The Washington Post

‘Ballroom With a Twist’ mambos into Wolf Trap

Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated the stars of the show. The performance does not feature Jonathan Roberts or Chelsie Hightower.


The touring “Ballroom With a Twist” show brings together dancers and singers from three popular television programs. (Photo by Alexander Sklij)

You’ve spent the past few months glued to the television watching “Dancing With the Stars,” “So You Think You Can Dance?” and “American Idol.”

Now’s your chance to get off the couch and see some of those stars live — in the woodsy outdoors of Wolf Trap’s Filene Center.

The glitzy, high-energy touring show “Ballroom With a Twist” mambos into town for one night of glam-pop entertainment showcasing the choreography of “DWTS’s” Louis van Amstel, a three-time world Latin dance champ. The “Ballroom” cast features many viewer favorites, including Anna Trebun­skaya, Peta Murgatroyd and Tristan MacManus from “DWTS”; Randi Lynn Strong, Jonathan Platero and Legacy from “So You Think You Can Dance?”; and “American Idol” contestants Gina Glocksen and Von Smith.

And joining the show as a special guest is four-time “DWTS” Mirror Ball Trophy winner Derek Hough — the dancer with the washboard abs, Pepsodent smile and carefully tousled blonde hair.

“I love to be able to connect with thousands of people and not just on television,” Hough says, “but literally be in the room and to reach out, inspire, to share stories and try to help people and inspire them to get up and move more, live more and to just feel more alive.”

Hough’s career has taken off, with two Emmy Award nominations for his choreography, a family dance special set to debut soon on ABC and many other projects “in the works,” as they say in Hollywood.

But Hough hasn’t let the red-carpet lifestyle go to his head. In many ways, he’s still the towheaded boy dancing around his suburban Salt Lake City home. Both his mother and father, as well as both sets of grandparents, were dancers. As the only boy of five children, Hough often was waiting at the dance studio for his sisters and eventually tried classes. He was hooked, although hip-hop was his first love, not ballroom.

As kids, Hough and his younger sister and former “DWTS” cast member, Julianne, hit the competition circuit. At 12, Hough moved to London (his sister soon followed) and trained for years with ballroom coaches Corky and Shirley Ballas.

Back then, Hough despised competing, but these days — as a two-time International Open and two-time U.S. Open champion, not to mention those mirror ball wins — he’s used to it. “When you’re competing, there’s an awareness of what the judges are looking for,” he says.

Performing, though, is different: “You just want to wow the audience, you want them to have an experience, you want them to feel something. They’re not going to [say], ‘He didn’t do the right step.’ The audience doesn’t care about [steps], and they don’t need to. They’re just there to have fun.”

That’s why “DWTS” castmate Tristan MacManus joined the “Ballroom With a Twist” cast. (He and fellow show pro Trebunskaya also emcee the show.)

“It’s a really fun show,” MacManus says. “It’s very hard to hide in the theater. It’s not like TV, where you can hide behind angles, and on TV you’re being told what to watch. When you come to the theater, you choose whatever you want to see on the stage.”

Like Hough, MacManus treasures the direct connection to an audience. At the Wolf Trap show, MacManus says fans should expect to get up and dance, and he and Trebunskaya will take a few questions from the audience. They might even bring a few folks onstage.

“People want to feel involved,” he says. “And . . . certainly with this show, you don’t have just one TV show but three TV shows together, and the performers are live.”

Traiger is a freelance writer.

Ballroom With a Twist

Wednesday at 8 p.m. at Wolf Trap, Filene Center, 1551 Trap Rd., Vienna. 877-965-3872. www.wolftrap.org. $25-$48.

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