Derek Hough: A Conversation
Derek Hough will be performing at the Kravis Center on April 10th (TICKETS)
By: Lori Smerilson Carson
South Florida (Florida in general) get ready for the World to be brought to your home town. Derek Hough from the World of Dance television show is bringing his own show on tour with world class dances and champions. They will bring their amazing talent to Florida starting in Jacksonville at the Florida Theatre on April 7th, Clearwater at Ruth Eckerd Hall on April 8th, West Palm Beach at the Kravis Center April 10th, then wrapping Florida up in Orlando at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts on April 11th.
While rehearsing for this US tour, Hough who also was previously on the Dancing With the Stars television show, gave SFL insight on what to expect from his phenomenal show and how he reached this point in his career.
SFL Music: What got you started in dancing?
Hough: “Well, I have four sisters and my mom had us all doing things. I played drums, I did karate and my sisters did dance. I was just sitting in the parking lot and my mom was kind of like, ‘well, you know you should go in there and do dance instead of just sitting here in the parking lot.’ So, she pretty much made me go and I’m really glad she did” (he laughed). “Yeah, once I went inside and I heard the music and they had a really cool teacher and I got to dance with girls, you know. I was like ‘oh, this is actually pretty cool. Then, because I was a drummer already, I picked up rhythm pretty quickly. I picked up the counts and steps. I got to travel all around the United States and then eventually around the world. It was really cool and I just fell in love with it.
SFL Music: You Joined a dance team? You auditioned for a dance team?
Hough: “Yeah I joined the Studio, the youngest company. I think we were called “XS Energy” (he chuckled).
SFL Music: oh cool. So, what is your favorite type of dance?
Hough: “My favorite type of dance? I don’t know. It varies. It changes as you know, my mood or my emotions or the music. I tend to gravitate towards, I love music that has a lot of strings in it and percussion. Dances that sort of are like the Argentine Tango or the Paso Doble or contemporary dances. For my show, I’ve been rehearsing for my show lately, and I’ve been compiling the set list of music for it. It’s such an eclectic mix and music from the classics to Motown to Elvis Presley to Michael Bublé to Spanish music to Musical Theater to Rock N Roll to Bruce Springsteen. I mean, it just has so many different genres of music that it’s so much fun and it’s so fun to create to, and each dance feels so different. Yeah, it’s real exciting.”
SFL Music: From the clips I’ve seen promoting the tour it looks like you also sing?
Hough: “Yeah, yep ah ha, I’ll be singing in the show. The big band session. I actually sing quite a lot and that session in itself, there’s even more. So yeah, I’m excited. It’s going to be a night filled with amazing music. I have the live band which I’m real excited about because I feel like in the past, I just kind of missed that live concert feeling with like the live percussion and the Saxophone solo coming down in the middle to dancing around him and lifting him up and as he’s being hoisted In the air and he’s doing a saxophone solo you know, upside down. Just really fun stuff like that. Singing and dancing and it’s going to be fun!”
SFL Music: What part of the show will the singing be or will it be throughout, because I notice you play the drums in the show also?
Hough: “It’ll be throughout. It will be pretty much from the top of the show. I’m actually going through the show right now in my mind as I’m saying that,” (he chuckled). “Um definitely the big band section, musical theater. I’m doing like “singing in the Rain,” you know ‘Moses Supposes.” There’s a medley I did online of a cover of “shallow” and “I’ll never love again” match up. What I’ll do is, I’ll be singing that as well with all the dancers dancing around. It’s really going to be special and the big dance section is really fun too. Like a scene from Michael Bublé’ songs. It’s kind of cool because I actually called him up and I said, ‘hey you know I’m doing your songs on my show and I would love if I could get some of the original recordings from your album for my band to play to it, to add fullness.’ So, minus the drums, minus the sax minus the instruments that will be onstage with me. He was so gracious, so kind and sent everything over to me within moments. It just makes all the difference, the sound, the thickness of everything. It’s real exciting.”
SFL Music: How did you get involved with Moses Supposes? (Tap dance originally form Singing In the Rain).
Hough: “Well some of the dances I saw as a kid, it was like wow, so amazing. It’s just incredible the musicality of it, the athleticism were just so cool. So fun to watch. I choregraph a lot of dances. I also love to learn, I love just to learn dances. I’m a fan, of so It’s good to break it down and learn it, watch the video. Then I saw this guy do this animation video and I was like, oh man. This is perfect. It would be great to do like an animation of Donald O’Connor sort of dancing next to me and also a little sort of double homage to Gene Kelly as he was one of the first people to incorporate animation with dancing, that live motion with Jerry the Mouse. So, I thought it was a cool little double homage there.
