'Dancing With the Stars': Derek Hough on his choreography, training methods, and where the heck he keeps all those mirrorball trophies

Jennifer-Grey-Derek-StarsImage Credit: Adam Larkey/ABCBaby Derek is back! Thanks to all of you who submitted questions for Dancing With the Stars‘ own Fantastic Mr. Fox last week. Below, Derek helps us rev up for Week 4’s “Acoustic Night” with a (nearly) all-readers’ Q&A!

Tonight you and Jennifer Grey will do the Argentine tango. Did you get to pick your own music? How, if at all, does the “acoustic” theme for week 4 change the vibe of the tango from what we usually see on DWTS?
We get to make song suggestions, but a lot of time the music is given to us and we work with those selections. The producers are great at giving us songs that challenge us as dancers and at the same time entertain the audience. This week being acoustic — that just makes every beat more intense. It’s going to be amazing.

Is your choreography influenced by former ballroom dance champions (I see a little Donnie Burns in there), or by movies, or anything else? –Lynn
Choreography is so specific. I think for the most part if I choreographed for anyone else, you’d be able to tell that it was a routine I created. Same with all the pros – Louis, Maks, Mark. We take our inspiration from anywhere we can. After several seasons on the show, you want to be able to keep bringing creative ideas to the dance floor. Things like acoustic week and story week really help keep us on our toes.

Derek, love your choreography. I’ve wondered if you have ideas in mind ahead of the season, knowing a waltz, paso doble, etc. are coming, and then do you adapt them to the ability of your partner? –LoveVioletFlame
I have ideas going into each season, but normally those fly out the window because each dance really does pertain to the song and the abilities of the celebrity. I do have a fun and original idea for a pro dance this season. I’m hoping I get to do it.

How long does it typically take for you to come up with the choreography for one dance? –Rebecca
I start thinking about the dance as soon as I get the music and then I keep thinking, changing and adding to each routine as the week progresses. Sometimes I add little changes in the day before show day.

If the celebrity you work with has ideas and a great dance imagination will you or have you incorporated their ideas into a routine? –Kaye
Absolutely. The thing about Dancing with the Stars is it comes to be a very collaborative effort. My partner might have some amazing ideas or thoughts and if I ruled them out completely and wasn’t willing to work with them then I might be missing the chance at creating something really memorable.

Derek, do you ever wish you got an athlete as your celeb partner? I feel like you are one of the few pros who has never gotten an athlete. Also which dances have been your favorite? I thought your ’50s paso last year was amazing and surprised it was not nominated for an Emmy. –Stephanie
I’ve been really lucky to be partnered with the ladies that I have had so far on the show. I just want to be with someone who wants to be there and thus far that’s been the case. I really enjoyed our ’50s Paso, future Paso was great too. I loved the pro dance that Chelsie and I did last season and the Jive that Julianne and I did season 7. The way the Emmy nominations work is that there are submission deadlines and by the time we had to submit dances we hadn’t done the ’50s Paso yet, so that’s why it wasn’t included in the dances that were sent for consideration.

I think your jive with Julianne for Design-a-Dance was worthy of an Emmy. Also your acoustic routine with Chelsie was stunning. Will we see another routine like that? –Lauren
I have a few tricks up my sleeve and an idea that I’m excited about for a pro number, so hopefully!

Where do you keep all those mirrorball trophies? It would kinda creep me out if they were in my room. –LOSTY396
They’re in my home. I’m proud of them and they mean a lot to me as they signify a lot of hard work. No special trophy case or anything like that though.

Should everyone get the chance to redo parts of their dance on the spot? –Aggie
That was such an impulse thing that I did with Jen, but I think that if everyone redid parts of their dances on Monday night, the show would be 3 hours long instead of 2.

So what’s going on with the Ballas Hough Band these days? Weren’t you guys supposed to release an album this year? Do you think there will be any more DWTS performances from you and your band? –Paige
Mark is doing his own thing musically and doing a great job at it. He performs a lot in LA after show nights and we all go support him.

I love you and can’t imagine DWTS without you. Can you tell us anything about your future plans? I’ll follow you in whatever you do. –Lori
There are some things brewing that would be different from Dancing with the Stars and be a chance to explore other aspects of the entertainment industry…but that’s all I can say right now.

