“I think the first time I started dancing was coming out of my mother’s womb,” she tells PEOPLE exclusively. “It was just part of my family, and we would literally be in the living room dancing, and my dad would be holding me and doing Elvis impersonations. I don’t know life without dancing.”
Along with her brother Derek Hough, Paula Abdul, Vanessa Hudgens and Chita Rivera, the former Dancing with the Stars judge is teaming up with nonprofit organization I’m a Dancer Against Cancer – which provides financial support to dance educators, dancers and parents impacted by cancers – to raise awareness leading up to the charity’s Industry Dance Awards in August.
Hough was personally affected by cancer when her stepmother was diagnosed with breast cancer several years ago. “It was extremely shocking and put everybody that was around her in a vulnerable state,” she says.
“Seeing my father go through that, he’s the head of the house, he’s the strong one . . . to see him get that vulnerable, it’s very, very serious,” she adds of the difficult time.
Anasheh Abramiyan, who is now in remission after battling stage four cervical cancer, is one of the dancers involved with the organization. “I was lucky enough to be supported by my family and friends,” says the dancer, who danced at the University of Southern California and for the Los Angeles Clippers. “This has been one of the most difficult things I’ve ever had to do in my life.”