“Dancing with the Stars” golden boy Derek Hough almost left the show after last season. But now, with a fourth mirror ball trophy looking likely for the acclaimed dance pro with his partner Kellie Pickler on Tuesday night, his fans shouldn’t worry. Derek implied to reporters that he’s likely to stick around for Season 17, which begins in September.
After a truly emotional freestyle performance on Monday with Kellie, which received a perfect score of 30 and caused judge Carrie Ann Inaba to burst into joyful tears, Derek told hostess Brooke Burke-Charvet how he almost quit after last year’s “All-Star” season. But his partnership with Kellie appears to have strengthened his love for “DWTS” even more.
He elaborated to xfnityTV backstage on Monday night, “It might be a good idea to do next season. 2014 is going to be a little bit different because that’s when certain projects I’m working on will come to life. [Right now] is all the preparation stages.”
Although Derek — who is co-producing a STARZ cable channel series called “Blackpool” with his sister, former “DWTS” pro Julianne Hough — wouldn’t say definitively if he’ll be back on the ABC reality show this fall, he said, “I say this tonight … I was literally within an hour of not doing [Season 16]. I called producers, saying, ‘I have a weird feeling I need to do this season.’ I was in the hospital with my mom and I was like, ‘I need to do this.’ And they said, ‘We need to know in the next hour.’ I was like, ‘Hold on. Let me think about this for a second.’ And I was like ‘Okay. Let’s do it.’ And now I know why!”
While Zendaya Coleman and her partner Val Chmerkovskiy actually received the highest cumulative Monday night score, Kellie and Derek hit everyone in the heart with a freestyle for the ages, leaving Carrie Ann sobbing that the singer had bared her soul on the dance floor. But Derek did, too, and was visibly moved afterward, appearing teary-eyed.
He explained: “When you’re a choreographer and you put so much into a routine that’s emotionally driven, those are like my ideas and my little babies that I have here and then I put them out there and they’re there to be judged and looked at. When it’s all over, it’s just such a relief. All these emotions you’ve suppressed just keep going. Then I see my mom behind the judges and I haven’t seen her in several months and she was sobbing.” The 28-year-old dancer added to reporters with a smile, “I could begin crying right now, s—!”
Derek said of Kellie: “I’m so glad I did this season because she was amazing. I just had a feeling I needed to do this season and looking back on it, I was absolutely right—dancing with her has been incredible, dancing with Brilynn [Rakes], the blind girl, the rotating room [exhibition dance]. There are so many elements to the season that have been so amazing.”
While the other final couples—Jacoby Jones and Karina Smirnoff, Aly Raisman and Mark Ballas, and Zendaya and Val—used props and extras in their “super-sized” freestyles, Derek instead to simplify his dance with Kellie.
“I’m all for big production—I love putting on shows,” he said. “I did battle with it in my mind. I said, ‘Man, is this the right thing to do? To downsize it physically and try to super-size it emotionally?’ I wanted to try to separate her—this is what she can do and not to try to wow people with spectacle but wow people with the ability and with heart. I was glad it paid off and turned out well.”
And it sounds like Derek will be creating more magical dance moments for at least one more season of “DWTS”!
The mirror ball trophy winner will be revealed on Tuesday night’s two-hour “DWTS” Season 16 finale, beginning at 9/8c on ABC!