Danelle Umstead is first blind dancer on Dancing with the Stars: Here’s how she learns the routines

Danelle Umstead and Artem Chigvintsev
Danelle Umstead and Artem Chigvintsev perform their first dance on Dancing With The Stars. Pic credit: Dancing with the Stars/ABC

Danelle Umstead is the first blind dancer on Dancing With The Stars and when she took the floor and danced to Andra Day’s Rise Up, the judges and the audience were left stunned.

Being blind, Umstead can’t see her partner and doesn’t have the visual advantage to see where Artem Chigvintsev is during the dance.

Umsted has a genetic eye condition called retinitis pigmentosa and she also struggles with MS — multiple sclerosis. Even though Danelle has her hardships, she hasn’t let her conditions stand in her way. She’s part of the US Paralympics team, and she’s won three medals at the Paralympics.

But how does Artem work with Danelle Umstead and use her blindness to their advantage? After their performance, Danelle opened up to reporters about how she learns the dancing routine in just a week. As it turns out, it comes down to Artem leading her, and her trusting him to be there for her.

“Artem is guiding me 100 percent. I feel it in his touch, I feel it in his movement, and his words. So he’s painting me a picture all the time, whether it’s through words or through feeling, and it’s a beautiful thing,” Danelle told ET after her first dance about how the training takes place if she can’t see everything he’s doing.

“I have four years to train for [the Paralympics]. Artem and I have a week. So it’s intense. I push myself sometimes a little too hard, and I’m a perfectionist. I’m always thinking I can do better.

“Artem is such a great coach. He doesn’t take it easy on me because I’m disabled. He’s pushing me and pushing me, and I think it’s amazing. It’s hard, but I love every minute of it.”

On Dancing with the Stars, Danelle Umstead explained how her husband helps guide her down the slopes when she’s skiing, as she can’t see where she’s going.

Now, Artem is doing the same thing with her on the dancefloor, guiding her through the routine.

As it turns out, dancing on Dancing With The Stars is one of Danelle Umstead’s big dreams. After the performance, she told People magazine that she dreamed about going on the show 11 years ago and hoping to get the call.

“In 2007, the first time I watched this show, I was holding my baby son in my arms and I was four inches away from the television screen,” Umstead said, adding, “I said I wanted to be the first blind contestant on Dancing with the Stars — I threw it out to the universe, and life did a full circle and came back and gave me my dream.”

Umstead impressed the judges with her first dance, and could well go far if she and Artem continue to work together as well as they have done so far.

Dancing With The Stars airs Monday and Tuesday nights on ABC at 8/7c.

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