Instead of listening to SWAT and I blither on, we have a special treat for this blog. Our new member, Elsa, took several classes with Tristan and Lacey when they were in Florida a couple of weeks ago. We are going to live vicariously through her as she tells us her story! (My apologies, Elsa, if I edited too much to fit the blog format. It was unintentional).
Private lesson. It was hard to think of which dance to ask to work on. I didn't want to be "exposed" like the time Nancy refused to do the steps so he could watch. I'm slow learning steps on a good day and figured I'd be nervous so I picked a slow one, in hold. I'd been in a Dancesport competition (very beginner!) in November and remembered that I liked Tango a lot, had the least training in it, and the hold was the most secure, meaning that I had the least trouble following. At least that's what I thought, lol. It turns out that the whole time we ended up working on getting me to follow without trying to lead or anticipate the next step! I told him I wanted to work on the posture and stylization, which we did at the start, but that was just a few minutes, but it was pretty wild!
He told me about the Argentine prostitutes and the smelly gauchos (cowboys) and that's why the woman's head is leaned away from the potential customer. He told me to imagine that the guy is trying to come in for a kiss (and he demonstrated!) and not wanting that, I'd lean my face away. When I'd forget during the dance, he'd move his face really close to mine and breathe on my face. He said another reason was she was always looking for another guy who might have more money and be a better prospect. He also told me about the connection in the lower half of the body. The woman isn't fond of the guy but wants the money, so the look isn't one of disgust - it's just serious or stern and not happy about the smell.
Now the hold: He told me to squeeze his left leg between my two legs and keep one foot between his feet - and that was more or less the way to do the entire dance. That was easy and why the hold is the easiest - how can you move when the side of your pelvis/belly is pressed up against somebody and your leg is between his? Then we started to do steps without music, and I had a devil of a time following! I didn't know I was so bad, sheesh. He would do weird stops when I didn't expect them and I'd almost always take another step with my foot instead of just stopping in place. I think I finally get it NOW but that doesn't do me any good, lol. Well, it does - it's still my favorite dance because the music is so dramatic and you can "act" a more interesting kind of role than the others, at least in my opinion. He asked me in the middle if I needed a drink of water, and I said, 'No, do you?" and he said no - but I wonder if he was tired. He'd been doing back to back private lessons since getting there the day before. Getting there early for fear of not finding the place, and staying because I had a group lesson with him coming up - I saw him coach several others: a couple who were in the DWTS-type show doing foxtrot or something and the man's posture was atrocious - a near-pro couple working on rapid spins and he was helping the guy hold her hand just right so she could twirl a lot of times - a couple who were already good at East Coast Swing but he showed them how to really get down with it with a whole lot of energy. When you see the photos, I'm the woman in her 50's wearing a long-sleeve black lace top and black trousers. The studio owner told me to dress up a lot which was not the extra pressure I needed lol - and most people were not dressy of course but that should be in the "after party" section.
Anyway, Tristan was extremely sweet and patient and very focused. At the beginning, I could tell he didn't waste much time talking - so I caught on to that pretty fast and didn't say a lot about me or what I wanted to do with dance, etc., but I did tell him I'd done lessons about 12 years ago and quit when we moved to Ireland and that my husband taught at DCU. He said, "I bet he knows a lot of my friends there." And that was really the extent of any "personal" chit chat. I didn't ask him any questions about DWTS or anything else, other than about the dance.
Oh yeah, one more thing: I had SO much trouble following and STOPPING when he did, he finally told me to close my eyes while we danced (or did steps.) He said dancing is only when you have MUSIC. Anyway, the owner/photographer later told me he had a lot of pictures of me but in many of them my eyes are closed - well that's why! And at the studio dance after the private/groups lessons in Panama City, I got to dance the tango with one of the pro's, and it DID feel better than it had before and the pro complimented me (well, duh, of course he would), and I told him I'd worked with Tristan on it, and he said, "I saw that!" I think the whole staff was watching, but I wasn't aware of it. And strangely, I don't even remember what Tristan said all that well, I was concentrating so hard on trying to do it right, and I
was pretty hopeless. Anyway, I wish I'd been outfitted with a hidden tape recorder!
Now I remember another detail - the man with the atrocious posture - Tristan was really cute when he demonstrated what the guy was doing wrong. I saw him do that with others too. He'd hunch over, lift his shoulders up way too high, move too fast and get off balance and almost fall forward onto the girl, etc., to show the guy what he was doing wrong - I only saw him do this with guys I think. Though once during his practice with me, he played the woman's part to show me how I was too stiff in leaning back and how hard that made it for me to move him around. So I think he demonstrates a lot by doing the wrong stuff himself - whether it's the guy's or girl's part. I told him I sometimes end up yanking the guy where I want to go - and I did it to him some - and he said everybody does that, even the pro women.
