From Rockettes to DWTS, Derek Hough manages jet-setting and fox-trotting

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10 April 2015

ABC, Mondays, 8:00 PM ET    Hough and Nastia Liukin fox trot to "New York, New York"
By Kellie Freeze

Derek Hough may have usurped James Brown as the hardest-working man in show business. Currently, the pro dancer on “Dancing With the Stars” (Mondays on ABC) also appears in “New York Spring Spectacular,” an eye-popping dance extravaganza featuring the Rockettes.

Hough’s schedule includes 10 weekly performances with the Rockettes in New York, and at first, he assumed he wouldn’t be able to participate in both their 20th season of the "Spectacular" as well as the 10th anniversary of “DWTS” which is based in Los Angeles.

But then … “I was looking at my schedule and said, ‘Wouldn’t it be funny if I did both?’” he reveals. And though participating in major dance productions on opposite coasts was possible, Hough took a week to mull over his plan — “Wouldn’t it be crazy, wouldn’t it be epic if I could pull it off?” — before deciding that he would attempt the seemingly impossible. “What I love and what I’m passionate about are challenges,” he says.

With a few phone calls and a lot of planning (and the hiring of Hough’s first-ever assistant), Hough was onboard with an NYC-based partner, former Olympic gymnast Nastia Liukin — a student at NYU. One would assume that having an Olympic champion as your partner would alleviate some of Hough’s stress, but a partner who comes with prowess, promise and pedigree also comes with pressure.

“I think what people think and assume is that when you have someone with ability or natural ability, that it makes it easier," says Hough. "The truth is, it actually makes it harder because there’s more expectation.”

Frequent cross-country travel and a rigorous performance and practice schedule make Hough admit to rethinking his normally cutting-edge and innovative style of choreography. But he promises fans, “I’m always trying to grow and learn, and this season, it’s my intention to do some ‘wow’ moments.”

And after his season on “Dancing With the Stars” ends, Hough isn’t taking any time to rest. He and sister Julianne, herself a former “DWTS” champ and current judge, are hitting the road in a 42-city tour for their show, “MOVE Live on Tour.”

“This is an absolute passion project," Hough says. We don’t want people to go, sit in the seats and watch a show. We want people standing, dancing, moving. Our slogan for this show is ‘motion = emotion.”
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