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

Herald Sun - Switched On - - Front Page -

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.

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