Any skepticism about how the first-ever blind contestant would perform on “Dancing With the Stars” fell by the wayside on Monday night’s season premiere, when sightless skier Danelle Umstead and dance partner Artem Chigvintsev delivered a crowd-pleasing performance that earned high praise from the judges.
In the video package introducing Umstead to viewers, she explained how she competes on the slopes as a Paralympian.
“As an alpine skier, I’m able to charge down the mountain at up to 70 miles per hour — without being able to see. My husband guides me down the mountain and one of my proudest moments is winning a bronze medal at the Paralympic Games,” said Umstead. “Now I have a new challenge and that challenge is dancing.”
Dancing with a blind partner, Chigvintsev admitted, was a challenge he had never undertaken.
“When Danelle told me that she is blind, the first thing I thought: How am I going to teach a blind person how to dance?” he said. “This is hands down the biggest challenge I’ve ever had on the show.”
However, the duo pulled off their foxtrot with panache.
“Your footwork was great,” declared judge Len Goodman. “Well done.”
Added Bruno Tonioli: “That was so lovely. It was classy, it was classic, it was very, very effective.”
“I’m still processing what I just witnessed because I think it’s a lot more information than we’re actually really noticing,” added Carrie Ann Inaba. “What you did was spectacular. The way you moved through uncertainty and the trust — I think we can all feel the bond between you and Artem, which was so magical. You moved as one body.”
After receiving an 18/30 score, Umstead admitted she was “so scared I was going to fall and trip,” adding that she refuses to let her disability hamper her.
“Anything is possible and you just have to go for it,” she said.