DANCING WITH THE STARS kicked off its 11th series in spectacular style with 11 new celebrities braving the dance floor for the first time.
Along with an exclusive performance from international superstar Ronan Keating, tonight also marked the debut of new judge Joshua Horner, who joined the panel alongside veterans Todd McKenney and Helen Richey.
Hosted by Daniel MacPherson and Sonia Kruger, it was a brilliant night of entertainment as this year’s contestants strutted their stuff.
Top honours went to celebrity chef Manu Feildel, whose Viennese Waltz to Tom Jones’ What’s New Pussycat blew everyone away. He top scored with 25 points, earning the first standing ovation of the series. “Great choice of music,” Helen said. “It let you show your cheeky personality.” Joshua added, “I love it. Manu you were magnifique.”
Model Lara Bingle finished in second place with a beautiful Viennese Waltz to Kelly Clarkson’s Cry earning her 24 points. Todd said, “It was an elegant routine. You probably silenced a lot of your critics.”
Damien Leith and red carpet sensation Haley Bracken also impressed with 23 points. Damien kicked off the show with a rock and roll charged Cha Cha to U2 and BB King’s classic When Love Comes To Town. While he called it “the most terrifying thing” he’s ever done in his life, his performance earned rave reviews. “You were fantastic,” Todd said. “What a great way to start. You’re a surprise package.”
Haley – who in a show first is competing alongside husband, cricketer Nathan Bracken – also dazzled with her Cha Cha. “It was a great performance,” Joshua said. In week one of the battle of the Brackens, Haley outshone her hubby who only managed 16 points with his Viennese Waltz.
Surfing legend Mark Occhilupo finished last with only seven points after a disappointing Cha Cha. Todd didn’t hold back, giving it only one point and calling it, “The worst routine we’ve had in 11 series. It was truly awful.”
Social starlet Brynne Edelsten and partner Arsen Kishishian finished second last with a score of 10. Failing to fire with her Cha Cha, the judges criticised her lack of coordination. “That was frightening,” Joshua said.
The final scores were:
MANU FEILDEL & Alana Patience 25
LARA BINGLE & Carmelo Pizzino 24
DAMIEN LEITH & Melanie Hooper 23
HALEY BRACKEN & Aric Yegudkin 23
DAN EWING & Luda Kroitor 18
NICK BRACKS & Jessica Raffa 17
JAN STEPHENSON & Mark Hodge 17
NATHAN BRACKEN & Masha Belash 16
SAMANTHA ARMYTAGE & Brendon Midson 15
BRYNNE EDELSTEN & Arsen Kishishian 10
MARK OCCHILUPO & Jade Brand 7