Nyle DiMarco Feels The Music In ‘Dancing With The Stars’ Debut, Lands At Top Of Leaderboard

Nyle DiMarco is making Dancing With the Stars history as the show’s first-ever deaf male contestant, but the 26-year-old model didn’t let his disability stop him. In fact, he used it to his advantage. DiMarco wowed the judges and the entire viewing audience with his DWTS debut. Nyle and his partner Peta Murgatroyd scored 23 out of 30 points for their cha-cha on the Dancing With the Stars premiere, tying for first place on the judges’ leaderboard. And you better believe people were talking about it.

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Nyle DiMarco appeared with his interpreter to get his comments from the judges and his DWTS score. The America’s Top Model champ said he had no trouble communicating with his pro partner for his debut dance. Through his interpreter, Nyle said he could feel some vibrations from the music, and for the rest of the routine he just followed Peta with his eyes. Judge Bruno Tonioli was so stunned by Nyle’s performance that he leapt out of his chair to touch him to make sure he was real.

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On his vlog for People, DiMarco joked that he dances better when he can’t feel the music at all. Nyle revealed that during rehearsals producers tied to make the music as loud as possible to let him “hear” the music and feel the vibrations, but when he started dancing, something felt “off.”

“I realized something new about myself. Even though I’m a deaf, I think that I should always stay that way [when I don’t hear the music,] I dance well!”

Nyle DiMarco was the winner of cycle 22 of America’s Next Top Model last fall, and now fans will see if 22 is his lucky number once again as he competes on Season 22 of Dancing With the Stars. Ahead of Nyle’s debut on the ABC celebrity ballroom competition, America’s Next Top Model host Tyra Banks tweeted her support for him.

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Unfortunately, Nyle DiMarco had one setback during DWTS rehearsals. According to Us Weekly, Nyle suffered an injury that required stitches just hours before the live show’s premiere. DiMarco was accidentally struck in the face by Murgatroyd’s elbow during rehearsals, and he was rushed to the hospital to get four stitches just above his eyebrow. The entire incident was caught on video, with Peta apologizing to Nyle and telling him she has never hit anyone like that before. DiMarco later joked that he now realizes that dancing is a full-contact sport — and he likes it.

While Nyle DiMarco is the first male DWTS contestant who is deaf, back in 2008, Oscar-winning actress Marlee Matlin competed for the mirrorball trophy in season 6 of the show. Matlin is also deaf, and chooses to use a hearing aid. At the time, Matlin told TV Guide that she really had to rely on her pro partner Fabian Sanchez to help guide her through the dances.

“Fabian is my music. He expresses the music to me, and then I absorb it from him and feed off of him.”

Matlin had the most trouble with the quickstep because she had to hold her head to the side and couldn’t look at her partner. Nyle DiMarco will likely have to dance a quickstep later this season, so it will be interesting to see if that dance style proves to be a challenge for him.

Check out the video below to see Nyle DiMarco and Peta Murgatroyd dancing the cha-cha on the Dancing With the Stars premiere.

[Photo by Nicholas Hunt/Getty Images]