SFL Music: Who would you say your influences are? Is Gene Kelly one? You must have a lot with the singing
Hough: “All my dance influences are actually people that people wouldn’t know their names or know who they are because they were people in my dance studio that I would just like look and try to emulate. They’d be like world champion Latin American dancers practicing in the studio that I went to in London, in London England where I trained. I would be watching, like Oh man, I want to dance like them and I’d just kind of emulate their movements. But, as far as people that inspire me that people know are definitely Fred Astaire, definitely Gene Kelly. They were just so creative with their surroundings and their musicality and their artistry, athleticism was just really, really fun to watch.
SFL Music: What inspires you when you create your choreographed dances? Where do you get your ideas?
Hough: “I think it depends. Most of the time it’s the music actually. If I hear a song, I’m like oh, I see a dance to this. I see a dance piece or ooh, I want to tell this story or tell this narrative. You know for me when I hear music, I see color. As soon as I hear a song, literally the room changes, the tone. It’s like it’s cool blue or there’s like this warmness to it and I see orange and I think that choreographing in that color if you will, it kind of dictates the energy and the movement to the dance itself, the choreography. Yeah, but the music definitely inspires me, the music for sure. That’s why for me like the set list for this show, I’m really, really proud of the collections I put together. It’s like every genre you can think of. Old timey classic classics that are just when you hear them make you smile. You’re like, oh man this is gonna be great (he laughed). Then there’s the more contemporary stuff, rock n roll and like I said Samba music, Latin music. It’s really, really fun. Also, what’s cool about it too, a lot of the music is kind of re-imagined. So, the song you might know, but it’s got a little bit of a take on it, sort of to give you a different experience with it. So, it’s cool.”
SFL Music: How do you keep in shape to take care of your body. I know Dancers who have hip injuries, knee issues, etc.
Hough: “As I’m talking with you, I have my legs in sort of a cold Plunge Pool right now. So, my legs are literally numb right now. They are freezing cold.”
SFL Music: Oh no!
Hough: “What I am doing is, it brings down the inflammation, pumping blood in different places and that’s where a lot of injuries happen. So, for me after every single show, I have an ice bath prepared where literally I leave the stage and go straight into the ice bath and I sit in there for about 8 to 10 minutes until I’m literally numb. That’s the difference between getting out of bed and crawling out of bed, or limping out of bed, or getting out of bed ready for the day. Like with my dancers now, some of them actually have never been on tour so I’ve gotten them these rollers that we roll out our muscles before and after. We have these message gun things called Hypervolts and they could be sitting watching tv or something like that and rub out their IT bands and their glutes or whatever. I gave them all the gear because the hardest part of a tour is just staying healthy. That’s the hardest part to have the stamina. It’s a marathon to get that routine and that healthy ritual. So, it the right foods, the right hydration, stretching, warming up, cooling down. It’ a full process.”
SFL Music: What would you say the right foods would be?
Hough: “Clean foods, proteins and carbohydrates. I take certain supplements like BCA’s and glutamines which helps for muscle recovery. You know just things like that are going to help you and serve you. You don’t want to have a lot of sugar, you don’t want to have a lot of stuff that you know when you wake up your face is all puffy? All that is inflammation. If your face is puffy, then your joints and everywhere else is pretty puffy as well. So, it’s just trying to keep foods that will keep your body working for ya.”
SFL Music: When you are judging you are very positive, you give a lot of really good constructive criticism. What is it in particular that you would like the up and coming dancers to learn from you, do you have kind of a goal? What would you advise?
Hough: “Yeah, as you can see, I’m a big fan of anybody who steps on that stage because I appreciate the passion that they put into what they do. I think what we see is a very small portion of how much work goes into what they do. So, my appreciation is overflowing for anybody who puts themselves out there like that. I guess my piece of advice would be to remember why you do what you do. You know I think it’s important especially for the young kids, because you can get burnt out early. I know I got to the point where I kind of did. I was like 16 years old and I was like, hmm I’m not sure about this dance thing. I was training so hard, was competing around the world. I was burning the candle at both ends. I was 16 years old and I was like wow, this isn’t fun anymore. Then there’s this conscious shift where it’s like, ok let me change my perspective, my entry into this because it’s changed. My love for this where it first began has changed into something else. So, it’s just remembering why you do what you do and why you did it in the first place and for me I loved it because I brought my family together. We were dancing in the living room and we listen to music and we were moving our bodies and having a good time. I think that makes it more sustainable so you don’t burn out, where it’s like go hard, go fast, then you burn out. It’s reminding yourself what’s the reason I’m doing this in the first place. Which is like for me going on tour, that’s where I started. My reason is I love sharing. I love sharing and having this relationship with the audience and then back and forth, and just sort of working on something and then presenting it to somebody. It’s just such a great feeling and it just brings me a lot of joy. Don’t forget the joy of it all. You know what I mean? It’s easy to get sort of burnt out if you forget about that. That’s a very general thing I would say. Of course, there’s lots of specific things I could go into, but I’m sure we’d be here all day if I did that so,” (he laughed).
