6-time ‘Dancing with the Stars’ champ Derek Hough brings ‘Symphony of Dance’ to MGM National Harbor

Hear our full chat on my podcast “Beyond the Fame with Jason Fraley.”

WTOP's Jason Fraley previews Derek Hough at MGM National Harbor (Part 1)

The most decorated “Dancing with the Stars” champion in the show’s history is coming to perform live in the D.C. area.

Derek Hough will bring his dazzling stage show “Symphony of Dance” to MGM National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Maryland, this Wednesday, Dec. 6.

“I love D.C. so much,” Hough told WTOP. “The last time I was there, I had the best time at the Kennedy [Center] Honors and just explored the city. … One of my favorite restaurants is actually there. My new wife, I’ve been telling her about this restaurant and I was telling her, ‘I’m going to fly to D.C. just to eat there.’ … It’s called Maydan. It’s like a Middle Eastern restaurant. … I can’t wait to take her there. If we have time, we’re going to be a bit busy!”

Indeed, Hough and wife Hayley Erbert Hough will work up an appetite performing together in “Symphony of Dance.”

“I’ve done over 10 tours and this tour, this show is, in my opinion, the best I’ve ever done or been a part of,” Hough said. “The choreography, the costumes, the live music, we have a live band and an incredible cast of dancers that are just sensational. This show is really just amazing, just the energy, all different genres of dance, all different genres of music from big band to contemporary to rock ‘n roll … The response from the audience has been unlike anything I’ve ever experienced in all my years performing live.”

Born in Salt Lake City in 1985, Hough grew up with four sisters, including Julianne Hough.

“What’s interesting when I look back at my history, both of my grandparents on both sides, they actually danced together socially,” Hough said. “My mom and dad actually met ballroom dancing together in college, which I didn’t actually learn until later in life, which is kind of ironic, so it’s kind of funny how I literally wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for dance. … If I look at old home videos, we were always dancing in the living room, having fun, we were just always performing. If you open up the fridge door, the light on the fridge door, we’d start singing like a spotlight.”

When his parents got divorced, they sent him and Julianne to London to study dance with competitive ballroom dancers Corky and Shirley Ballas. He stayed there for 10 years before winning the WDSF World Latin Championship in 2002.

“We trained with the best coaches in the world,” Hough said. “We went to a theater arts school and learned work ethic and training and we had competitions every Sunday and we traveled all around Europe and all around the world. That’s where we really honed our craft and honed our work ethic, so when the opportunity arose in the future for productions and shows and TV, we were ready to rock, man.”

He became a household name as a professional dancer on ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars” from 2007 to 2016, winning a record six times with his celebrity partners Brooke Burke, Nicole Scherzinger, Jennifer Grey, Kellie Pickler, Amber Riley and Bindi Irwin. The show also earned him 11 Emmy nominations, including three wins.

“It’s funny, the trophies were actually just collecting dust in the garage, so I got them out and put them in a case and I’m actually traveling all of them, so if you come see the show, there’s a case out in the lobbies,” Hough said. “There’s so many performances, literally hundreds, but a few performances I won Emmys for like the rotating dance where I was rotating in a room live, which had never been done before. Even recently, we did a routine with Michael Bublé called ‘Higher’ last season, which was nominated for an Emmy.”

From 2017 to 2020, he became a judge on NBC’s “World of Dance” alongside Jennifer Lopez and Ne-Yo before returning to ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars” as a judge starting in Season 29 in 2020.

“‘World of Dance’ was such a joy and so much fun working with Jennifer Lopez and Ne-Yo and the caliber of dancing was extraordinary, they were just absolute insane athletes on that show,” Hough said. “That was a fantastic time, I cherish the time I had on that show, it was beautiful, and now being a judge back on ‘Dancing with the Stars’ is like going back to my family and it’s just an absolute joy. That show is the gift that keeps on giving.”

The fame from these dance competition shows earned him roles on stage and screen, from the West End premiere of “Footloose: The Musical” to TV series like “Nashville” to playing Corny Collins in NBC’s “Hairspray: Live!.”

“The appreciation of dance that I’ve seen over the past 15 years, it feels like that Golden Age of film back in the day of Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire, the movie musicals where they were all triple threats,” Hough said. “It’s amazing to see that resurgence of the appreciation of the art form, the athleticism, the sport of dance, seeing athletes on ‘Dancing with the Stars,’ Super Bowl or World Series champions huffing and puffing doing the rumba!”

WTOP's Jason Fraley previews Derek Hough at MGM National Harbor (Part 2)

Listen to our full conversation on the podcast below:

Jason Fraley

Hailed by The Washington Post for “his savantlike ability to name every Best Picture winner in history," Jason Fraley began at WTOP as Morning Drive Writer in 2008, film critic in 2011 and Entertainment Editor in 2014, providing daily arts coverage on-air and online.

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