EXCLUSIVE: Derek Hough is putting his dancing shoes on again.
The “Dancing With the Stars” judge will be doing his first in-show dance since 2017 with his girlfriend Hayley Erbert. The couple began dating in 2015 after meeting on the competition show, where she began as a troupe dancer in Season 21.
Following the announcement, rumors have been swirling that the 35-year-old is going to finally propose after the couple survived quarantine together. However, the star has no qualms about setting the record straight.
The two-time Emmy Award winner and six-time Mirrorball champion spoke to Fox News about his relationship with Erbert, 25, Tyra Banks hosting after Tom Bergeron’s departure, as well as what he has in store for audiences Monday night.
Fox News: What can audiences expect from your first in-show dance since 2017?
Derek Hough: Wow. That's kind of crazy when you say it like that. Yeah, it's been a while. It's been a couple of years, but I'm excited. I'm excited to be back in the ballroom as a judge, but now I'm very excited to be back in there performing and dancing.
I was in the ballroom the other day. It was empty, and we were rehearsing. And I just was reflecting on all the performances I've done in that room and the experiences and just the memories, and it's pretty wild. So, I'm really excited to add this performance to the list and obviously to share it with my beautiful girlfriend Hayley. We've been practicing in the garage for this performance.
We're dancing sort of a classic paso doble dance because I love the strings and the drums and the flamenco guitar, just the nylon strings. And things like that, I get excited about, and I love that style, that passion in those dances. I'm looking forward to it.
Fox News: Some fans are speculating, or more like hoping, that you're going to pop the question during this performance. What do you make of fans rooting for you to propose? Are you feeling the heat yet?
Hough: *Laughs* Listen, that's been a question for I think it's been about a couple of years now, honestly, where it's like, "When are you going to propose?" I think now, more so than ever, that our relationship's a little bit more on display, that it's even more present if you will. Yeah, I'm just going to go on record and say that it's definitely not going to happen on the show.
Fox News: How has your relationship gotten stronger, especially with quarantine?
Hough: It’s interesting, we have definitely grown closer as a couple during this time. We started this YouTube channel, which has been a lot of fun actually. We're kind of opening up our relationship a little bit more. We've been cooking together. We've been really fortunate to where it's been a really positive impact on our relationship.
Obviously, we have trials and there's been struggles and things like that, of course, but we've been able to repair and to grow and to move on. It's just been one of those types of things. It's been wonderful. It's been good, yeah. We were lucky.
Fox News: In terms of “Dancing With the Stars,” ratings have been very high with Tyra Banks hosting. But, of course, many people still miss Tom Bergeron very much. How do you think she's doing as a host in comparison to Tom, who was around for such a long time?
Hough: I think she's doing great. I think that one, you can't really compare the two. I think they're so different. You know what I mean? It's completely different approaches and different styles. And I think she's doing a great job. I think coming into a show that's been on for 29 seasons, that's a huge undertaking.
There's a lot of expectation there. But I think she's doing a wonderful job. And the live aspect and the fun and the flow and the energy, there's so much to the show and there are so many moving parts. I applaud her, and I think she's doing a great job.
And I'm proud of the show. The show in general, like you said, has been doing so well, and that's the whole goal. That's the goal of the show is to bring some joy and bring some entertainment to people, and that's what it's always been.
And I have to say, too, that the show itself, you can frame it differently, you can decorate it differently with different things, but the heart of the show will always remain, which is the journey of the celebrity and the pro together and how they sort of tackle this challenge of ballroom and Latin dancing. It's pretty wild, but it's been a ride so far.
“Dancing With the Stars” airs live episodes on Mondays at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.