Dancing’s Season Eight Cast Is Revealed!

Dancing’s Season Eight Cast Is Revealed!

02/09/2009 AT 12:00 AM EST

In a new twist, the season eight cast of Dancing with the Stars was revealed during commercial breaks in between ABC’s Sunday night primetime lineup.

The "namedropping" of the 13 contestants began at the eight o’clock hour when Extreme Makeover: Home Edition aired, and continued throughout the telecasts of Desperate Housewives and Brothers & Sisters.

For the first time on the show, a celebrity couple -- singer Jewel and her husband, rodeo star Ty Murray -- will compete against each other. In another first, two-time Dancing champ-turned-country-singer Julianne Hough will compete with her boyfriend, country singer Chuck Wicks. “It’s the most diverse cast we’ve had,” Deena Katz, Dancing’s Senior Talent Producer tells PEOPLE. “The women are phenomenal and the men are such great characters.”

“Julianne is the cutest thing you’ll ever meet and she’s one of the toughest teachers,” says Katz. “I keep warning Chuck, ‘you see this loving side, but she is tough.’”

Real-life pro couple Maksim Chmerkovskiy and Karina Smirnoff, who got engaged last December, will compete against each other with their respective celebrity partners.

Rounding out the celebrity lineup will be the youngest contestant ever on the show, Olympic gymnast Shawn Johnson, 17. Also ready to rumba are pop star Belinda Carlisle, actress Denise Richards, former NFL star Lawrence Taylor, rapper Lil’ Kim, Jackass star Steve-O, Apple computer co-founder Steve Wozniak, actors David Alan Grier and Gilles Marini, and Access Hollywood co-host Nancy O’Dell.

An ABC spokesperson says the remaining professional dancer/celebrity pairings will be announced on Thursday, February 12.

Dancing’s eighth season premieres March 9 on ABC. --Monica Rizzo


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