Nyle DiMarco's Season 22 Dancing With the Stars progress speaks for itself: He and partner Peta Murgatroyd were the first duo to earn a 9 score, then the first to earn a 10 and have been the highest-ranked couple nearly every week. So how did DiMarco, who's completely deaf, become a frontrunner in a competition that's typically built around the rhythm of music? The America's Next Top Model winner told Time he and Murgatroyd — after some trial and error — have worked out a winning system.

"One time Peta tried to turn the music up loud enough for me to feel it, but when I felt it and we tried to dance to it, it threw the whole routine off," he recalls. "I’m used to not being able to hear, so for me it was contradictory to my world."

So, instead, Murgratroyd demonstrates each movement at its intended speed, DiMarco explained, and the couple has even developed a system of silent cues to incorporate into performances.

"Whatever Peta does and shows me how to dance, I’m able to pick up all those small, little details," he said. "Peta brings out the performance. She’s a performer. I feel like I can see the music and can see how the character of the music actually flows. For me, that’s music to my eyes."

Now, DiMarco, who insisted he never danced growing up, is learning to trust himself and let go of his doubts.

"Sometimes I have to back up and say to myself, ‘Am I doing this wrong?’" he said. "I think the tango [Peta] gave me was one of the most difficult routines ever. At first, I was a little upset with her, because I’m not a professional dancer, but Peta saw the best in me and we made it work and we got the best dance of the week."

Read the full interview here, and if you're a DTWS fan, tell us what you think of this season.

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