'Dancing With Stars': Derek Hough Weighs in on Trained Dancers Competing (Exclusive)

Dancing With the Stars is in its 31st season, and Derek Hough has seamlessly transitioned from a pro dancer on the show to a judge. Now on Disney+, Hough couldn't be more excited for the uninterrupted competition series and revamp of sorts, with no commercials and more time behind-the-scenes footage viewers get to see this time around. The Emmy-award winner has been with the show through its various iterations, including the show initially enlisting what some would consider has-been celebrities competing and revitalizing their careers through the show. In the beginning, the show featured celebs with little to no dance professional dance training, and watching their progress week to week made fans at home root for them. It's changed a bit, with some contestants having some form of training. But Hough says it doesn't put any contestant at a disadvantage. 

"I think it's a great mix. I think that if we just had absolute non-dancers from scratch – I think over the years, America has been really been educated with dance. They understand. 10 years ago, if I said a Pasadoble, you're like, "Wait, what'd you say?" Now I see a guy, he's like, "Hey man, I like that New Yorker section in that Cha-cha," Hough told us in a recent interview. "It's like there's this understanding of the dance. I think that it's good to have some higher levels of dance, so people who want to see that, can appreciate that and, "Wow, the choreography, I love that."

He continued, adding that there are some who are standouts in the beginning who are then outshined by those with less experience. "Or somebody who prefers to see somebody who's never danced before, really start at ground zero and see the progression. The truth is, it might seem like a disadvantage, but we've seen that it's not," he added.


Hough says the show has proven that even the best can succumb to the underdog. "Last season, [we had[ Iman, you had Jojo Siwa – who was a dancer. But Iman, who's a basketball player, who's never danced in his life, he won. He won the show," he explained. "I think that it's a double-edged sword. When you have experience, people expect more from you, therefore, it's harder to surprise people or to impress people versus if you're a beginner, people will actually be rooting for you a lot more. It kind of balances itself out sometimes in people's opinions or the way they feel about somebody on the show. I think it's a good balance to have a mixture of people with experience, people without experience, people in between. It's good to have a bit of both."