Up to his neck in latest role
Everybody Dance Now’s Jason Derulo realised how blessed his life is after enduring six months rehabilitation for a neck break, writes Darren Devlyn
IT could have been all over for Jason Derulo in a fraction of a second. In January, Derulo, 22, was rehearsing a challenging acrobatic move for his planned world tour when things went horribly awry.
Derulo, who has a key role alongside singer Kelly Rowland and Sarah Murdoch in Channel 10’s new reality show Everybody Dance Now, was attempting a back tuck — a back flip with no hands. He slipped and landed on his head, left writhing in agony.
The international pop star with 13 million sales behind him, including hits Whatcha Say, Ridin’ Solo and It Girl, could easily have died or been paralysed when he suffered what is known as a ‘‘ hangman’s break’’ because the same bone breaks as when someone is hanged.
But after three months in a neck brace, Derulo was well on the way to recovery, with a clear perspective on who and what is important in his life. ‘‘ Six months (of rehab) has seemed a very long time and it has changed my
life in so many ways,’’ a quietly spoken Derulo says.
‘‘ It was a near-death experience. It was an experience that had me restrained. I couldn’t do much, couldn’t perform, couldn’t dance. I could barely even pat my head. It was really difficult because I’m such a mover. It was really tough.
‘‘ There has never been another instance in my life where I couldn’t do something. I was helpless, people had to tie up my shoes for me. That’s not my personality at all.
‘‘ The experience taught me to love the things I’m blessed with. I wake up now knowing I’m going to be going into the studio, knowing there is going to be an engineer there to record the music I write. That is incredible in itself, something I dreamed of my whole life. When you are locked in a routine every day it’s easy to forget how blessed you are.’’
Critical in his recovery has been girlfriend and fellow pop star Jordin Sparks. Derulo, who was once romantically connected to Lara Bingle, began dating Sparks last September and says the accident brought them closer together.
‘‘ Jordin played a huge part. That’s when we got the closest,’’ Derulo says. ‘‘ I was at home with my mother ... Jordin would come over and comfort me and stay. That was instrumental in keeping me healthy mentally.’’
Derulo first made an impact on the charts in 2009 with the single Whatcha Say. His selftitled debut album peaked at No.11 on the American Billboard Chart and four in Australia. Follow-up Future History was released last September, leaving no doubt Derulo had arrived as one of the world’s top male pop acts.
He had been planning to bring his Future History world tour to Australia, but the injury forced the cancellation of all performances.
He considers Australia his favourite place in the world and so needed little convincing to come here for Everybody Dance Now, in which he and Rowland will have roles as ‘‘ dance masters’’ who guide contestants through a series of colosseum-style duels.
Murdoch hosts the show.
‘‘ I’m definitely going to (buy a house in Australia) at some point,’’ Derulo says.
‘‘ It’s really a place I see myself living for a part of the year. The beginning of me finding out all about Australia was during that time (with Bingle).’’
Everybody Dance Now will start with over 80 acts competing in a series of duels in front of a studio audience. There is no age limit on contestants, who can perform solo, in a duet, or group.
When the audition call went out, Channel 10 said it was ‘‘ looking for everything from belly dancing to ballet, from ballroom to burlesque, pole dancing to popping and locking, hip-hop to highland and from the brilliant to the bizarre’’.
Each night, one act will dance their way to $10,000 and secure a place in the finals to compete for the ultimate cash prize of $250,000.
Derulo, raised in Miami on a healthy diet of Prince, Michael Jackson, Elvis and Madonna, is a perfect candidate for the role of ‘‘ dance master’’.
He composed his first song, Crush On You, on the piano at just eight years old. He spent his youth studying opera, theatre and ballet and attended Dillard Center for the Arts in Florida. At 17 he graduated from the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in New York.
‘‘ I’ve always loved dancing. I started dancing before I started singing. I used to be in front of the television mimicking every dance move I saw,’’ he says. ‘‘ Then I took formal training in jazz, tap, ballet and hip-hop.
‘‘ This ( Everybody Dance Now) is a really big commitment for me. I’m far away from home and family, but there is so much appeal to this show and I thought it was an amazing idea.
‘‘ The fact there are so many cultures, that the age varies from eight to 72, is great.
‘‘ I knew I could be a mentor but at the same time be a sponge for all the creativity from these acts.
‘‘ At first I didn’t know what to expect but, man, was I pleasantly surprised. I was floored by some of these acts I was seeing and I can’t wait for the rest of the world to see them. It’s jaw-dropping stuff.’’
Rowland has made it known she has a strong competitive streak. Derulo, however, has one too and promises there will be some fireworks as the ‘‘ dance masters’’ strive to help their contestants succeed.
‘‘ I’m competitive by nature. I want my team to be the best. If I had my way I would have my team go undefeated and not lose anyone from my side,’’ Derulo says.
‘‘ There has been friction with Kelly already. I’m sure that will continue to be the case. It’s natural when you have two competitive people going for the win.’’ Everybody Dance Now premieres on Channel 10 on August 12.