“Standing on the dance floor was one of those moments where I’m like, wow, I’m really glad I lived,” said Paralympian Victoria Arlen, discussing the experience of her first “Dancing with the Stars” performance in last week’s season premiere episode. Arlen overcame a severe illness that left her in a vegetative state for years — she only learned to walk again a year ago — but she made the most out of her first dance and even more out of her second dance. “I’ve never felt more empowered in my entire life,” she said, and the judges must have felt it too. She scored straight 8s for a total of 24 out of 30, which tied her with Vanessa Lachey and Jordan Fisher as the night’s best performance. Watch her “Ballroom Night” tango to Taylor Swift‘s “Look What You Made Me Do” above.
“That was a tough-cookie tango,” said judge Bruno Tonioli. “I loved the role reversal, how you worked it in … very clever, very well executed … You looked like a leading lady all the way through.” Carrie Ann Inaba added, “What I love about you is that people don’t realize how important technique is, but because of your unique situation [lacking sensation in your legs], body contact and hold are numero uno in the way you learn your dances. And it shows because everything you did, every single movement looked so polished and so elegant … Your technique is fantastic, and I have no idea how you’re doing it.”
Len Goodman concluded, “I liked the drama of the dance. I liked the intensity of the dance … I’ve got to say, I thought that was a super duper dance.” Do you agree with the judges’ rave reviews? Vote in our poll below.