It was no surprise that Rory O’Neill topped the leaderboard at this week’s Dancing with the Stars.
There was no elimination this week, but the dancer who received the highest score was immune from elimination next week. That person was, of course, Rory O’Neill AKA Panti Bliss.
Earlier in the season, Rory confirmed that he would dance out of drag. But he was holding it back for a special performance.
We can see why he waited to perform as Rory O’Neill for the first time in the series as he dedicated his dance this week to Professor Fiona Mulcahy, a doctor who treated him when he was first diagnosed as HIV Positive in the early 1990s.
He danced the Paso Doble with Denys Samson to Pet Shop Boys’ It’s a Sin with professional partner Denys Samson.
The routine scored the first two tens of the season from Arthur Gourounlian and Loraine Barry, with Brian Redmond’s nine scoring them a series-high 29 points.
It also received the most votes from viewers at home.
“I’m very grateful. I’d like to thank Denys he did an amazing job. I’m trying to combat the stigma against HIV… this seemed like a good opportunity to speak to the public at large about it,” Rory said about the dance.
“From the very beginning it was very important to have two guys dancing like everyone else… Fiona and everyone at the clinic in St James’, they’ve been looking after Rory for 27 years not Panti.”
Viewers took to Twitter to share their joy after the emotional performance.
Fair play to Rory & Denys, completely different to all of their other performances and he did himself proud tonight 👏🏻🕺 #DWTSIrl @PantiBliss pic.twitter.com/US2cgH6Wmi
— Jake Carter (@jakecartermusic) February 12, 2023
Having nursed people with HIV & AIDS in the late 90s, early OO's, the stigma was rife. I thought @PantiBliss could not break down any more barriers, but they have, & tonight blew me away. TG Ireland has changed & we owe Rory a debt of gratitude for that change #DWTSIRL
— Helena Farrell (@HelenaFarrell77) February 12, 2023
A really powerful and important piece by @PantiBliss on #DWTSIRL
In case you spotted Rory’s T-shirt and didn’t know what U=U means 💜#UEqualsU https://t.co/iZrNnMLfrR pic.twitter.com/WipXFVlZa2
— TinyDavyQ (@tinydavyq) February 12, 2023
This is an incredibly powerful and important moment in Irish TV history. @PantiBliss is a national treasure and this will no doubt help so many people understand how far we've come with diseases like HIV. Rory, you're a true role model and icon. Thank you xx #DWTSIRL https://t.co/GQeHsL9P3x
— Aodhán Gregory (@AodhanGregory) February 12, 2023
I think it’s a lot to put on one person to be a beacon of change and progress but that’s what Rory O’Neill on #DWTSIRL dancing a tribute to the doctor who helped save his life after his HIV diagnosis is and honestly an important message to beam into homes all over this country
— Siobhán (@shivilly) February 12, 2023
Dancing with the Stars continues on RTÉ One on Sunday at 6:30pm