USA TODAY US Edition
Let the ‘#DanceBattle’ commence, America
Good things do come from holiday combat.
Maria Menounos and Julianne Hough have taken a famous dance battle that started over a past Thanksgiving holiday and turned the friendly feud into a nationwide dance contest — #DanceBat
tle America, airing Monday (10 p.m. ET) after the premiere of Dancing With the Stars.
“This is a good type of war. It’s heartwarming, and people just love dancing,” says E! News host Menounos, who is executive-producing the special with Hough. “And now people who love to dance have a chance to shine.”
Menounos is no stranger to competitive dancing herself after competing on Season 14 of DWTS with partner Derek Hough and making it to fourth place. Julianne Hough is the two-time champion, judge and the show’s biggest star.
Over Thanksgiving 2013, Menounos was cooking dinner at her Los Angeles home when she noticed a picture-perfect Instagram post depicting the Hough family dancing during their holiday festivities.
“It sparked something in me,” Menounos says. “I said: ‘We’re starting a dance-off. Drop the potatoes.’ I had this whole thing concocted in my brain while I was cooking Thanksgiving dinner for 40 people at my house.”
Menounos and friends put together a dance routine, posted it on social media and egged on the Houghs over text message to answer back. The Hough duo responded with their own family number, stepping up the battle, which raged into viral-video status and carried into the Christmas season.
Other celebrities, including Kate Hudson, Kristi Yamaguchi (on ice) and Amber Riley, joined with dancing videos of their own, along with a deluge from members of the public.
“It just kept growing,” Menounos says. “And now it’s a show for ABC.”
Menounos and Hough officially sought national contestants for the special. Submissions were whittled down, with a final eight groups chosen. Each dance group was flown to Los Angeles, where they worked with costumers and professional choreographers for a week of intensive training to perfect their routines.
The battling groups are varied, featuring friends, families and co-workers — with professions as diverse former pro football cheerleaders to a preacher. There’s also widely varying ages and, importantly, dance levels.
“The spirit of the show is that you don’t have to be an amazing dancer to win,” Menounos says. “It’s about your heart and your passion and going out there.”
The groups face off in four rounds, and the studio audience selects the overall champion — good for the honor, a trophy and a luxury vacation.
“Watching these (groups) come together to celebrate their love of dance is both uplifting and contagious,” says American Idol star Jordin Sparks, who hosts #DanceBattle with DWTS champion Alfonso Ribeiro.
Hough and Menounos stayed behind the scenes for the show, putting in marathon editing sessions before Monday’s airing. But they plan to keep their own dance battle going over the holidays to come.
If the show takes off, Menounos hopes she can continue to tap into the nation’s dancing enthusiasm for additional chapters.
“So many people have come up to me asking, ‘When are you going to do a dance show for everybody?’ Julianne and I get bombarded by this question. Now, this is America’s chance to dance,” Menounos says. “There are going to be a lot of dropped jaws on Monday night after people see what we have.”
“The spirit of the show is that you don’t have to be an amazing dancer to win.” Maria Menounos, executive producer of #DanceBattle with Julianne Hough