Tag Archives: Dancing With the Stars

DWTS Derek Hough Comes To Connecticut With His Book

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derekHe’s the guy most women would say “that’s the partner I want if I were a contestant on “Dancing with The Stars.” Blonde good guy with a ton of talent and even more patience, Derek Hough has won five “mirror ball” trophies on ABC’s popular dance competition reality show. But now the 29-year-old Emmy winning choreographer, dancer, singer and actor has a new accomplishment to add to the list, author. Taking the Lead: Lessons From a Life in Motion,” is his first book, one that is half autobiography and half self-help book, focusing on how trying, facing uncertainty, being fearless and seeing opportunity rather than defeat can change a life. Hough will be meeting fans and signing copies of the book at RJ Julia in Madison on Thursday, Aug. 7 and at Mohegan Sun on Friday, Aug. 8. Known for his creativity, his exuberance and his seemingly non-stop motion, he was heading to Connecticut and sitting still when he Spilled the Beans with Java.

Q: After reading the book, you are either the greatest guy who has ever lived or someone who can give everything, even your shortcomings, a positive spin. Which is it?

A: The second one, I hope. So the thing is I just came off tour and hadn’t really stopped in seven months, and when I came off it, I had post-tour blues. I had this massive energy shift so I was in this weird place and read my book to bring me back. It was almost like I wrote it for the place I was in. My book has lessons that are meant to learned and relearned, and I know I will keep going back to that what I wrote when I get down. I am far from perfect and that is all in the book. But the point is I wrote something that was more than a commercial venture. It is what I learned and they are lessons others can tap into.

Q: I know you are friends with Tony Robbins and wondered if you see yourself following his path by becoming a motivational speaker and all that goes with that profession?

A: I could possibly see it as a career path. I never really consciously thought about being a motivator or self-help adviser. It just kind of happened. I kept journals for years and every time something happened and I learned from it I would write it down. As I began touring with DWTS I would meet people and the questions would come and I would talk with people and it all connected somehow. I reflected on my ups and downs and then was approached about doing a book and I realized I had already written it.

Q: But you do have another career path these days, a show on HGTV? I don’t remember you talking about your constructions kills in the book!

A: I know. I am no good with a hammer and neither is Mark Ballas. The name of the show is “Mark & Derek’s Excellent Flip.” Mark and I had bought a house and decided to flip it and HGTV heard about it and asked if we would do a show and we thought, ‘sure why not?’ It was all pretty funny to us because neither of us have any real skills. But I love the smell of wood, I love watching something being built and as a kid, I couldn’t stay away from construction sites. It’s a four episode series and we just finished filming the first one and people were actually pretty impressed at what we did know. And really, redoing a house is so much like DWTS. You take something that’s not very good but is full of potential and you say ‘let’s do it’ and you make it better.

Q: So this all begs the question, will you be on DWTS next season?

A: I don’t know yet. We are still figuring it out.

Q: If they offered you any partner to get you to commit, who would be the gal to seal the deal?

A: Megan Fox

Q: Are you seeing anyone?

A: No. I am available.

Q: Would she have to know how to dance?

A: I won’t lie. I think there is something attractive about a girl that can dance. I veered away from it in past relationships but I think it is something I would want.

Q: You talk at length about being bullied as a child. Do you ever want to call those guys and say ‘look at me now?’

A: I don’t. When I reflect on those times I have such empathy and sympathy for people who have to be mean like that or hurt somebody to feel worth something. Those kind of people, clearly there is something going on inside of them. I just moved on and never dwelled on it. I just learned from it.

Q: If you could dance with anyone, dead or alive, who would it be?

A: Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly. I would love to do a trio with them and then pick their brains about how they did what they did.

Q: Do you have any goals before you hit that “30 years old” benchmark?

A: Spend more time outside. As a hobby I love being outside and love doing things that give me a rush like jumping off cliffs. My plan is to definitely do more.


