Motion Equals Emotion
Dance sensation Derek Hough reigns as judge on the new NBC dance competition series World of Dance this month and brings fascinating show co-starring sister Julianne Hough, Move – Beyond – Live on Tour, to New Orleans at the Saenger Theatre.
Superstar dancer and choreographer Derek Hough made a name for himself on ABC’s popular dance competition series Dancing with the Stars, where he unleashed his extraordinarily innovative and daring dance onto audiences, becoming a fan favorite and the only six-time champion in the show’s franchise history. Hough partnered with celebrities such as Brooke Burke, Kellie Pickler and Bindi Irwin to win six Mirror Ball Trophies on DWTS, and his impressive work on the hit show earned him eight nominations and two Primetime Emmy Awards for Outstanding Choreography. In 2014, handsome Hough and his gorgeous sister Julianne Hough, also an exceptional dancer who stunned on DWTS and a profound entertainer herself, launched a live stage dance concert entitled Move Live On Tour and performed 50 sold out shows across the country; in 2015 they toured again to the delight of fans for another sellout run of their high energy show. Now, the sensational siblings have teamed up for a third installment of their acclaimed live show and will bring Move — Beyond — Live on Tour to the Saenger Theatre May 18.
“We’ve gone above and beyond with everything from the music and the costumes to the lighting and set design, and I can absolutely say that this is going to be our best tour yet,” Derek says. “We’re very competitive with ourselves, and we like to keep raising our own standards and making our show better, and it’s going to be amazing. We love touring and going into people’s cities and seeing them and performing for them. I love to evoke emotion from people through dance, and we’re very proud of this show and very excited about it.”
Move — Beyond — Live on Tour is an all-new production that was originally inspired by the elements of earth, wind, fire and water, with different staging and choreography than that featured in past tours. “It will include everything from emotional pieces to the fun stuff that will get people out of their seats and on their feet to dance,” Derek says. The Houghs will be accompanied by The Move Company Dancers for the show. “Our dancers and the choreography on this tour are extraordinary; they can do things that I’ve never even seen before! It’s so exciting to have them. And our set pieces on stage are really creative and unique; it’s going to be just pure entertainment. I think there’s going to be lots of oohs and ahhs!” Derek co-created, choreographed and produced Move — Beyond — Live on Tour with Julianne, and the powerhouse duo are working with all-star Emmy Award-winning choreography team Napoleon and Tabitha D’umo, otherwise known as NappyTabs, to ensure an excellent show.
On May 30, Derek will reign as a judge on NBC’s new dance competition series World of Dance, alongside dynamic celebrity dance pros Jennifer Lopez (who is also an executive producer for the show) and NE-YO; Jenna Dewan Tatum will serve as host/mentor. “We’re very excited about it,” Derek says. “World of Dance is unlike any other dance show out there; it’s a huge worldwide competition and we’ve invited people from all over the world to come and dance and to compete. And it’s so eclectic — we have groups, soloists, duos, trios and we have the whole gamut of dance, including flamenco, contemporary ballet, ballroom, Latin, hip hop, contemporary companies — it’s amazing! It’s a beautiful looking show, and the dancing is phenomenal.”
Throughout the 10-episode series of World of Dance, elite dancers will put their artistry and athleticism on full display and vie for a staggering grand prize of $1 million. “That prize is definitely nothing to turn your nose up at,” Derek says. “It’s a huge opportunity for these dancers, and, for me, it’s amazing to be a part of it and to support dancing in a different way and to be an advocate for dance. And even for those that don’t win, this platform of being on this nationwide television show, the biggest dance competition show in the world, is going to be awesome for them.”
Being on the other side of the table as a judge for World of Dance instead of a performer will be a different experience for Derek. “You know what’s funny, I was like, ‘Am I going to be able to judge?’” he says. “And the first day we sat down as judges, and I watched the first dance, it was very natural, because, with dancing, coaching and teaching, you’re always critiquing and pointing out things that could be improved. And the dynamic of Jennifer Lopez, NE-YO and me was very natural. We hit it off and had great chemistry, and watching the amazing dancing is so exciting and so beautiful, incredible and artistic. It’s a pleasure to be able to comment on it, so yeah, it’s great! I would say I’d be a little more compassionate, maybe just because not long ago I was on the other side. I’ve been being judged since I was 12 years old, so I’m very used to that situation. I can be a little soft sometimes but I’m quickly reminded especially by NE-YO that this is for $1 million, so it’s a big deal and it has to be a million dollar dance essentially. It’s amazing, and I think people are really going to enjoy it.”