Tristan's Group Lesson in Ft. Walton Beach. This was the first time that I saw Tristan in person. His group class was before Lacey's, at 6:15pm. The weather was horrible for most of the day, tornado warnings and bad thunderstorms, but it cleared up before I had to go to the class. The airline had lost Tristan and Lacey's luggage (they were picked up at the airport in Ft. Walton around 10 or 11am, but he had it the next day.
He said he was going to work on Cha Cha. I met Shannon there so it felt good to have a friend along for this first foray into dealing with tv celebs! I didn't think I'd be nervous and I wasn't really but it was exciting. The nervous part was finding the studio and waiting for everything to finally commence. Anyway, I felt really happy he did Cha Cha because I've studied it the most and felt really comfortable and confident with it. He did the basic, New Yorker, spot turns, then faster and faster. There were a lot of people there, maybe 30. He said he was going to pair us up later but then he never did.
Instead at the end, he decided to teach both parts of a bit of choreography. The girl takes two steps away from the guy, does a pivot (complete turnaround), walks back towards him and does some stuff. Then he did the guy part which I don't remember as well but a bit simpler - the guy follows and pulls her back. He said what often happens is he has to sort of yank the woman who's just going to keep on walking away, too far. It was funny how he demonstrated that he has to grab her arm and yank her back. He explained that it was important, especially if you get deeper in dancing, to learn both parts, and that he himself had once said, "I'm not learning the girl's part. I'll never do that so why should I learn it?" But he said you can't be as good at dancing if you don't know ALL of it - so he had all of us do both parts.
The time was up really fast and he went to shower while Lacey's class took place, which I'll write up separately but it was West Coast Swing and really really HARD. She went fast, taught a LOT of steps and I never really nailed the FIRST one, a "Sugar" something. He came back out, all changed from his sweaty white low cut t-shirt to a long-sleeve striped one. Anyway, he stood around watching us finish up the WCS class - and he was close to me and I looked at him and said, "She's tougher than you are!" And he sort of emphatically said, "I knowww!"
He was incredibly sweet when Lacey's class ended while taking photos with people. I had a couple made but look horrible, sweaty and disheveled after two group dances, and I look pretty awful in photos made when I'm fresh. He spent time talking to a few people - I wish I could remember what I talked to him about, but anyway, I introduced myself and said a few little things, and I started to leave (as my friend and others stayed behind to talk some more) and he kissed me on the cheek! He's just so open and friendly to people - so unlike any celeb I know of. Lacey was friendly but you could tell she put more distance between herself and fans than he does. He responds to you like you're a regular person - but even nicer. Oh I don't know how to explain it but he's incredibly warm, generous and open. I worry that he's maybe too much that way - and gives too much of himself to people and it'll wear him out or hurt him in some way, but oh well, who am I to even have an opinion... He's just so incredibly sweet. I can easily see why Sasha Farber says "Everybody in the world loves Tristan." How can you not?
Anyway, after he kissed me, I said, "I'll see you tomorrow." And he looked surprised and taken aback, sort of said, "OK!" And smiled. I think I said I'd be in Panama City. I'm pretty sure I was the only one who went to both places for classes but his group class in PC was never even advertised online! No wonder he was surprised. Another embarrassing moment but heck, if you drive 4 hours and get a hotel, etc., and there are two days of classes and a big show (and I didn't know he was doing a class on the middle day till the last minute), well, it just seems silly to not do everything. And boy, I did!
Well, that was the first group class. He had done private lessons from the time he arrived - a lady who worked there said he had only one private lesson open and it was during Lacey's class which I'd already signed up for so I figured I just wouldn't get one. Little did I know that there would STILL be an opening the next day in Panama City for a private lesson - I didn't even call them to ask until nearly 1 pm and they had ONE opening, at 4:45. I truly expected all the classes to be taken so I was almost terrified/disappointed when they said come on down! But now I'm glad I did it. You only live once!
Tristan's class in Panama City. This was at 6:30 before Lacey's class. Tristan had told me after my private lesson he was thinking of doing Cha Cha again and I said that was fine with me because I had a Cha Cha competition in my hometown in Feb. He said he would add some Samba - and he did. So we did the same steps as in Ft. Walton but it seemed a good bit faster. It was a smaller class - maybe 12 or 15 - and the male pros from the studio were in the class so that was nice.
I really loved the Samba part because I've never had a single lesson in Samba and it's really fun - and easier than I expected, getting the bounce and the hips in a figure-8 sort of motion. It made me want to take Samba! Later, Lacey made fun of Tristan and said she was doing Samba but instead of just doing "school figures", she was going to make it fun. She looked over at him and said, "Sorry - you know I love you" or something like that. He was giving a private lesson behind our group class the whole time.
