Derek Hough Explains Song Drama With Marilu Henner On ‘Dancing With the Stars’

It’s not uncommon for the viewers of Dancing With the Stars to immediately recognize the songs that accompany the celebrity-pro dances. Whether it’s a live performance by a noted music star, a cover version of a well-known classic or an original, fans usually hear a song they know before casting their votes. As the new TV Guide blog post by Derek Hough reveals, that’s probably partly by design, as he had to fight with producers to get permission to use his chosen song for his most recent performance with Marilu Henner.

ABC reported that Derek and Marilu scored an impressive score of 27/30 (three 9s from the judges) for the emotional Viennese Waltz. It was on Most Memorable Year night when Marilu recalled 1978, which marked a great high and a great low. Her mother passed away just weeks before Marilu had her last audition for the 1970s sitcom Taxi, which would become her breakthrough role. People described Henner’s videotaped package before the performance as “tearful.”
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The dance was accompanied by recent U.K. pop hit “Surprise Yourself,” by Jack Garratt. Despite the song’s international success, Dancing With the Stars producers objected to its use because of its relative obscurity stateside. Hough held firm, and as he pointed out in his blog, it isn’t the first time.

“[T]he producers wanted to use a different song. I asked why and they were like, ‘No one knows it.’ But I stood my ground. It was the perfect song for Marilu and the dance. Plus, even if the song is not well known, people might search for it afterward and make it well known. It only helps everyone. We got so many messages afterward asking us what the song was. It was the same thing with my freestyle with Kellie Pickler — no one knew that song either, but everyone asked afterward about it.”

That Kellie Pickler performance in Season 16, during the spring of 2013, was accompanied by the Labrinth song “Beneath Your Beautiful.” Billboard reported later that year about the newfound success of the U.K. artist behind the track. That season Derek and Kellie won the mirror ball trophy, narrowly beating out Zendaya Coleman and Valentin Chmerkovskiy.
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Although Derek and Marilu did not have to fight for their choice of song this week, Hough reveals there was some initial confusion about the style of dance. Given the music, Hough thought they were to perform a salsa, but it’s actually a cha-cha. Derek said he is taking some creative liberties in the choreography given the difference between the music and the steps.

“We’re calling it a ‘chalsa.’ The song is so salsa that I feel like I have to incorporate some salsa moves into it. Plus, it’s Latin Week, so we want to make it fun and vibrant.”

Unlike last week, when Derek and Marilu focused more on the feel of the dance than the technical aspects, Hough wrote he’s stricter with form this week because it is what the judges will expect. Marilu and Derek’s 27/30 score was a breakthrough for the pair who so far have struggled to get high marks from the panel.

“[I]t’s a harder with the cha-cha because there’s more visible technique with the dance that you can see. But as an overall dance, I want to try to find moments where she can enjoy it and focus on the technique of the dance without over-thinking it.”

In the past, Derek Hough has discussed Marilu Henner’s amazing memory and how it has proved challenging on Dancing With the Stars. Hough has compensated by stepping back and trying to support her in feeling the emotion of the dance.

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Latin night on Dancing With the Stars gets underway at 8 p.m. Monday on ABC.

[Featured Image by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images]