Bristol’s ESPN, Then Indy 500 For DWTS Helio Castroneves

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He’s headed to Sunday’s 98th Indy 500 but three-time champ and famed Brazilian racecar driver Helio Castroneves detoured through Bristol Tuesday for a pit stop at ESPN headquarters. Charming, polite and willing to talk a bit between shows at the sports broadcasting center, (unlike Hugh Jackman, who was also in the building) the 39-year-old sports legend, a “Dancing With the Stars” mirror ball winner, talked family, racing, dancing and a No. 4 win for #3.


helio (2)Q: It’s a star-filled race Sunday with Ed Carpenter, Marco Andretti, Carlos Munoz and Josef Newgarden. Who do you think is going to be your fiercest competitor?

A: Myself I guess. It’s never just one person you have to watch out for. I’m not worried about the others. We will do what we need to do and I think we are in very good shape.

Q: #3 is your car, but on Sunday you are starting in the number 4 position and you will be trying for your No. 4  Indy 500 victory. Will you change your #3 car to “4”  if you win?

A: No,  I will keep the number because that is our car. But hopefully the number 4 will be special because it will mean the most wins for me at Indy.

Q: Do you have any good luck charms that go with you every time your race?

A: I do (pulling down his shirt collar to show off a gold chain around his neck.) I have a bunch of good luck charms for my protection on this gold necklace. Different saints. Each one helps me. I am a very religious person. My mother gave me most of them. She wanted me protected.

Q: You will be 40 next year. Have you accomplished all you set out to do?

A: That’s a good question. No, I haven’t. I think until we are done with life you are always learning more. There is always more to accomplish in life. You should never take anything for granted. We will go out there on Sunday like it is the first time we have ever raced.

Q: As a veteran “Dancing WithThe Stars” winner, any favorites this year?

A: I saw the semi-finals and I saw the beginning of the season  but I have been traveling so much I haven’t watched every week. I was surprised Charlie (White) was eliminated. I am very glad I am not in it this season because, oh my goodness, everyone is so amazing. And Amy Purdy, she is special.

Q: You have a four-year-old daughter with your girlfriend, Adriana Henao. What’s it like being a dad?

A: It is the greatest thing in the world when it comes to balancing life. Sometimes you are upset with the little things and you go home and they become really small when you see your child.

Q: So when are you getting married?

A: You’re a straight shooter. I like that. Very soon I hope. I am waiting for her to say ‘yes.’

Q: What will we be hearing you say on Sunday?

A: I hope it will be that I am so happy to win the Indy 500 for the fourth time.

Comedian Engvall Dances His Way To Foxwoods Saturday

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BillEngvall.10-25-12You may remember comedian Bill Engvall as part of the successful “Blue Collar Comedy” concert films, or on “The Jeff Foxworthy show” or as a finalist in last season’s “Dancing With The Stars.” But you will surely remember him. The well-known comic and American Comedy Award winner is coming to MGM Grand Theater at Foxwoods on Saturday and he is bringing a lot of laughs with him. Engvall also starred in his own self-titled sitcom on TBS for three seasons and recorded an album, “Here’s Your Sign” which went platinum on Billboard’s Comedy Chart for 15 weeks. Anything but a redneck bumpkin with a shtick, Engvall was smart, motivated, funny and sincere recently when he Spilled the Beans with Java.

Q: The obvious question at this time of the year and given your past performance, are you watching this season’s “Dancing With the Stars” and who are you rooting for?

A: I was actually at the show last night because I wanted to see my little Emma (Slater.) I think she got the shaft dancing with Billy Dee. He shouldn’t have been out there. I give him credit though for going on the show. Honestly, when they called me I thought you danced for an hour or two and you did a show. When I finished up and got eliminated, I figured it all up and realized I spent 13 weeks, 6 hours day, without a day off, practicing. I started the competition with a 35 inch waist and left with a 32 inch waist. I haven’t been that small since college. I’m rooting for Drew Carey because he is a comedian. I don’t think he is getting the scores he deserves. I didn’t. They never give the comedians high scores. They don’t know what to do with us. It is really not a dance competition.

