Dancing with Hollywood stars

Julianne Hough and Diego Boneta arrive at the European premiere of 'Rock of Ages', at the Odeon in Leicester Square, central London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo credit should read: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire
Julianne Hough and Diego Boneta arrive at the European premiere of 'Rock of Ages', at the Odeon in Leicester Square, central London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo credit should read: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire
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Forget the Hoff – David Hasselhoff. Meet the Hough. Julianne. Both are big in America ... and Blackpool.

Julianne’s big screen break, in cinemas this week, is due in no little part to her triumph here in Britain’s top resort – nine years ago. She’s a young woman who not only looks good but can sing, dance and act – and has already bedded Tom Cruise.

Or rather, the Axl Rose-like jaded rock god Stacee Jaxx he plays in new film Rock of Ages.

Julianne won rave reviews starring in last year’s remake of cult dance flick Footloose, after a supporting role in 2010 film Burlesque, which starred Cher and Christina Aguilera

Now she’s tackled the latest stage-to-screen Rock of Ages – shaking off her goody-goody image in Footloose in favour of a wilder chick as Sherrie, another small town girl, but tempted away from Tulsa, Oklahoma, for the sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle of Los Angeles.

This means she also gets to snog Hollywood’s latest hot property Diego Boneta, who plays her romantic lead Drew in the film currently showing at Blackpool Odeon and the Vue, Cleveleys.

Julianne was born in Sandy, Utah, the youngest of five children to a Latter-day Saints (Mormon) family – her father a leading Republican.

Dance is in Julianne’s DNA. Both sets of grandparents were dancers, and her parents met in a ballroom dancing team.

Julianne and older brother Derek (the hunky dancer said to have been Cheryl Cole’s “rock” when she was seriously ill) got the dance bug early. Both moved to London to live and study at the Italia Conti Academy. By the age of 12, Julianne was part of a pop trio with Derek and their best friend Mark Ballas, and also performed at dance competitions in the UK.

All of which led, at 15, to Julianne becoming the youngest dancer, and only American, to become Junior World Latin Champion and International Latin Youth Champion at the eight-day Blackpool Dance Festival at the Winter Gardens.

After five years living in the UK, Julianne returned to America but, now days away from her 24th birthday, has never forgotten her early chance to shine at the British seaside’s premier international dance showcase.

Nor, it seems, has Blackpool forgotten the fast-rising young star.

David Gore, marketing manager for the Winter Gardens operating company, Crown Entertainment Centres, admits: “We are following Julianne’s career with interest.

“I don’t think people in Blackpool appreciate just how big the Dance Festival is – or how many people it attracts to the resort from around the world.

“In dance terms, it’s huge. It’s been going for years, but locals still get bemused by the sight of all these rather glamorous people in their midst. There’s a great spin-off for the resort in terms of where they stay, eat, how they get about town. And it’s a feather in our cap to now claim a fast-rising star in the form of Julianne. She’s certainly one to watch.”

The festival also featured in 2004 dance flick Shall We Dance starring Richard Gere and Jennifer Lopez – J Lo – later pictured winning the world title here in Blackpool.

Julianne’s familiar with the gritty reality of carving a living out of dancing. She’s twice champion of American TV’s version of Strictly – Dancing With the Stars – in which her brother is a professional dancer. She’s also won an Emmy for choreography, and has issued her own cardio ballroom dance workout programmes.

Country music gives her an edge in attracting Hollywood’s interest, too, as one of the young signings on the Mercury Nashville label. Her debut album sold 67,000 copies in one week. Her second is called Wildfire.

Julianne calls Rock of Ages, which has had a mixed critical response, critics panning and praising Cruise in equal measure, “gentle sexy fun”. She fares well in the reviews.

She’s come a long way since her first uncredited role as a Hogwarts schoolgirl 11 years ago.

Someone who has followed the Blackpool to Hollywood trail is former Gazette reporter-turned LA showbiz correspondent Sandro Monetti. who performs his one-man show Clooney, Cowell, Pitt and Me at the Edinbugh Festival later this summer.

Sandro’s met Julianne, and is impressed by her. He says: “Rising star Julianne is clearly going places, but at the same time she doesn’t forget where she came from. She’s a humble and down-to-earth starlet, who knows the hard work in her past is a big part of her success today. Furthermore, she appears grateful for the opportunities that came her way back then. Whether it’s the Blackpool Dance Festival or the Dancing with the Stars final, a rehearsal room or a red carpet, she keeps her dancing feet on the ground while hitting the showbiz heights.”