As a talented and upbeat song-and-dance sibling act from Utah with a dedicated TV audience via the ABC dance competition series “Dancing With the Stars,” Derek and Julianne Hough often draw an easy comparison to popular ’70s duo Donny and Marie (of the famous Osmond family). Armed with amazing technique, aggressive choreography, genuine musical and vocal skills, and a highly energetic delivery, the Houghs offer far more than easy-going entertainment.
Fans of the superstar brother-sister duo and the long-running “Dancing With the Stars” series may be surprised by the elaborate and expansive production of their current Move Live on Tour, a dynamic stage show that launched in 2014.
There’ll be much more than a jumble of dance routines. With the backing of a full dance troupe, the Houghs have mixed their dances with live musical performances, singing, bits of dramatic and comedic acting, and audience interaction.
Move Live on Tour will land on the North Charleston Performing Arts Center’s stage on Wednesday.
When Derek and Julianne debuted the Move Live on Tour in spring 2014, they compared the show to a charismatic rock concert with a huge dance component. The Houghs and their ensemble peppered the set with a mix of solo, duet, and large-size group dance performances in a variety of styles (jazz, swing, ballroom, tap, contemporary, hip-hop, etc.).
With costumes designed by Hollywood stylist Marco Morante and choreography by Emmy Award-winning duo Tabitha and Napoleon D’umo (aka NappyTabs of “So You Think You Can Dance” and “America’s Best Dance Crew” fame), the traveling show has earned the attention of a diverse national audience.
“We had such a fun and high-energy show last year,” Julianne Hough stated in a press release in May. “It was amazing to see such a great reaction from our fans the first time, and we can’t wait until they see what we have up our sleeves now. Our goal then and our goal now is to have it feel like a rock concert for dance, and I think we have and certainly will accomplish that again.”
Derek, 30, and Julianne, 26, were immersed in the worlds of dance and music long before they competed, judged, and hosted reality/competition shows. They were born into an enthusiastically musical family of entertainers in suburban Salt Lake City, Utah.
Their parents, Marriann and Bruce, were professional dancers and singers as were both sets of grandparents. The only boy of five siblings, Derek was the fourth child alongside sisters Marabeth, Sharee, Katherine, and Julianne.
Derek demonstrated terrific skills and raw talents as a youngster. When he was 12, the Hough family sent him to London to further his dance and music with coaches Corky and Shirley Ballas. Kid sister Julianne followed in his footsteps shortly after.
Derek, spent the better part of 10 years studying and working in London while Julianne returned to Utah after five years in the city.
While in London with the Ballas family, Derek turned some of his attention to learning piano and guitar and the craft of songwriting. His coaches’ son Mark Ballas became a best friend and musical colleague during their stint at the Italia Conti Academy of Theatre Arts where they studied songwriting, theater, gymnastics and a various forms of dance.
As teens, Derek, Julianne, and Mark formed a bubblegum pop trio called 2B1G (“two boys and one girl”). This initial musical endeavor would eventually lead to Julianne’s forays into recording country/pop albums as well as the recent formation of the Ballas Hough Band, a serious recording project led by Derek and Mark.
Derek’s professional career in competitive dance and choreography were his main priorities during the mid-2000s. Things accelerated as he delved into theater as well. While in London, he landed prominent roles in touring productions of “Jesus Christ Superstar” and “Footloose.”
During her early high school years, Julianne split her time between the U.K. and Utah, studying and competing at prestigious institutions. At 15, she won the top spot at the Junior World Latin Champion at the Blackpool Dance Festival in northern England before returning to the States to attend Las Vegas Academy and Alta High School in Sandy, Utah.
By 2006, Julianne was already dancing professionally on the small screen as part of the ABC game show “Show Me the Money.” In early 2007, she and her partner, Olympic gold medal-winning speed skater Apolo Ohno, won the fourth season of “Dancing With the Stars.” Julianne returned to the show in late 2007 with a new partner, Indianapolis 500 champion Hélio Castroneves. They won that season as well.
In 2007, Derek was enlisted by choreographer Bruno Tonioli’s dance team as part of the BBC TV show “Dance X.” The troupe won the competition that season. That experience on TV in the U.K. soon led to an invitation to join the first “Dancing With the Stars” tour as company dancer alongside Julianne. As dance partners, Derek and Julianne handled everything from the rhumba to ballroom steps and funky hip-hop moves.
The producers of “Dancing With the Stars” invited Derek to join the cast of the show in 2007. Over the next few years, he partnered with actresses Jennie Garth and Shannon Elizabeth, models Brooke Burke and Joanna Krupa, and singers Lil’ Kim, Kellie Pickler, and Nicole Scherzinger (of the Pussycat Dolls), among others, winning five seasons overall.
From 2010 to 2014, both Derek and Julianne continued to appear on “Dancing With the Stars” while simultaneously expanding their repertoire and explored new creative projects in acting, television and film production, musical theater and choreography. Both bounced back from ailments and minor injuries; Julianne had to have surgery to have her appendix removed after a jitterbug performance in 2008, and Derek suffered various sprains, breaks and blows during performances the sidelined him for brief stints.
The Houghs seemed unfazed by their newly earned celebrity status and undistracted by the showbiz glitz of Hollywood and the TV world as they started compiling ideas and assembling their touring dance troupe.
By 2014, as Season 18 of “Dancing With the Stars” wound up, they had a solid idea for a new collaboration: an interactive stage show they’d call Move Live on Tour.
This year’s Move Live on Tour features expanded, high-impact choreography, more lighting, more costume changes and more singing than before, providing a visual and auditory experience for audiences. The tour kicked off on June 12 in Phoenix, and it’s been winding around North America all spring. Through the summer, it will stop at 42 different cities, closing in Las Vegas on Aug. 8.
The performance in North Charleston on Wednesday should provide plenty of excitement for hard-core “Dancing With the Stars” fans and musical theater lovers alike.