Q: What do you mean it’s not a dance competition?

A: The original concept of the show was that it was supposed to feature people who did not know how to dance and see how the progressed and got better. But it was supposed to be people who never danced. Now you have Olympic gold skaters who dance, and entertainers who have danced. In my mind, it should have been me and Leah (Remini) as the finalists my season. We were both non-dancers who learned how to dance. You look at Val (Chmerkovskiy) and Meryl (Davis) this season. When you have judges saying they are in a class above everyone else, you know it’s not an even playing field. But they won’t win. I didn’t get as far as I did in the competition because of my dancing ability. It was because I was America’s regular guy and had fun doing it but took it seriously.

Q: Do you still dance?

A: I still dance. If the show called me today and said ‘We need you tomorrow,’ I would be there. It was so much fun. I thought dancing was for sissies. But it was harder than most of the things guys do and I would raise my hand in a man meeting and say that. It was the best work I had ever done in my life. I told my son, ‘you need to get in a dance class now. Straight male dancers get women you and I are not allowed to see.’

Q: Seems like your comedy gig has turned out well, and it seems good comics are the ones getting the late night show jobs now. With David Letterman’s announcement about a 2015 retirement, would you have any interest in a nighttime show?

A: I think it would be fun but no one has approached me. It is weird in this business. It’s like they get a weird idea. “Blue Collar Comedy” is what got me out there but it is also a curse because it has branded me. That’s all people see me as, part of “Blue Collar Comedy.”That is one of the other reasons I did “Dancing.” I was not turning my back on “Blue Collar” but wanted to show fans I could do something else. I think there is a tendency in this country to label everything. We get billed as country comics. But if Letterman comes calling, I am there in a heartbeat.

Q: As a comic, who do you most identify with?

A: I think I am a lot like Bill Cosby. I love him. I think he is the reason I try to do my show the way I do. I do it with a sense of you are not really going to just see a comedian, but rather a funny story teller. And that’s Bill. If you just sit there and relax and listen, you will laugh. The show is about stuff we have all done and basically about life. I am not the guy wearing overalls and chewing a piece of grass. I am a husband and father and there’s funny in all of that. When people leave my show want them to think my life is not that bad. Nowadays life is such a downer, I just want to provide some light.

Q: I know you are good friends with another comic, Jeff Foxworthy, and he is now on “Shark Tank,” the business investment reality show. Would you ever do something like that?

A: I shouldn’t say I wouldn’t do a reality show but I wouldn’t do that one. I’m not giving anyone my money; I work too hard for it.

Q: So what reality show would you do?

A: Maybe something like “Duck Dynasty.’ I mean, I think we have become so jaded and so voyeuristic, reality show is the way things are going to go. And reality shows are cheap to produce and you can make a lot of money on the back end of them. “Duck Dynasty’ is not a reality show but a sitcom, I think, and it’s really not that interesting, it’s just shot to make it look interesting.

Q: Something no one knows about you?

A: Probably that I am a gourmet cook and trained myself. My favorite meal to prepare would be grilled venison with asparagus with an olive oil drizzle and Parmesan cheese, a Caesar salad and a good Cabernet.


Tickets for Engvall’s show range from $35 to $60. The show is for mature audiences only. Tickets are available at the Foxwoods Box Office at 1-800-200-2882 or at comixatfoxwoods.com


CT’s Dancing Dovolani and Remini Onto ‘DWTS’ Semi-Finals

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dovoConnecticut resident and professional dancer Tony Dovolani and his partner, actress Leah Remini, are causing a ballroom stir on season 17 of the tv reality show “Dancing With the Stars.” The couple, who was less than impressive at the start of this season, have amped up their skills and performances, garnering good scores from judges and solid support from viewers who are voting each week to determine who moves on in the competition. Dovolani, the married father of three, and Remini are headed to the show’s semi-finals. The 40-year-old professional dancer who won the show’s coveted “mirrorball” award just once before, was in between show rehearsals on the West Coast recently, when he Spilled the Beans with Java.

