Paralympian Victoria Arlen credited her 'incredible teacher,' partner Val Chmerkovskiy, for helping her perform on Dancing With the Stars just one year learning to walk

By Dana Rose Falcone
September 25, 2017 10:55 PM
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Look what you made her do. Victoria Arlen, who became paralyzed at age 11, and her Dancing With the Stars partner Val Chmerkovskiy were one of the top ranking pairs in the season 25 opener.

And Team ViVa, as they nicknamed themselves, continued to impress judges Carrie Ann Inaba, Len Goodman and Bruno Tonioli on Monday’s ballroom night. The former paralympian, 22, and the dancing pro, 31, performed a fierce tango to Taylor Swift‘s comeback single “Look What You Made Me Do.”

After receiving an impressive 24 out of 30, cohost Erin Andrews asked Arlen exactly how she was getting on without being able to feel her legs.

“I’m not really sure,” Arlen responded. “I mean, I have an incredible teacher, Val. He’s just really, really shown me far beyond whatever I thought I was capable of doing, whatever I though my legs were cable of doing.”

She continued, “Two years ago they weren’t even moving and now they’re tangoing because of Val.”

PEOPLE’s special issue, 25 Seasons of Dancing with the Stars, is available now.


On last week’s premiere, Arlen explained how she regained her ability to walk last year, after being diagnosed with transverse myelitis and acute disseminated encephalomyelitis, which left her in a vegetative state for almost four years.

“Last week was absolutely amazing,” she reflected. “I saw footage of me when I was really sick. It was like I was right back there for that moment fighting for survival. I could feel that fight … Standing on that dance floor was like one of those moments where I’m like, wow I’m really glad I lived.”

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The ESPN personality also admitted that dancing on the show had always been one of her aspirations.

“When I was really sick, I loved watching Dancing With the Stars,” Arlen recalled. “I’ve never felt so empowered in my entire life. To be there dancing the tango is mind-blowing.”

Again among the evening’s highest scoring couples, Arlen and Chmerkovskiy will go on to compete Tuesday night against the other 11 remaining couples.

Dancing With the Stars airs Mondays on ABC at 8 p.m. ET.