Go Away With … Derek Hough

DerekHough_PhotoCredGaryFitzpatrickBy Jae-Ha Kim
Tribune Content Agency
September 9, 2014

More famous than many of the celebrities with whom he is paired on “Dancing with the Stars,” professional dancer Derek Hough is a star in his own right. Hough, 29, has won an Emmy Award for his choreography on the series, as well as an unprecedented five Mirror Ball Trophies for his work on the show.

He also helped choreograph the short program rice dancing routine that gold medalists Meryl Davis and Charlie White performed at the Sochi Olympics. The author of The New York Times best-seller, “Taking the Lead: Lessons from a Life in Motion” (William Morrow, $24.99), Hough talks with us about his travels, which included a stint in England to study dance.

Born in Salt Lake City, Utah, the entertainer currently resides in Los Angeles. Fans may follow him on Twitter.

Q. What was it like to move to England, without your family, when you were 12?

A. It was great. I really enjoyed it. People would ask my mom, “How could you let him go?” And her response was, “How could I not give him that opportunity? How could I deny him the opportunity to learn so much and to grow?” I think it was an amazing thing for them to allow me to do. There were times when it was time to go back home, but I just wanted to stay — not because I didn’t want to see my family, but because I enjoyed England so much. I knew I was on a path and that my time overseas had something to do with it.

Q. Where have you been to that you faced the biggest culture shock?

A. Honestly? Los Angeles! When I moved to L.A., I was like, “Oh, wait. What’s going on? What do I do?” I really missed the structure I had at home and in London.

Q. Which destinations are on your travel bucket list?

A. Oh, my gosh. I have so many places I want to visit. I literally take screenshot images on my phone of places I want to visit. I have a long bucket list, starting with Chile. I’ve been to parts of Asia, but I want to go back and explore more countries there. Norway has such beautiful scenery. Bali would be good. I want to go to Machu Picchu. I want to see the Pyramids. I want to see the Aztec ruins. The list is endless!

Q. Are you a lay-at-the-beach or jump-out-of-airplanes type of tourist?

A. (Laughs) I travel so much for work, but when I’m on vacation, I want to do adventurous things. I love shark diving. I want to do things that get my adrenalin pumping. At the same time, I want to see all the historical things that blow my mind. Ancient culture is so interesting and fascinating.

Q. What city could you move to and call it home?

A. Chicago. I’m not kidding you! I just did a tour this summer with my sister (dancer Julianne Hough) and had two days off in Chicago. We had the most beautiful weather. It wasn’t too hot or too cold. We walked for miles around the city and enjoyed the architecture. I loved how clean it was, the energy, walking by the lake and watching people play volleyball. It felt a lot like home to me.

Q. When you’re touring for work, how much of a city can you actually explore?

A. I’m not going to lie — it’s pretty grueling when I’m traveling for work. It’s like running a marathon every single night, but in a fantastic way. But I almost always will find a little time to get out and see what the cities have to offer. Sometimes it’ll just be getting to a new restaurant, but it’s important to do even that.

Q. What was the first trip you took as a child? And did you love it … or not so much?

A. When we were kids, we traveled a lot, but by car. We did big road trips. We did Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon (National Park), all the beautiful national parks in Utah. We visited the Grand Canyon. One of the first vacations that we flew to and was a big deal was to Hawaii. We stayed at the Turtle Bay Inn (in Oahu) and it’s still a very fond memory for all of us. I remember playing with those poi balls and seeing those fire-dancing dudes.

Q. How important are weekend getaways to you?

A. I would say that everyone needs weekend getaways on a regular basis, and that’s what I need to work on, because I don’t get to do that enough. I need to reconnect with nature and adventure and find that place I can escape to. It’s important to work hard, but it’s also important to have that balance in life. Thanks for reminding me. That’s going to be one of my focuses and goals over the next couple of months.

Q. What are your favorite hotels?

A. St. Regis (http://www.stregisborabora.com/) in Bora Bora was pretty phenomenal. Can’t beat that. The W (http://www.starwoodhotels.com/whotels) hotels are great, too. Any Starwood (http://www.starwoodhotels.com/) hotel is really good for me.

Q. What are some of your favorite cities?

A. Chicago for sure. London is my second home. Hong Kong is a great city. I really enjoyed my time there. New York City.

Q. Are you an adventurous eater when you travel?

A. I can be if I’m in the right mood. I’ll order everything on the menu and see what happens. I’m not normally a street cart eater. I will normally hold out until I can eat a proper meal.

Q. When you go away, what are some of your must-have items?

A. My Diesel sweatpants jeans. They are really comfortable. People make fun of me for wearing them. They’re like maternity jeans. But they’re great for planes. I bring noise-canceling headphones. That’s kind of about it. Really, it’s all about the music and comfortable jeans.

Q. What is your guilty pleasure when you’re on the road?

A. Mine would be to eat hot wings in every city. Every hotel has hot wings and it’s sort of a go-to snack. I love spicy food. But I’ll be honest with you. I don’t feel guilty about my pleasures! (Laughs)

Q. How many U.S. states have you visited?

A. I feel like I have hit all of the states. I would have to go back and see if there’s any I haven’t gone to yet.

Q. Even Alaska?

A. No! I haven’t been to Alaska yet. Now I have to get there.

© 2014 JAE-HA KIM

Comments (2)

  1. Sandy Lochrie says:

    Excellent article and questions with Derek Hough. He is so likeable. I’d like to know what his personal goals are for marriage family, kids etc.

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