Hough -- who logged one solo nomination and one nom with fellow dance pro Allison Holker -- took home the gold for two routines he choreographed during the "Dancing With the Stars" all-stars season: "Hey Pachuco" and "Para Los Rumberos," as well as "Walking on Air" from the show's 16th season. (That translates to a quickstep and a mambo with celeb partner Shawn Johnson, and a gravity-defying Macy's Stars of Dance number that channeled Fred Astaire's famous "ceiling dance" from the 1951 movie "Royal Wedding.")
But don't think that modern-day technology made things easier for Hough when it came to that upside-down dance. After he performed his buzzy "Walking on Air" routine back in May (which surely sealed the deal for his Emmy win), he told Variety, "Fred Astaire had months to prepare and weeks to film that one scene. I was given three days. And not only just three days -- three days in which I was also doing full routines with my partner, Kellie Pickler. I would wake up at six in the morning and rehearse with the box -- the rotating room -- for a couple of hours and work with Kellie Pickler all day and go back and work on the box routine. It was like 16- or 17-hour days that week and pretty intense, but when it all goes through, it's a wonderful feeling."
Watch Derek Hough's gravity-defying dance:
For the first time in Emmy history, this year's Outstanding Choreography nominees -- Hough and Holker; Sonya Tayeh; Mandy Moore; Travis Wall; and Tabitha and Napoleon D'umo ("So You Think You Can Dance"); and Warren Carlyle (Rodgers and Hammerstein's Carousel) -- performed a TV-themed group dance number before the award was given at the primetime event.
Check out the group choreography routine:
But when Hough finally won his Emmy (the first-ever choreography Emmy for a "DWTS" alum), he gave one of the more entertaining speeches of the evening. While he previously said he had "no clue" what he'd say if he won ("I was gonna dance," he joked at the Academy's Peer Group reception. "That's what I'll do. I'll just dance if I win!"), his real spiel contained some actual words:
"Wow, wow, wow, wow!" he screamed. '"Thank you, guys! I love you!" The 27-year-old dancer thanked everyone from the BBC to his family (including past Emmy nominee Mark Ballas), capping things off with a stunned, "Holy crap!"
Watch Derek Hough's Emmy speech:
When asked about how winning an Emmy compares to winning a mirrorball trophy, Hough told the Los Angeles Times, "This is unbelievable -- not only to be nominated and win, but to be able to take it home on the prime times. ... It's apples and oranges [to compare them], but this is very, very special. I'm speechless."
At the end of his busy night, the pro dancer posted a Mobypicture of his Emmy (and the announcer's card) with the caption: "Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat!!!!! Thank you for all the love and support. My phone is about to die, but I will update you on everything tomorrow. So amazing!!!"
"Dancing With the Stars" Season 17 airs on Mondays at 8 p.m. on ABC.
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- Kellie Pickler