SFL Music: That’s another interview, right?
Hough: “Yeah, exactly.”
SFL Music: You mentioned you are close with your family. Do you think that helps with your career and your perspective?
Hough: “Yeah, I do. I think it’s also just having a sister, with Julianne, that our careers are quite parallel in certain ways and it helps to have a sibling who’s in the industry and in that world and how we can help each other, or keep each other grounded. You know it’s a wonderful thing. I think it’s great!”
SFL Music: Now does anybody else sing or is it something you just picked up? Where you professionally trained?
Hough: “Yeah I went to school in London. I lived there for ten years, went to school there. The school I went to was a theater arts school We did singing every day and performances and plays and all those different things so theater has always sort of been in my life, even from a young kid. People know me as a dancer and a choreographer, so it’s fun to be able to share it with them, a different side that I haven’t really sort of played out there as much as I have the dance. It’s always fun to hear their response to that you know whether it be good or bad” (He laughed).
SFL Music: Well it’s been very good. Is that what you originally wanted to do?
Hough: “You know for me, I just wanted to be like the Latin Champion, world Champion and just train and do those things. I just love music so I did plays, musical theater. Then I eventually did the West End in London. I loved it. I really enjoyed it. For me, it wasn’t so much specific like I wanted to do musical theater, it was more I just love performing. It’s like I was just, it’s kind of cheesy sounding, but you know created to create. We all are. We have this creativity and at least for me I felt really connected to myself when I was dancing and when I was singing, or when I’m playing an instrument or performing. It’s kind of like in my bones I guess.”
SFL Music: Is there anything specific that people can look forward to with this show?
Hough: “You know I will say this, this is kind of important. This is a solo tour and it’s my tour essentially, but the cast that I’ve assembled, the dancers are extraordinary. They do things that I can’t do at all, and that was what I wanted. I didn’t want some back up dancers. I wanted dancers who when you come watch them, you’re going to be like ‘wow, that was unbelievable! The things that they’re doing like they’re leaping, extensions, they’re dynamics. I mean, I was watching rehearsal yesterday and I was watching a piece that they do while I’m off stage changing. You know I have to change, I have to drink water.” (he chuckled) “So, I go off stage for a little bit and I want to make sure that the stage is being filled with amazing dancing non-stop, amazing performances, and jaw hit the floor when I saw what they created and the stuff, maybe I choreographed a piece. It was just absolutely stunning. That’s one thing I want to say too. If you want to see what literally world class dancing and the top in contemporary and ball room and Latin you know, I have current champions. Female Latin dancer who I dance with, its just extraordinary. The whole thing is. I am very excited about it. Very excited to share with people.”
SFL Music: Where did the dancers come from? Do they come from all over?
Hough: “Yeah they come from all over. Actually, two of the dancers come from Utah, from my home studio back when I first started originally. You asked if I recognized them from World of Dance actually, one of them being Charity Anderson, Her and her partner got the first perfect score in World Dance history and she’s just incredible. So athletic, so strong, beautiful dancer and Daniella Karagach. She is a current Latin American Champion dancer and the reason why I say current is because it’s like going to the Olympics right, you go to the Olympics, there might be great athletes, but when they’re there during the Olympics in that window, they’re in their absolute prime of what they do and that’s the way I sort of equate her. Dancing with her is like dancing with an Olympic athlete in the middle of the Olympics, you know what I mean? There’s a quality to the movement that she does that’s just like extraordinary. It’s just such a pleasure to dance with her. It’s really fantastic.”
SFL Music: Was there anything else you want south Florida readers to know?
Hough: “Just come on down, it’s going to be a fun show I promise. It’s a family show, it’s literally for all ages. The music and dance and entertainment that we provide in the show, it’s for everybody, so it’ll be fun.”