Even when a summerlong trip to Los Angeles resulted in Chelsea Hough being represented by one of the most respected dance agencies in the country, the Mt. Juliet native never imagined that she would be cast in Marvel Universe LIVE!
Hough, 20, will be performing as iconic character Storm this weekend at Bridgestone Arena along with a cast representing more than 25 Marvel superheroes.
Feld Entertainment has referred to Marvel Universe LIVE! as the most ambitious live show in its history.
The storyline follows a battle for the Cosmic Cube, which Thor shatters to keep from falling into the hands of evil, while his villainous brother plots to clone its powers.
Along with movie-like special effects and live stunts, the show also features an innovative set design, aerial stunts, pyrotechnics and other state-of-the-art elements.
In a phone interview from Orlando, Fla., Hough said fans attending the Nashville performances should be ready for an exciting grand finale, which she’s a part of, along with a pyro display that rivals a Motley Crue concert and “motorcycle stunts that are amazing.”
“Those are my personal favorite things,” said Hough, who graduated from Mt. Juliet High School in 2012.
Hough has been dancing since she was 3 years old. At 12, she enrolled in classes at the Hermitage Dance Academy, where she studied under owner Andrea Woodard. HDA was recently ranked as one of the top academies in the Southeast.
“Everything about dancing in that studio was a family,” said Hough, whose friends, family and fellow dancers have purchased upward of 500 tickets to Friday’s performance.
“It’s so overwhelming and I’m just so appreciative of their support.”
“To me, it’s inspiring,” said Woodard, who hopes her current students will see that the key to success is not being afraid to try and go after your dreams if it’s something you want. “That’s what’s so cool about the whole thing.”
Woodard added, “What I’m most proud of is (Hough) was brave enough and confident enough to try that. A lot of kids have the training (but) don’t have the determination or the courage to go out there and put themselves out there like that and audition and be rejected and then finally get something.”
Woodard recalled Hough as fearless, eager to learn, respectful and coachable. Hough’s mother said her only child has never been short on commitment.
“That’s just how she’s always been,” Karyn Hough said. “If she’s going to do something she’s going to do it all the way. She just goes for it. I wasn’t like that, so I don’t know where she gets it from.”
Although Chelsea Hough attended college for only a year — one semester at the University of Alabama before transferring to Western Kentucky University — she was a dean’s list student both semesters. She had even been offered a full academic scholarship to WKU, but she persuaded her mother to let her pursue her dream of dancing professionally.
“I come from a family of educators,” said Karyn Hough, whose father was a teacher and mother was the assistant dean of the medical school at the University of Buffalo. “We go to college and then we get our career. (Chelsea) basically said to me, ‘I’m not going to have this body forever,’ and it made sense to me.”
Chelsea Hough auditioned for the hit series “So You Think You Can Dance” and earned an automatic bid to Las Vegas, but she ultimately missed out on a spot on the televised series.
“You could just tell something was missing,” Karyn Hough added. She knew her daughter wanted more.
Once Chelsea Hough signed with the Bloc Agency, which took place after a chance meeting with the owner in an elevator, she found herself dancing in television commercials and music videos, as well as dancing in Germany alongside European superstar Helene Fischer.
After returning to the U.S., she auditioned for Marvel Universe LIVE! in August 2013.
“Ever since then, everything just started skyrocketing to right where I wanted to be,” Hough said.
However, it was until four months after the open casting call that she received a pair of emails from producers indicating their interest in casting her in the role that had been made famous by Halle Berry in the “X-Men” film series.
She was home in Nashville visiting family last December when she finally got the call. Actually, she missed the phone call because of a photo shoot and heard the voice mail message once she got back to her mother’s house.
“I screamed,” Hough said. “I was rolling on the ground. I was like, ‘Oh my God.’ It was the most surreal feeling.”
Hough’s mother added, “It’s all happened kind of fast for her.”
Chelsea Hough said the cast is a “melting pot of talent,” and she holds the entire crew in high regard. The tour is only a few months into an 85-city tour that is scheduled through spring 2016.
“Having a steady income and doing something that I love, I feel honored and appreciative,” Hough said.
“I think about that every day and I don’t take it for granted.”