‘Dancing With The Stars’: How Derek Hough Is Changing Tactics Given Marilu Henner’s Extraordinary Memory

Before Marilu Henner was driving up the intensity in the ballroom with Derek Hough on Dancing With the Stars, she was already making news for her memory. Back in 2012, ABC News reported that Henner was at the time one of only 12 people in the world with a diagnosis of hyperthymesia, Highly Superior Autobiographical Memory. That means the star of Taxi and Evening Shade remembers every day of her life in detail.

Henner’s amazing recall was part of the storyline of her pre-performance package last week on Dancing With the Stars when Hough discussed the difficulties of getting his partner to forget some of the dance moves she’s done in the past in order to move on to something new. In his new blog for TV Guide, Hough wrote he’s taking a different approach this week in order to maximize the impact of their performance. Instead of giving Henner formal movements, he’s going to simply guide her, in order to get more flow out of the dance.

“I give her all this information and with her memory, she holds all the information, so she’s carrying all this stuff in her mind.”

“I’m going to be very minimal in the things I say this week. It’s a different strategy. I know I have a certain formula that has worked for me really well with my partners in the past. With her, it’s different, so I’m adjusting and adapting, and hopefully we can make it happen this week.”

Derek Hough’s past formula has served him and his partners well. He has won the mirror ball trophy a whopping six times, most recently with wildlife activist and television personality Bindi Irwin. Hough sat out last season of Dancing With the Stars but returned this year and was paired with Henner. Derek’s sister Julianne Hough is sitting on the judges’ panel again this year, along with Carrie Ann Inaba, Bruno Tonioli, and occasionally Len Goodman, who is also doing double duty with the BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing.

The theme of the dances this week is Most Memorable Year, when the celebrities recall a significant past event or period of their lives. Marilu will dance in memory of her mother. She should be able to use her intellectual talent in order to bring emotion to the dance; even if remembering past steps too well has hindered her work with Hough, she has used her library knowledge of her life to bring depth and feeling to her characters as an actress, as she told ABC News.


“I can always remember where I first read a script or what I studied or what I liked about, things like that. But definitely being an actress, I learned how to embrace my memories and celebrate them and explore them without hesitation whatsoever.”

Derek’s TV Guide blog from the previous week revealed an ongoing concern with Marilu’s massive intellectual ability, which kept her in her head too much. He admitted changing that habit is easier said than done.

“There’s a great saying: Overanalysis equals paralysis. And it’s true. If there are too many things in our minds, you won’t be focused. That’s what we have to work on. She needs to look completely in control and attentive.”

Hough is getting over an illness this week but is battling through. He and Henner will dance a Viennese Waltz. Buddy TV reports it will be a night of emotional performances, as Olympian Laurie Hernandez remembers her athletic triumph and Indy 500 driver James Hinchcliffe recalls a devastating crash that almost ended his life.

Dancing With the Stars airs Monday nights on ABC.

[Featured Image by Mike Windle/Getty Images]