Park City has a dancing star connection | ParkRecord.com

Park City has a dancing star connection

ANNA BLOOM, Of the Record staff

Julianne Hough reports the only unusual thing about her trip home to Utah for Memorial Day Weekend was that more neighbors, and ones who she couldn’t recognize, stopped to say hello.

It might have a lot to do with the fact that the 18-year-old did not return home from college. She returned home from winning the disco ball trophy from one of the most watched reality television shows, "Dancing with the Stars," with 25-year-old Olympic speed skater Apolo Anton Ohno.

Hough, who studied for a semester at Park City High School after five years at a performing arts school in England, says her life is moving too fast to consider how she feels about interviews with Jimmy Kimmel, Larry King and Barbara Walters or the gossip (some columnists have suggested Ohno and Hough’s chemistry while dancing is proof of an off-screen romance.)

She has her debut country single, "Will You Dance With Me?" to think about, and her upcoming national tour with Dancing with the Stars to prepare for this summer.

"It doesn’t hit you that millions of people are watching you," she explained in a phone interview Sunday. "It’s hard to believe it’s happening The support from people has been amazing, but it’s very surreal and crazy to be back in Utah."

Hough’s father Bruce, president of Park City-based nutritional supplement company, Neutraceuticals, flew to Las Angeles to watch the taping of the season finale last week. He said sometimes the audience applause for his daughter and Ohno was so deafening, it was impossible to hear anything else.

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At the recent premiere for the newest Pirates of the Caribbean film, he estimates it took Julianne and Ohno more than two hours to reach the end of the red carpet.

"This is a pretty big deal for an 18-year-old to go off and seek her fortune and have it hit so quick," Bruce reflects. "But on the other hand, she’s worked since she was 10 years old and at 14, she knew exactly what she wanted to do. She’s worked very hard."

At the age of 10, Julianne traveled to England after being spotted by a coach at a Utah ballroom competition. She studied singing, acting and dancing at London’s Italia Conti School of Performing Arts, and in her spare time competed in ballroom competitions, winning world championship titles with her partner.

Later, she chose to return home and, after briefly attending Park City High School, she transferred to Alta High School to complete her senior year.

Julianne immediately made headway once she arrived in Hollywood last September, landing a recurring role as a "Million Dollar Dancer" on the game show, "Show Me the Money" with William Shatner.

Television producers plucked Julianne from the traveling national tour for "Dancing with the Stars."

On the show’s tour this January, "she was performing in front of audiences that averaged 15,000 on a 38-city tour not bad for a dance performance," Bruce remarked. "When they saw her, they knew they had a little star and they really wanted her to be on the TV show."

Julianne says that she choreographed all of the dances throughout the 10-weeks of the televised competition and designed all of the costumes.

She also served as Ohno’s personal dance coach.

For four weeks she traveled with Ohno to speed skating competitions in Colorado, Ohio and Milan, Italy. Though they barely squeezed in six hours of rehearsal, when other celebrities like ‘NSYNC’s Joey Fatone and country singer Billy Ray Cyrus practiced six hours a day, Julianne made every minute count.

"I’m a hard worker and I like to challenge any of my students hard," she said.

Julianne explains though Ohno has strong legs, and has a competitive spirit, he has less upper body strength, and she needed to help him unlearn bad habits. For 14 years he trained in a crouching position the posture necessary for dancing, therefore, was unnatural. But Ohno rose to the challenge, she says — "he had great discipline and a good work ethic."

Ultimately Julianne suspects the lack of rehearsal time worked to her advantage. "The show is all about progression," she says.

Julianne’s not the only Hough who likes to dance. Her older brother, Derek, also attended Italia Conti, and recently had a role in London’s musical, "Footlose." According to the Houghs, there’s a strong possibility that Derek will be cast on "Dancing with the Stars" next fall.

"My whole family is so talented everyone has their unique characteristic," Julianne explained.

And in particular, dancing is something that appears to run in the family genes: she says her parents met at Brigham Young University in Idaho, as part of the college ballroom team.

Julianne Hough’s double single will be on Wal-Mart shelves June 12. Proceeds from the sale of her new album will be donated to the Kansas chapter for the American Red Cross to benefit tornado survivors.

Tonight, Wednesday, May 30, Hough will also appear on late-night talk show" Jimmy Kimmel Live" on ABC (in Utah, Channel 4.)