Derek Hough may have won the 16th edition of Dancing With the Stars Tuesday, but the victory almost didn’t happen: Hough almost didn’t return to the ABC show this season.
“I was gonna sit this season out,” Hough said. “My mom hurt herself, and she was in the hospital [but] I had this overwhelming feeling, ‘You know what? I feel like this isn’t the season I should be taking off. This isn’t the one.’ Now looking back, I’m really glad I made that decision because it’s been one of my favorite seasons as far as creating and working with people.”
Besides teaching his celeb partner, country singer Kellie Pickler, how to ballroom dance, he’s also performed with a blind dancer and danced in a rotating room.
Hough, 28, pushed for these opportunities to keep challenging himself. “I hate feeling complacent or that I’m not learning,” he said.
His sister, Julianne Hough, also a professional dancer, left Dancing With the Stars in 2009 to focus on her music and acting career. She said Derek is “the most talented person” she knows.
“He has an insane ability to create. I don’t know what special gifts God gave him, but he can pick up any instrument and self-teach himself. He plays guitar, drums, piano,” she said. “He’s one of the most amazing photographers I’ve ever seen. We’ll take the same exact picture in the same exact spot, and there’s something amazing and beautiful about what he’s taken. He’s got an incredible voice. He is an amazing actor. I think the sky is the limit for my brother.”
Hough said he wants to do everything.
“It’s such a cliche thing to say,” he said, laughing. “I want to choreograph. I want to direct. I want to act. I want to write music. I want to play music. I want to sing. For me, it’s never-ending. I want to do it all, really.”
Hough has won the mirror-ball trophy three times since he joined the show in 2007 (he sat out one season), but said he hasn’t always been happy with his performances.
“There’ve been seasons where I’ve looked back and maybe been proud of one routine the entire season,” he said. “That bothered me for a while, so that’s why a couple seasons ago I started doing my own thing I suppose.”
Hough’s celeb partners, who have also included Ricki Lake, Nicole Scherzinger, Brooke Burke, Jennifer Grey and Maria Menounos, tend to marvel at what they were able to do.
“When I signed up. . . I was praying I would get Derek,” said Lake, who danced with Hough in season 13. “I love all of them, but he’s hands-down one of the most talented people I’ve worked with in my life. I watch the show now, and I cannot believe what he’s able to do all day, every day.”
Hough isn’t sure he’ll return next season. One problem is the time commitment. Hough said dancers don’t get a single day off because of rehearsals.
“It’s been a huge factor in me not being able to do other certain projects,” he said.
One project in the works: Derek and Julianne will co-executive produce and choreograph a scripted series for Starz. Julianne describes it as the Black Swan side of ballroom dancing.