'I'll struggle to be smooth' - Alex Vaz, Heartbreak Island and The Bachelorette star
It's the South African-born health and fitness fan's third reality series – and he reckons DWTS could be his biggest challenge yet. "As a 6'6" [1.98m] human, I don't have the lightest step or very good spatial awareness, so I'll be trying my hardest to come off smooth and coordinated," Alex tells us. Asked about his signature dance move, he says, "Disappearing from it is usually my best course of action, otherwise I end up being silly, waving my arms and moonwalking." The song that always gets him on the dance floor is Livin' La Vida Loca by Ricky Martin.
Alex has been partnered with Brittany Coleman, who has previously danced with DWTS host Clint Randell, and is raising funds for Gumboot Friday, "an amazing charity that provides mental health support and urgent counselling to youth who need it".
Dancing With The Stars NZ is coming soon to Three.

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