Leave your questions for Baby Derek in the comments!

Read more:
Week 3: Derek Hough on story night and Bruno vs. Bolton
Week 2: Derek Hough on the jive and shirtless paparazzi snaps
Week 1: Derek Hough on having to put Baby in a corner
Reader-submitted ‘DWTS’ ridiculata: Your Hidden Gems of the Week!

Annie on Twitter: @EWAnnieBarrett

Comments (34 total) Add your comment
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  • AhoyLittleDerek

    Do you have stipulations in your contract that you are paired with the thinnest females (that are not taller than you)?

    • Jess

      Are you trying to win the award for the dumbest question ever?

    • sonja

      LOL!!!

  • Jo Jo

    Do you have stipulations in your contract that you are paired with celebrities with the most dance experience?

    • Lauren

      Nicole is his only partner with dance experience. Jennifer danced 23 years ago for a movie and had four surgeries in one year. So if this is in his contract, the show has done a horrible job fulfilling that stipulation.

      • Vicki

        Derek, you are an awesome dancer and choreographer. I would love to see you dance to Phil Collins In the Air Tonight.

    • Bebe

      Did you not read the interviews above? THEY SELECT THE PARTNERS FOR HIM.

  • Lauren

    When will you get to show off your piano playing skills?Also your painting skills. Maybe you can do a piano duel with another pro while painting? Being serious, what have been your favorite dances with each of your celeb partners? You have done some memorable routines with each of your partners.

  • GM

    Do you see yourself going into acting in the near future?

    • mw27122

      He was the lead in Footloose on Broadway.

  • orville

    Is there a celebrity (whether or not they’d ever do the show) who would be your dream partner?

  • Sobaika Mirza

    Can we get someone else other than Derek to answer fan questions once in a while? I like the guy, but some variety would be nice. Louis, Cheryl, Maks, etc.

    • VK

      I don’t think they will. It seems like most of the pros (or at least the most popular ones) have deals with different websites to do interviews or blogs every week. Derek’s the EW guy, and I’m happy about that :)

    • Clare

      Cheryl and Maks do blogs for other publications. Different mags have deals with different pros.

  • Sam

    Are you a pitcher or catcher?

  • Toby

    Who decided to end the relationship…Mark or you?

  • Harvey Levin

    Is your Mormon family a pro or con polygamy? As a Mormon, do you wear the magic white underwear?

    • breeboo

      What an amazingly lame question. Did you stay up all night thinking of that one, or does that sort of thing just come naturally to you? OMG…

  • Sarah

    Derek, I saw you in Burn the Floor on Broadway and you were phenomenal. I also read the amazing reviews you got from starring in Footloose in London. Any plans to do more theatre in the future?

    • Jane

      Please ask Derek this question!!! And I would like to add onto the end ‘any plans to do more theatre OR FILMS in the future?’ Derek is an amazing actor. He should have been pursuing film roles years ago. But I hear he definitely has Hollywood’s attention now, and I know we’ll be seeing him on the big screen soon! ;)

  • Barb

    I’m 84 my young friend and watching you dance has been a great joy to me, no matter who you have had as a partner, your ability is outstanding. May God bless you with many more years of bringing joy and smiles to old folks like me, who can remember when.

  • Dancing17

    If there is another DWTS tour after Season 11, will you join it or will your other brewing comittments prevent this?

  • Kate

    Among your many talents besides dance, I always though you would do well in acting, theater and music videos. Is there any chance that between X Factor duties, Cheryl would perform Parachute on DWTS as a guest vocalist and you could dance with her as you do on the video? You’ve obviously thought of this as another opportunity to introduce her to the U.S. God bless you Derek as you branch out in your career this next year.

  • Susan

    You are doing a fantastic job with Jennifer this season. How do you balance pushing and challenging her around her injuries? She looks fantastic for her age but she is 50, not 30. Do you worry about pushing her too much especially when you guys hit two dances for one week?

  • Linnea

    It seems every season, you do a dance with a hat. Is this intentional? Is there a story behind it? Wish you all the best on your continued success – vote 11!

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