Derek Hough returns to SLC to dance up a TV special — and his wife is back on stage with him

Hayley Erbert Hough, who underwent emergency brain surgery in December, is back in action.

Utah native Derek Hough is bringing his “Symphony of Dance” tour to Salt Lake City for the second time, and the big news is what won’t be different.

The performance — set for Wednesday at 7 p.m. at the Eccles Theater, 131 S. Main, Salt Lake City — is the same show that last played to a sold-out Eccles Theater last October. And, to the surprise of many, Hough will once again be joined on stage by his wife, Haley Erbert Hough, just five months after she underwent emergency brain surgery.

“It’s been amazing, man,” Hough said in a phone interview with The Salt Lake Tribune “She’s doing fantastic. It’s incredible to see her progress.”

During a stop in Washington, D.C., on Dec. 6, the 29-year-old Erbert Hough became disoriented and was taken to a hospital. She was quickly taken into surgery, and a piece of her skull was removed so doctors could repair an intracranial hematoma — blood vessels that had burst inside her brain. She later needed followup surgery to repair her skull.

(Frank Micelotta | Disney) Hayley Erbert Hough and Derek Hough at a recent Hulu on Disney+ event.

“It was unfathomable,” Hough said. “It just didn’t feel real. But it’s the new reality. We’re just focusing on what’s good. That’s it.”

And the news about Erbert Hough has been surprisingly good. In April, doctors cleared her to return to performing. She’ll be dancing when the tour returns to the Eccles on Wednesday.

“We couldn’t be more thrilled with the way her recovery has gone,” Hough said. “We’re very blessed.”

It’s not standard procedure for any sort of tour to return to a venue it’s already played. But Hough has reasons for the return — and it’s not just that this is his hometown, and the place where his father and many family members live. It’s also “the culture of dance” in Utah. “It’s a really great place to showcase this show,” he said.

His tour had to rebook dates because shows were canceled when his wife was hospitalized, “and I just said, ‘Hey, I’d love to go back to Salt Lake.’ And so we’re going back with the same show and we’re very excited about it.”

There will be something decidedly different than when the tour played the Eccles last October. This new date will be filmed for an upcoming TV special “so the audience is not just going to watch, they’re going to be a part of the show.” (When and on what platform the special will air has not been announced.)

“I was, like, ‘This is a theater to do it in.’ It’s so beautiful. The audiences are amazing. It’s my hometown. It’s a great, great place. So we’re very excited about it.”

He said performing in Utah is special to him. “Whenever I go there, it’s a reminder to me of where I came from, when I first went to dance.”

He remembers himself as “this kid from South Jordan, Utah,” who went to dance class in Orem “and then I moved to England at 12 years old and trained and competed all around the world and won competitions. And then doing television and doing Broadway and doing West End” shows in London. And Utah “definitely” remains “a place that makes me reflect a lot about my journey.”

Dance was not his dream, at least not to begin with. Like a lot of kids, he harbored notions of becoming a pro athlete or a rock star. “And it’s kind of funny, because I feel like I’m fulfilling both of those childhood dreams with dance,” Hough said. “I’m able to play music and sing on stage and rock out with the audience. But I’m also able to be a professional athlete, which is a dancer.”

(Photo courtesy of Fred Hayes/Disney +) Derek Hough dances with Kate Reinders in "High School Musical: The Musical: The Series."

Salt Lake City and Idaho Falls?

Hough has set aside tickets for family members for his Salt Lake City performance — and he set aside even more for a May 14 performance in Idaho Falls because, he said, “pretty much all of my family on my mom’s side lives there.” They told him there was a new arena in town and urged him to schedule a show there.

(That would be the Mountain America Center, which is home to the Spud Kings, a minor league hockey team.)

Hough called up his bookers and told them he wanted to schedule a show in Idaho Falls. Their response: “Oh, we’ve never really done that before.” But they scheduled it, and the show is close to a sell-out.

Which, apparently, came as a surprise to bookers who had never heard of Idaho Falls. “They know about it now,” Hough said with a laugh. “They’re, like, ‘Wow, this is a great market!’”

(Kelsey McNeal | ABC) Amber Riley and Derek Hough were crowned Season 17 Champions and awarded the coveted Mirror Ball Trophy on "Dancing with the Stars" in 2013.

Just keep dancing

Hough is sort of a latter-day Fred Astaire — a dancer who became a star. Astaire kept dancing into his 70s, so how long does 38-year-old Hough think he can keep it going?

There’s no end in sight, said Hough, who feels “so fortunate” to live in a time when so much “health information is out there to create longevity. And I know for me, I’ve certainly added years to my career just based off of my habits I’ve created the past couple of years.”

That regimen includes “diet, body work, hyperbaric chambers, ice baths, IV treatments, supplements — all these different things to really change my bio age,” he said. “I’m 38 now, but my bio age is 30. … And you can actually bring that down. Wiithout getting too much into the science and all these different things, that’s the goal — to almost reverse your bio age and keep the longevity going.

“Who knows? I’ll do it as long as they’ll have me.”

(Eric McCandless | Disney) Carrie Ann Inaba, Alfonso Ribeiro, Derek Hough, Julianne Hough and Bruno Tonioli on "Dancing with the Stars."

Still ‘Dancing with the Stars’

Hough remains as enthusiastic about his judging gig on “Dancing With the Stars” as he is about dancing himself.

“It’s a show I love so much,” he said. “There’s a reason why it’s been around for so long. It always feels new and refreshed each season. And it’s a pleasure to be a part of it.”

He’s glad that the “experiment” of moving “DWTS” from ABC to streaming only on Disney+ resulted in the show airing on both platforms. “We’re very, very happy to be back on ABC and Disney+ networks.” he said.

And, as far as he’s concerned, Alfonso Ribeiro and Hough’s sister, Julianne, are doing a “phenomenal job” as the show’s hosts. “I think last year, we just felt very much like, ‘OK, we’re back to, like, the heart and feeling of what ‘Dancing with the Stars’ has always been.”

And he’s having “so much fun” on the show. “It’s such a blast. Being a part of it for 17 seasons as a pro, I understand how challenging it is. How difficult it is. But how rewarding and fulfilling it is. It’s wonderful to see these new dancers and new pros on the show and just the excitement and the energy and just, like, the bright-eyed-ness of it all.”

Although he’s been struck by the fact that ther show has been on the air since 2005, and that some of the new dancers were just children when he joined the show.

Hough’s first appearance was in 2007, when he was just 21. He was a guest instructor for Julianne and Olympic speed skating gold medalist Apolo Anton Ono, the eventual winners of Season 4. Derek Hough became one of the main dancers in Season 5, and went on to win the mirror ball trophy six times — more than any other professional dancer, and twice as many anyone else.

Still, it’s a bit startling when he realizes that some of the new dancers “were, like, 5 years old” when he joined the series. “They grew up watching the show, and now they’re a part of it. It’s pretty incredible,” Hough said.

“And it cracks me up every time somebody says, ‘I used to watch you when I was a kid.’ I’m, like, ‘How old are you?’” he said, laughing.