It was Disney Week on ABC’s dance competition show, meaning each contestant chose a different classic Disney song to perform to. For DiMarco, who is DWTS‘ first fully deaf contestant, the choice to play the famed jungle man went deeper than simply enjoying the movie.
“Tarzan is one of my favorite films,” DiMarco explained through his sign language interpreter during a pre-recorded segment. “Tarzan and Jane, when they first met, they couldn’t really understand each other.”
“That’s exactly what’s happening with us,” the 26-year-old model explained to his pro partner, Peta Murgatroyd. “So I always wished I could actually be Tarzan.”
Murgatroyd also made sure that this would be an opportunity for DiMarco, who won the final season of America’s Next Top Model last year, to show off his six-pack.
Even if he hadn’t been shirtless, the duo’s energetic and skillful samba set to the Tarzan tune “Trashin’ the Camp” was stunning and beautifully orchestrated, and received a lot of love from the judges.
“The lord of the jungle is now the lord of the dance,” judge Bruno Tonioli gushed. “You are perfectly undressed for the occasion. And one thing is for sure [you] won the Emmy for best supporting loin cloth! Great work!”
“Nyle, I look at your body and we are so much alike,” judge Len Goodman joked. “It had great energy, it was a great performance and a great dance.”
Guest judge Zendaya Coleman heaped praise on DiMarco as well: “You stayed in character, you had fun. I felt it.”
One thing that’s been a continuous source of fascination on the show is how DiMarco manages to dance so well and synchronize his movements with Murgatroyd so perfectly without the ability to hear the music.
“Being born deaf, I think that helps me, because sound never actually existed to me,” DiMarco explained through his interpreter. “Basically, I just follow Peta’s movement and I just act it out. And I can see the beats from Peta, so I think that’s how we do it.”
Their system seems to be working well, as they earned an impressive score of 34 out of 40 from the judges, which ended up being one of the highest scores of the night.
NFL star Antonio Brown got a 35 for his jazz performance of Aladdin‘s “Friend Like Me” with Sharna Burgess. Boyz II Men’s Wayne Morris and his partner, Lindsay Arnold, also earned a 35 for their samba set to The Lion King song “Circle of Life.”
Tied for the highest score of the night were UFC star Paige VanZant and Good Morning America weather anchor Ginger Zee, who each got 36. VanZant and Mark Ballas delivered an impressive quickstep set to “You’ve Got a Friend in Me,” from Toy Story, while Zee and Val Chmerkovskiy performed a foxtrot to the Beauty and the Beast classic, “Belle.”
While the night was full of fun performances and a surprising amount of praise from the judges, someone still had to go home at the end of the night. Jodie Sweetin and Marla Maples both found themselves in jeopardy, but it was Maples who ended up getting the boot.
Dancing With the Stars returns next Monday with a special “Switch Up” episode, where the stars swap partners for one week.
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