Derek began dancing at age 11 at home in Salt Lake City, Utah. His parents met while both were on a college ballroom dance team in Idaho, and all four of his grandparents were dancers. At age 12 he trained in London under some of the world’s top dance coaches and studied dance, music and theatre at the esteemed Italia Conti Academy of Theatre Arts. In addition to becoming a renowned dancer and choreographer, Derek has morphed into a multi-faceted entertainer and has made impressive strides in theatre, film and television. He played male lead Ren McCormack in the critically acclaimed stage performance of Footloose in London’s West End; earned a recurring role as Noah West on the popular country drama Nashville; and starred as Corny Collins in the NBC musical event Hairspray Live! with Harvey Fierstein, Ariana Grande, Jennifer Hudson and Martin Short, amongst other notable work. Derek authored his memoir, Taking the Lead; Lessons from a Life in Motion ($16, HarperCollins Publishers) in 2014, which quickly became a New York Times Best-Seller for taking readers through his passionate journey into dance, and uplifting them with motivation to push past life’s challenges and live to the fullest.
The intense discipline and dedication that Derek invests in his craft is on full display when he wows audiences with his incredible choreography — an artful blend of immense precision and astounding athleticism. The hard work has been worthwhile to him in large part because of the positive feedback he gets regarding how his particular brand of dance also inspires in addition to entertaining. “It’s been amazing; it’s really added a fulfillment aspect into my life,” Derek says. “It’s one thing when you’re professionally competing and you want to do your best, and then being on a national platform with Dancing with the Stars — you’re reaching so many different people. It was an amazing moment for me to realize that I’m in this position where I can possibly help or inspire or just share. Honestly that’s really what it is, just sharing certain things that I enjoy and that have helped me.
“During one of our Move shows there was a lady in the front row in a wheel chair,” Derek says. “We have this slogan that we say, ‘Motion equals emotion,’ the way you move directly affects the way you feel. And about six weeks later we saw the same lady in the front row but this time she was up dancing! And after the show I asked her, ‘What happened?’ She said, ‘I was in that chair by choice, I was unwell and had habits that didn’t serve me but you said something that was a catalyst — ‘Motion equals emotion,’ and I changed some habits and I’ve never been more active in my life.’ I can’t think of a more inspiring story. It affected me to the point where it made everything even more sweet, amazing and beautiful to not just entertain but to share something positive and that’s our whole goal.”
Derek’s penchant for tugging at the heartstrings of audiences through dance was evident during a very emotional piece that he and Julianne recently performed on DWTS to the tune of Unsteady by rock band X Ambassadors about the struggles of their parents’ divorce. “Julianne and I performed a very personal piece about our parents’ separation, and I think it’s something many have gone through,” Derek says. “It was a very healing, cathartic piece. We wanted to share that with others, and show our vulnerability and show that things haven’t always gone that great, but, at the end of the day, everything’s going to be okay. If I could go back in time and talk to my younger self, I would say, ‘Hey, everything’s going to be [okay] man, don’t worry about it.’ And that’s kind of the message for us; we are very fortunate to be able to translate and create a piece of dance or art or whatever you want to call it, and make it personal and hopefully affect somebody in some way.”
Derek has spent quality time in New Orleans and is enamored with the city. “New Orleans is amazing,” he says. “We’ve performed in New Orleans a couple of times. And I actually filmed the movie Make Your Move in New Orleans, and my character in that movie was from New Orleans; I was a tap dancer who tapped in the street in New Orleans for money, and I ended up moving to New York and I even had a temporary fleur-de-lis tattoo on my arm for the movie.” In honor of his beloved rescue dog Romie, Derek’s faithful friend who often accompanies him to practice, the dance dynamo is donating an autographed copy of his best-selling memoir to the Louisiana SPCA to auction at the Howling Success Patron Party & Gala held later this year, in order to help the companion animals of the New Orleans community. moveliveontour.com, saengernola.com, @derekhough