Q: You are still in it! Are you surprise? You and Leah seemed to be a bit of a dark horse at the beginning of the season.

A: Am I surprised? Yes. We didn’t make it a secret that we thought we may be going home and didn’t expect to get all the way here. Leah has been working so hard. I have never seen anyone overcome the fear or anxiety the way she has when it comes to doing something she knew nothing about. Even when she has been injured she still performs. I am so impressed. As the weeks went on I could see winning within grasp and I said to her last week, ‘all of a sudden I have hope we are going to make the finals.’  

Q: Any tricks up your sleeve going forward and is this the year you take home the trophy again?

A: Choreography is critical. I have to push her. Unlike most of the rest of the professionals’ partners, she has no dance experience so I have to find things that look good on her and that she can learn quickly. I have to be clever when it comes to designing the dance and she has to believe in what she is doing.

Q: How did you begin dancing?

A: I started when I was 3 years old in Kosovo. My dad saw I could dance and had me start lessons. I still take lessons. Dance is something you never master.

Q: What don’t viewers see as far as the show?

A: The unbelievable hours of rehearsal that are put in each week. People don’t see where we start and where we end. Every week you start from zero. People watch the show and think ‘oh, now he or she is a dancer!’ But every week you are starting new with each dance.

Q: You mentioned Leah has no dance experience and it does seem rather unfair that some of the amateur dancers on the show really do have professional experience. Is it really a level playing field?

A: Our show is never based on fairness but our viewers want to see a little bit of everything. Some of our viewers want to see people who are immediately good dancers and others who want to see people like Leah, who is on a journey.

Q: Do you ever have any second thoughts about being on the show year after year?

A: I was actually approached when the show was first conceptualized but could not do season one because I was defending my world title in a competition. But then I joined the show and have never had any second thoughts about it. It is a piece of history. Cyd Charisse and Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly, dancers who shared it with the world. I want a piece of that. And I love dancing and the fact that is has made a comeback. Dancing represents relationships, romance, a couple bring music to life. Music would not be music without dance. Dance brings the notes to life.

Q: How is life in Connecticut?

A: I love Connecticut. April 21, 1989 is the day I moved to Connecticut. I was 15 and my uncle lived in Stamford and so that is where my father brought all of us from Kosovo. The people are great. And I am still there. My wife and children love it. I love the four seasons. I love it so much that it is why I don’t move to California. When I get back to Connecticut from here, I am home.

Q: I assume your wife is a dancer?

A: Everyone assumes dancers marry dancers but she doesn’t dance. She does take lessons but not from me. I own dance studios including one in Stamford. It’s better for our daughters that we are not both dancers. We have a good combination and each bring something different to our daughters’ lives.

Q: I hear you are a golfer. Do you golf as well as you dance?

A: I love golf. It is one of the best sports invented. I started five years ago when my wife suggested it while I was watching the U.S. Open. Lo and behold that afternoon I went out and bought golf clubs and went to the driving range and was awful. Now I have an incredible teacher and my handicap is 4.  When I turned 40 my wife asked me what I wanted to do to celebrate and I took my oldest daughter to the course and we played nine holes together. I would love to be a golf analyst. Back9 Network has approached me and I am hoping to do something with them. Golfing, as in dance, is about timing and rhythm.

Q: Who would your dream dance partner be on the show?

A: Jennifer Aniston. I don’t know why. She is so private and just seems like someone you would want to get to know

Q: Who is your favorite dancer?

A: Fred Astaire by far. There is a scene in “The Band Wagon” to “Dancing In The Dark” where he is dancing with Cyd Charisse in Central Park. It is the most difficult piece of choreography you will ever see but they do it effortlessly. It is beautiful and romantic. I have never seen a scene that speaks as loud as that one.

Q: What is something no one knows about you?

