The Dancing with the Stars Season 12 premiere is just over a week away, and I don’t know about you, but I got pretty excited when I saw this year’s cast announcement. While there’s an unfortunate lack of Olympians, there are also no political figures, soap stars, or token oldies. Which means … maybe this season will actually focus on the dancing? Or maybe that’s too much to hope. Either way, let’s take a look at the new cast and make some early predictions:
Partner: Mark Ballas
You Know Her Because: She was in Jonas, Jonas L.A., and various Disney Channel movies
Mirrorball Potential: High. Disney Channel stars have a solid track record on this show (case in point: Monique Coleman, Cody Linley, Kyle Massey, Sabrina Bryan), and I think Chelsea will be no exception. She’s young, she’s pretty, she has the right partner – if she can dance, it should be smooth sailing to the top.
Partner: Cheryl Burke
You Know Him Because: He’s a six-time world champion wrestler, host of ABC’s Downfall, and contributor to various VH1 shows.
Mirrorball Potential: Debatable. Big guys are usually lacking in the grace department, but Chris’s charm may take him further than expected.
Hines Ward and the rest of the cast below the jump:
Partner: Kym Johnson
You Know Him Because: You recently watched the Steelers lose the Super Bowl, but you remember when he was MVP of that other Super Bowl XL.
Mirrorball Potential: Good. Ward has a big fan base and an even bigger smile, plus he has a Super Bowl loss to atone for. Athletes usually go far in this competition – will Hines be the new Emmitt?
Partner: Louis van Amstel
You Know Her Because: She dated Hugh Hefner and is always in the tabloids for some scandal du jour.
Mirrorball Potential: Kendra is something of a wild card, similar to last season’s Brandy or the infamous Lil’ Kim. I doubt she’ll find favor with the show’s core fan base, but she might turn out to be a good dancer.
Partner: Maksim Chmerkovskiy
You Know Her Because: She’s Kirstie Alley.
Mirrorball Potential: Hardly, but the rehearsal footage will be fantastic. I’m not really sure why Kirstie is here, but Maks is clearly being punished for all those comments he made after his elimination last season.
Partner: Lacey Schwimmer
You Know Him Because: You listen to the radio. (I don’t own a radio, so I’m going with Wikipedia on this one.)
Mirrorball Potential: Remember Adam Carolla? Yeah.
Partner: Dmitry Chaplin
You Know Her Because: You’ve seen her in ads for just about everything. She’s most famous for surviving the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami by holding on to a palm tree for several hours waiting for rescue.
Mirrorball Potential: Very good. She’s the next Joanna Krupa – assuming Dmitry is a strong enough partner to go the distance.
Partner: Karina Smirnoff
You Know Him Because: You spent your formative years practicing “Wax on, wax off” in your driveway.
Mirrorball Potential: Aww, who would want to vote off Ralph Macchio? I doubt he’ll last very long, but he’ll be fun to watch.
Partner: Chelsie Hightower
You Know Him Because: You love Shakespeare. Oh wait, that’s someone else. This is the Artist Formerly Known as Lil’ Romeo.
Mirrorball Potential: Meh. After the whole Michael-Bolton-in-a-doghouse thing, I seriously question Chelsie’s ability to get her partner to the finals.
Sugar Ray Leonard
Partner: Anna Trebunsakaya
You Know Him Because: He’s one of the greatest boxers of all time.
Mirrorball Potential: Solid. If he’s as light on his feet in the ballroom as he is in the ring, he might have a shot.
Partner: Tony Dovolani
You Know Her Because: She has a talk show named after her. Also, she’s loud.
Mirrorball Potential: With such a promising lineup, Wendy should start practicing her goodbye speech.
Readers, what do you think? Who would you peg as the early favorite to win? Dancing with the Stars starts March 21 on ABC – I’ll see you back here for the recap!