In a Dancing with the Stars first, three athletes will dance to the finish in the fourth season of the hugely popular series, returning MONDAY, MARCH 19 (8:00-10:00 p.m., ET) on ABC. Among the athletes are a current Olympic Gold Medalist, a member of the 1992 Men's U.S. Olympic Basketball Dream Team, and an undefeated female boxer - the first female athlete to compete on the series. Celebrities joining them include a singer/actor who stars alongside his daughter in one of the Disney Channel's most popular programs, a former member of one of the biggest selling music groups of all-time, and a United Nations Goodwill Ambassador and activist for Adopt-a-Minefield.
As announced on Good Morning America, the eleven stars making their ballroom dancing debut and their professional dance partners are:
LAILA ALI - Ali, an undefeated world champion female boxer and youngest daughter of sports legend Muhammad Ali, takes her footwork to the ballroom dance floor on Dancing with the Stars. Outside the ring, Ali has graced countless international magazine covers such as Glamour and Italian Vogue, and authored the inspiring autobiography Reach! She joins MAKSIM CHMERKOVSKIY, who returns for his third season.
BILLY RAY CYRUS - Singer/songwriter/actor and star of Disney Channel's hit series "Hannah Montana," Cyrus will partner with Season Three's finalist, KARINA SMIRNOFF, who returns for her second season. Cyrus first entered the public spotlight with his hit song "Achy Breaky Heart." His other acting credits include the feature film "Mulholland Drive" and the starring role in the series "Doc."
CLYDE DREXLER - Named One of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History, "Clyde the Glide" was a member of the 1992 U.S. Olympic Dream Team. He began his career in 1983 with the Portland Trailblazers and retired in 1998 with the Houston Rockets, a team he led to the 1995 NBA Championship. ELENA GRINENKO, who returns for her second season, will be his partner.
JOEY FATONE - The musician/actor/star of Broadway was a member of one of the most popular singing groups of all time, *NSYNC, which holds the records for the most albums sold in a single day and week. He has since starred in the movies My Big Fat Greek Wedding and "The Cooler, and in the Broadway musicals "Rent" and "Little Shop of Horrors." Fatone joins partner KYM JOHNSON, who returns for her second season.
SHANDI FINNESSEY - During the most watched Miss USA competition in six years, Shandi Finnessey was crowned Miss USA in 2004. She is the host of two game shows on the Game Show Network - "Lingo" with Chuck Woolery and "Playmania." Newcomer BRIAN FORTUNA will be her professional dance partner.
LEEZA GIBBONS - Former host of "Entertainment Tonight, "Extra" and her self-titled daytime talk-show, "Leeza," the TV/radio personality currently hosts the nationally syndicated radio program, "Hollywood Confidential." Leeza is also the founder of the Leeza Gibbons Memory Foundation, a nonprofit organization offering empowerment and education to caregivers and their loved ones diagnosed with any memory disorder. She teams up with TONY DOVOLANI, who returns for his third season.
HEATHER MILLS - United Nations Goodwill Ambassador, activist for Adopt-a-Minefield and advocate for animal rights Heather Mills will be the first contestant to compete with an artificial limb. She will be partnered with JONATHAN ROBERTS, who returns for his third season.
APOLO ANTON OHNO - Two-time Olympic gold medal winner Apolo Anton Ohno sets his sights on another trophy to add to his collection, the Dancing with the Stars Mirror Ball. As a short-track speed skater, Ohno has a total of five Olympic medals, tying him with Eric Heiden for the most medals of any U.S. Male Winter Olympian. JULIANNE HOUGH teams with Ohno in her first appearance.
VINCENT PASTORE - Known for his standout role in "The Sopranos," actor Vincent Pastore has also appeared in several movies, including Revolver, directed by Guy Ritchie, "Gotti" and Goodfellas. He was also the voice of Luca in the animated feature Shark Tale. Pastore teams with EDYTA SLIWINSKA, the only professional dancer to participate in all four seasons.
PAULINA PORIZKOVA - As the former face of Estee Lauder, Porizkova was once the highest paid supermodel in the world of fashion. She was featured on the cover of several magazines, including the "Sports Illustrated: Swimsuit Issue" for two consecutive years. This Spring Porizkova releases her first work of fiction, A Model Summer. Season One champ ALEC MAZO returns for his second appearance.
IAN ZIERING - One of the stars of the hit TV series "Beverly Hills 90210," actor Ian Ziering also played a supporting role in the movie Domino, and wrote, produced, directed and starred in the short film "Man vs. Monday." He teams with two-time defending champion CHERYL BURKE, who returns for her third season.
In an exclusive first televised interview with a member of the Season Four cast, late-night talk-show host Jimmy Kimmel welcomes LEEZA GIBBONS tonight on ABC's "Jimmy Kimmel Live" (12:05-1:05 a.m., ET).
"Dancing with the Stars'" fourth season will premiere Monday, March 19 with a two-hour premiere (8:00-10:00 p.m., ET). To offer viewers two weeks to see the performers in action before the first elimination, the first results show will air on Week Two. The second performance show, airing Monday, March 26, will also be two hours in length (8:00-10:00 p.m.), and the first results show will air Tuesday, March 27 (9:00-10:00 p.m., ET).
Hosted by Tom Bergeron ("America's Funniest Home Videos") and Samantha Harris ("E! Entertainment"), the celebrities will perform choreographed dance routines which will be judged by renowned Ballroom judge Len Goodman and dancer/choreographers Bruno Tonioli and Carrie Ann Inaba.
Growing its audience among viewers and young adults each season since its debut in Summer 2005, ABC's Dancing with the Stars has established itself as one of television's most popular series. The program has consistently improved its time periods and been a top competitor in those slots. During its Fall 2006 run, Dancing with the Stars stood as the second-most-watched program on television, while qualifying as the No. 1 unscripted TV series in Total Viewers (20.7 million) and Adults 18-49 (5.8/15). Dancing with the Stars attracts a highly desirable upscale young adult audience, ranking among the highest-rated shows on TV with Adults 18-49 in homes earning $100K+ annual income (No. 6 = 5.9 rating). It was the No. 1 unscripted series with high-income young adults. On its third season finale during the 2006 November Sweep (11/15/06), Dancing with the Stars achieved the series' most-watched telecast ever with an average audience of 27.7 million viewers.
Dancing with the Stars is the U.S. version of the international smash hit series, "Strictly Come Dancing." This version is produced in America by BBC Worldwide. Conrad Green and Richard Hopkins are executive producers and Izzie Pick is co-executive producer. Rob Wade and Matilda Zoltowski are supervising producers. Alex Rudzinski directs.
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