A: I love poetry I write it. And I want to write about my dad someday. We don’t hear much about dads in books, no offense to moms. My dad sacrificed a lot to get us to the United States. He risked his life to save his family.

“Dancing With the Stars” is on Monday at 8 p.m. on the ABC network.


CT’s Dovolani Geared Up For DWTS Rematch

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On Monday Season 15 of the popular ABC tv reality show “Dancing with The Stars” begins with a bevy of past “star” competitors trying once again to win the coveted “Mirror Ball.” And dancing with the stars are the dancing stars themselves, including Connecticut resident Tony Dovolani, who is reunited with Melissa Rycroft, his partner from Season 8. The 39-year-old father of three, who lives with his wife and family in Stratford, is also a local businessman. He and fellow DWTS professionals, Maksim Chmerkovskiy, Valentin Chmerkovskiy and partners, recently opened the fourth in their chain of “Dance With Me Dance Studios” in Stamford. Dovolani has also recently partnered with Capezio and launched his own line of dancewear. Between traveling back and forth to Los Angeles as he and dancing partner prepare for the show and his business ventures, Dovolani is busy, but not too busy to take a few minutes to Spill the Beans with a dance-challenged Java.

Q: How did you initially get selected for DWTS and what surprises you most about the show’s success?

A: I was the World Rhythm champion when the show was being cast and it was quite an exciting time for me because I was the first American to hold the title and held it for two years in a row. I had appeared in the movie “Shall We Dance” with Jennifer Lopez and Richard Gere and that was the connection that prompted the producer for DWTS to contact me about being part of the tv show. I couldn’t be in it the first season because I was still defending my national title but began the second season. I’m not surprised at how popular the show is. I knew people would eat it up. Everyone knows Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. The idea of watching ballroom dancing just had to be reformatted. In this day and age of social media and no one ever talking directly to each other, dancing is the last form of relationship-based interaction.


Q: How did a kid from Kosovo like you end up in Connecticut?

A: My father is very driven by demographics and studies about the different areas of America. He felt Connecticut looked like home with its four seasons. So we settled here and now this is where my wife and I are raising our children.

Q: What will you secret dance weapon be with Melissa this time? You came so close to winning last time you danced together.

A: I’m working on keeping her healthy. We have redesigned her shoes so she is more comfortable and we have her in Capezio from head to toe. Now I can push her more.

Q: Ahh, a plug for your new business venture. Tell me about it. I always think of Capezio as pale pink tights and pointe shoes.

A: Capezio represents tradition in dancing so when I had the opportunity to join them, I did. I saw the company had a vision, a fashion forward vision that helps a dancer achieve creativity. I have designed dancewear and dance shoes the are comfortable and flexible. You should see the sneaker. It is so cool.

Q: What would viewers be most surprised to learn about Dancing with the Stars?

A: How much time is put into each routine. We dance five to seven hours a day when we first start and as the competition gets tighter we are spending eight hours a day and more in the studio.

Q:  Your three children, are they dancers?

A: The twins are four and do dance and gymnastics and my seven-year-old daughter also takes dance lessons but loves playing golf. My wife is taking dance lessons, too at the Stamford studio. I won’t teach any of them. As far as the children, I want to be their dad, not their dance instructor. I support all them in their lessons.

Q: Who do you think is your stiffest competition in the upcoming season?

A: Apolo Ohno and Emmett Smith because they are fan favorites. You can never be sure who the biggest competition is going to be. It’s anybody’s game and comes down to who gets the most votes from the audience. I am trying to keep my choreography challenging and fresh. Melissa is back with a great attitude. Now that she is a mom she wants to win badly to show her kids she can do it. The challenge this season is we don’t have the surprise factor when we step onto the dance floor. The audience is going to expect more and rightfully so because all the stars have danced before.

Q: How old were you when you first started dancing?

A: I was three and it was with one of my classmates. I used to watch my mother and father dance tango in the living room and decided I wanted to dance too. It inspired my dad to take me to dance class. I went to school for architecture but without dance in my life I would go out of my mind.