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Derek and Julianne Hough, shown here in 1988, started dancing as soon as they learned how to walk. "If you look at home videos of us, we were always dancing," says Derek, 29. "There was always music on." Raised in a Mormon household in Salt Lake City, Utah, they regularly showed off their unusual talent at school and state fairs.
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FLOATING A DREAM
"We've always been an active family," says Julianne, 25, who shared a raft with her big brother in 1990. With the encouragement of their divorcing parents, the ballroom-dance prodigies left home in 1998 to attend London's prestigious Italia Conti Academy of Theatre Arts, leaving behind three older siblings and their sheltered Utah life.
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When they moved to the U.K., the youngsters lived with family friend Shirley Ballas, her husband Corky and son Mark (here in a 1998 portrait). The Houghs, says Shirley, a ballroom dancer and teacher, "had the word star on their foreheads." So did Mark, who later joined his pals as a pro on Dancing with the Stars.
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Derek, 13, and Julianne, 10 (dressed for a 1998 performance), followed a grueling schedule that started at 6:45 a.m. and included dancing, academics, and more dancing until close to midnight. "It was hard," remembers Derek. "There were moments when I just wanted to go and have fun." Says Julianne, who wore a face full of makeup and got spray tans for competitions: "When I look back, I think it's so sad I have no pictures of me with a cute, bare, 10-year-old face."
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Mark Ballas, who also attended Italia Conti, developed a brotherly bond with the Utah youngsters, which is still going strong today. "With Derek," says Mark, 28, "blood couldn't make us any closer. Same with Julianne."
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The pair kick it up to the song "Happy" from their Move Live on Tour production during an appearance on The Ellen DeGeneres Show in March 2014. "We really want it to feel like a rock concert for dance," says Derek of their show. "We want the audience moving."
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"I've never been protective of my brother," admits Julianne, a two-time DWTS champ who has also landed roles in films like Footloose and Rock of Ages. "But if he ever needs me or vice versa, we are always there for each other."
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