Monday, June 30, 2014

Arts Insider Must-See: Derek Hough’s Attitude of Gratitude

Derek Hough
"I think choreography is just really sort of your repertoire of knowledge of steps and movement. And when you get the music that speaks to you…it is the music that really tells you what to do." -dancer/choreographer Derek Hough

By Gioia Patton

“When I think back to my early dance classes, I do recall often saying to my dance teachers, ‘What if we tried this move?’ or ‘What about doing this?’” says dancer/choreographer Derek Hough of Dancing With the Stars (DWTS) fame, referring to the Italia Conti Academy of Theatre Arts in London, England, where Hough trained from the ages of 12-22. “I was very much involved with the other choreographers by putting my ideas in here and there. But,” he suddenly adds cryptically, “in 2007 at the age of 22 when I first started on DWTS (partnering with actress Jennie Garth of television’s 90210 fame), although the expression ‘fake it until you make it’ first comes to mind, for me, it was more of a ‘fake it until I became it [philosophy].’”
Sunday, July 6 marks the Louisville Palace date of Hough’s critically acclaimed and widely anticipated Move Live on Tour dance production, which he co-conceived and is starring in with his 25-year-old sister, two-time DWTS champion and dancer/singer/actress Julianne Hough. The siblings describe their production as “a cross between a Broadway spectacular and the hippest, coolest dance party you’ve ever been to.”

I mention that singer/actress Nicole Scherzinger of Eden’s Crush and The Pussycat Dolls fame, with whom Hough won the second of his five Mirror Ball trophies to date in season 10, is a Louisville native. “That’s wonderful!” he says. “She was great! But my more difficult seasons are when I’m partnered with someone (like Nicole) who is very talented and has so much natural ability because there are such high expectations.”

Hough adds that if viewers look at earlier seasons of him on DWTS, they’ll notice “how I beat myself up on a daily basis trying to think up choreography for my partners. I think that was because I definitely held myself to a certain standard… never ever wanting to feel like I was phoning it in.”

Hough then brings up season 16 of DWTS, which he also won when he was partnered with country music singer Kellie Pickler. He recalls arriving for the first day of training completely free of the heavy burden of pressure he’d carried before.

“There was a distinct difference within me when season 16 began, as my mindset had changed drastically,” he reveals. “My emotional motivation about what I was doing on the show had become just one of pure gratitude about being there and having some amazing opportunities to create dances.”

When I mention that Hough’s attitude of gratitude was so apparent that season that it seemed to me as though he choreographed everything from a state of pure joy, Hough enthusiastically concurs. “Yeah! I was creating from a state of pure joy and gratitude!”

He muses: “There’s a science to success, I feel. You can follow certain people in their footsteps, follow certain paths. There is a certain science to it, whereas fulfillment is an art. And I really feel like the fulfillment element of it wasn’t there for me for a while. And then all of a sudden I changed my perspective. And certainly, with Sochi Paralympic bronze medalist Amy Purdy (with whom Hough came in runner-up on DWTS’s recent season 18), it was truly incredible to have that experience. Having Amy as my partner transcended the whole competition aspect of the show.”

Hough, who won a 2013 primetime Emmy Award for choreographing DWTS pieces, explains the origins of his choreography: “Whenever I hear a song that I’ve been given to choreograph something to, the very first thing I see is color. A color of what the mood is, of the style, the feeling. So the color is the first thing that speaks to me in music. And from there, I try to emulate those colors with movement.”

For Hough, the creation of Move Live on Tour is about connecting with fans in a personal way. “In Hollywood, it’s always about the next, bigger, better deal, whether it’s a movie, television, or recording projects. And for years, people had asked when Julianne and I were going to work together on a project. Finally one day we looked at one another and said, ‘Why don’t we do what we did in the first place, which was to dance together in our living room with our family?’ We loved doing that sharing and bonding with our family. And there’s nothing quite like going on the road and going into people’s homes essentially, because we’re going to their hometowns with this tour. There’s a sense of excitement on both ends.”

I ask if Hough or his sister experienced any obstacles after the idea for Move Live on Tour first occurred to them almost two years ago. “Julianne had been told by the powers that be in Hollywood, for instance, that if she wanted to continue making movies (having starred in Safe Haven with Josh Duhamel and the musical Rock of Ages) or continue her career as a country music singer, that she couldn’t do other projects,” Hough says. “But we decided jointly that we were in a place now where we were no longer satisfied with the rules and decided to make up our own. So going back to our roots of dancing and doing what we love was more important.” Hough’s career advice: “Follow what you’re passionate about…follow your bliss.”

So far, so good, as Move Live on Tour is selling out wherever it appears, and an appreciative Hough remarks that audiences have been “Incredibly responsive….even dancing in the aisles!” Speaking of appreciation, Hough spontaneously recalls an incident that occurred backstage after the conclusion of the tour’s opening night performance. “A bunch of our dancers were crying because they were so thankful and grateful to not only be able to dance full-out because it’s a dance show but also because they were the stars of the show rather than background performers.

“It’s been a lot of fun, and for me and Julianne to have this massive success for our first attempt is very exciting, and it’s very exciting to see what the future will hold.”

As to what’s in store for the two after their tour concludes on July 26 in Los Angeles, Hough says, “Julianne will continue to make movies, and I will continue to do other projects like flipping houses with my buddy, dancer Mark Ballas of DWTS fame, as I love architecture, love making stuff, love creating things! But Julianne and I will always have a company…a hub with Move that will branch out into different things as well. It’s very special to us.”

Gioia Patton is an arts & entertainment celebrity profiler and in-concert photographer.

When: July 6 @7:30pm
Where: Louisville Palace, 625 4th St.
Tickets: $41.50 to $101.50
Contact: box office in person, or

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