‘Dancing with the Stars’ season 24: Can Peta Murgatroyd defend her Mirror Ball title after a season away?

Dancing with the Starsannounced its cast of 12 celebrities for season 24 of the dance competition series, but just as important as the stars themselves are their professional dance partners, who often stick around year after year and have fan bases of their own. Peta Murgatoryd, for instance, has competed in almost season since she first joined the show in season 13. She sat out season 23 while pregnant — she and partner-in-life Maksim Chmerkovskiy welcomed their first child in January of this year — but before that she won season 22 with Nyle DiMarco. So in a sense she’s still the defending champion.

The new season starts on March 20, so before she and her competitors hit the dance floor let’s consider the pros and cons.

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Murgatoryd is a two-time Mirror Ball Trophy winner, more than any other pro dancer in the show’s history except, of course, Derek Hough, who has won six times. But Hough isn’t competing this season, which opens the door for the other pros.

She’s on a roll, even though her last victory was in season 22, because not only did she win, she won with a contestant who was entirely deaf. Her work teaching DiMarco to dance without the benefit of his hearing the music is one of the most impressive feats a pro dancer has accomplished in the history of the show.

She has strong rooting factor. Returning to the show following her groundbreaking victory with DiMarco and less than three months after giving birth, she has the potential to be this season’s fan-favorite dancer.

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Murgatroyd may have won twice, but her track record has been hit-and-miss. Before winning with DiMarco she finished 10th with football player Michael Sam in season 20. And her other Mirror Ball victory, with football player Donald Driver in season 14, was actually the only other time she’s been to the finals.

This season she’s paired with Nick Viall, the current star of “The Bachelor.” He has no dance training, which is not necessarily a deal-breaker — other inexperienced hoofers have surprised us in the past — but “Bachelor” contestants have never done especially well on the show, including Sean Lowe, whom Murgatroyd was paired with in season 16, finished sixth.

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