For Emmy-winning dancer and choreographer Derek Hough, “The Disney Family Singalong” was an opportunity “to stay creative and to bring joy. We’re entertainers. It’s what we do.” ABC put together the event that aired on April 16 featuring various performers doing renditions of classic Disney songs while socially distancing during the coronavirus pandemic. They’re even doing it again on May 10, and Hough will be performing then too. Watch our exclusive video interview with him above about his work this season on those specials as well as “Holidays with the Houghs” and “World of Dance.”
Hough has choreographed stage shows and TV production numbers, but putting together his performance with his partner Hayley Erbert to “Be Our Guest” from “Beauty and the Beast” posed new challenges — not the least of which was pulling it off by themselves in just a couple of days. “We did the lighting ourselves, we did the cameras, we did the editing, just everything,” he explains. They even beamed in his sister (and fellow dancer/choreographer) Julianne Hough to dance with them in unison from afar.
Their May 10 performance will be to “Step in Time” from “Mary Poppins,” for which he and Erbert “tried to outdo ourselves a little bit … This song is so big, so active and so intense, it feels like it needs to have 20 people in it … What if we could clone ourselves?” By the time he’s out of quarantine he could be a one-man production crew, and having these outlets for creative and physical expression are important to him especially now.
“This time has just made me feel very creative and very thankful to be able to have that space,” he says. “Motion equals emotion. The way you move directly affects the way you feel. I say that so often because I believe it so much. Right now when we can feel cooped up and contained, it’s important to stay active and stay moving in some fashion. I think that’s good for our physical health, but also our mental health.”
That’s quite a contrast from the work he did on the “Holidays” variety special he starred in with Julianne. That special from last December tested him in different ways, including one dance number to “When You’re Smiling” on a rotating set that had to be “perfectly timed” in one take — on one attempt he remembers losing his balance on the last eight bars and having to do it again. He even injured his hamstring on “the very first move of the very first number” they performed for the special, “so I taped up my leg with duct tape and did the rest of the day.”
And in addition to his own dancing he’s also returning to “World of Dance” as a judge for season four, which starts airing on May 26. The fact that that show features such a wide variety of dance styles, group sizes and age ranges from around the globe is “what makes it so special.” And they’re shaking up the format a bit with him and his fellow judges Jennifer Lopez and Ne-Yo surprising the contestants during their preliminary auditions. “It creates different moments we’ve never had on the show before, different dynamics, different emotions.”
So Hough will continue to bring joy in the weeks to come in the face of COVID-19.
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