She's killer when she cha-chas and he's magic with the mambo. She can tame the tango and the man. And he can turn a clumsy misstep into a grace note.
Julianne Hough, 19, and her brother Derek, 22, are quite simply among the very best dancers on the planet. The Houghs have been dancing for nearly a decade, having left their home in Utah as children for a new life of professional training and competition in England. This season, the normally loving brother and sister will tap into some good old-fashioned sibling rivalry as they compete to win the title and the hearts of American viewers on ABC's "Dancing with the Stars."
"For me, it's more 'Hey, you've won already, give me a chance, girl,'" Derek said laughing, referring to Julianne's win on last season's show.
"And of course, I want to beat my older brother," quipped Julianne at his side.
In case you're one of the three people left in the country who's not seen "Dancing with the Stars," the idea is simple: Team a major or minor celebrity with a professional dancer who teaches them a new dance every week. Then hold your breath to see if the high and mighty trips the light fantastic … or just trips.
As the show's stars have fallen one by one, the supernova story now emerging is of a brother and sister still left standing after a life spent dancing.
Born into a Mormon family with three other siblings, Julianne and Derek had dancing in their DNA. Both sets of grandparents were dancers and their parents actually met on a ballroom dance team in college.
"There is a little heritage there," said their dad, Bruce Hough.
Before the age of 10, Julianne and her brother were dancing competitively, encouraged by their parents who Derek says jokingly saw them as the "blonde Osmonds." A few years later, their parents' divorce would send Derek and Julianne, the youngest Hough siblings, to England. There they would live with and study under the guidance of dance coaches.
"It was hard. Divorce is hard," their mom, Marianne, said.
She is now remarried but still supportive of her children.
"I cried … but I think that's where the kids really developed a lot of strength. Toughness, really," she said.
With their English dance coaches also acting as surrogate parents, Derek and Julianne won a series of world championships, setting the stage for Julianne's victory in her first year as a dancer on season four's "Dancing With the Stars." The winning chemistry between Julianne and then-dance partner, Olympic speed skater Apolo Anton Ohno, was so great, some speculated that it existed off the dance floor as well. That's all rumors and speculation, according to Julianne and her mother.
"I asked her, 'You sure you don't like him, 'cause we all do,'" Marianne said. "She says, 'Mom, it's like dancing with my brother.'"
When the season began this year, Julianne was back with a new partner -- Indy 500 champion Helio Castroneves. Derek joined the show for the first time, teamed with former Beverly Hills 90210 star Jennie Garth, who had some serious doubts about Derek as a leading man.
"I remember my little girls were peering out the windows, watching him walk up the walkway," recalled Garth. "And they came running down, and they were like, he's so young, he looks really little!" she laughed.