He got a bit more into style - and said women should do the steps differently than the guys. He lifted up his heel and said to step somewhat like that because it makes your leg look better - and that's why when women try on shoes and look at their lower leg in the mirror, they'll lift their heel up. Guys, he said, should do more of a stomp than a lift up of the heel, as they do the steps. He also said the girls can sort of play with their skirts or do some other flirty moves, to get into the playful sexy character of the Cha Cha. When he was talking about the Samba, he mentioned how you needed to think about Carnival in Brazil with lots of chest shimmying and rhythmical bouncing and sexy hip movements. I had another embarrassing moment during his class - I had my pantyhose pretty much attached at the top - (I had a knee length dancing asymmetrical skirt on) and everything stayed up and was fine during the private lesson, but somehow, during the group class, my pantyhose starting sliding down my hips. I was on the back row and sort of hoisted my skirt too much to pull them up, and Brian, the owner/ photographer guy said, "Hey - I'm filming!" So sheesh, I hope he edits that out!
Before the class, Tristan had been really really sweet to a young girl by signing the picture she brought, and at the end of her lesson, he picked her up and swung her around a couple times, after bending down and sort of playing with her by spinning her or something, like they do in Cha Cha. Then he stayed after, maybe 20 minutes, talking to her and her family. It was so sweet. Like I say, you just have to love the guy! I was impressed at how much he seemed to really care.
The "Show." There was a 3 hour show in the Martin Theatre in Panama City. The first dance was Tristan and Lacey doing a sexy rumba - and the last was them doing a really fast jive. I was fiddling with my camera, and I regret that because I don't remember the dances very well and wish I'd just watched instead of trying to take pictures.
Tristan and Lacey acted as judges for the 4-local-celeb competition and the MC asked which judge they were most like. Lacey spoke up first and said, "Len." Tristan sort of acted like he didn't want to say - and the MC said, "You must be like Bruno, then" to Tristan - who didn't seem too happy with that but hey, it was Bruno or Carrie Ann at that point.
Their comments were very kind - and they gave one woman a 7 because she didn't smile (and though it probably had nothing to do with her lowest score, she was wearing a thong with her entire behind showing so I don't think that helped her cause!) Another woman, mom of 2, did a Cha Cha and did really well and got a 9 - Lacey said, "You're one hot mamma." The 60 year old guy who went first did fine: it was a cute and simple rendition of the Pink Panther and he got an 8; and the last guy was a local favorite, an enormous fellow - maybe 6'6" and 300 pounds, and he did a dance full of lifts and got a 9. Tristan said, "You're a great big bloke...who knows how to work a room." And Lacey pointed out that he was light on his feet (uh, considering.) At the end, applause determined that the winner was the "hot mamma" who did the Cha Cha, but it was close between her and the huge guy. Tristan got up to sort of MC before the intermission and said he hoped there were no boyfriends or husbands who were going to smack him for criticizing the women (though I don't remember any criticism other than one not smiling enough. He'd even said he'd give her outfit a 10.)
There were quite a few children and Tristan was really supportive of them - for one girl doing a hip hop thing, he came out on stage and was applauding, smiling and laughing while she did her number. This thing was longgggggg - about 3 hours - but it was great. At the end, everybody came out for bows, but Tristan went behind everyone and Lacey followed him - so that was very sweet, since they were the star attractions.
The After Party. There was food but not a lot. Tristan and Lacey got theirs and went to a more private room than the big hall. The MC's parents were there from Dublin (looked to be in their 70s - there's a picture of Tristan hugging the mother on his FB fanpage.) My guess is he ate with them because he promised them at the show they'd talk later. At some point, we heard he and Lacey were doing pictures in an adjoining room and people lined up for that. Not long before they left, they came into the main hall, near the bar, and I think that's when the Motley Crue guy got his picture made with Tristan. Soon they were asking for their driver because they had to be at the airport the next morning at 6 am or so, and it was already about 11:30.
Lacey's Group Classes. The first was West Coast Swing and oh mercy, was that HARDDDDDDD! I had tried WCS in a class once before and it was the hardest thing I ever tried to learn! Anyhow, she would show a step, have us do it twice or so, then move to the next step - maybe 6 or 7 in all, and then she had us pair and change partners a lot, and that was fun, but I don't think I got much right. It didn't seem to matter, the people I danced with were all sweet and most of them didn't know how to do it right either.
Lacey explained that WCS was invented for sailors on ships because you stay in a straight line. She said her daddy actually sort of "ruined" the character of the dance by adding a lot of more fun things to the basic WCS. Lacey's an extremely energetic, alert, quick-to-react teacher. Amazing really. Her strength is her speed, quick reactions, sort of pushiness and willingness to be very playful, even teasing a bit, and ever anxious to keep things moving and different and exciting. I watched her teach a hip hop class to kids and she was really good in that. (Tristan's a fantastic teacher too - more patient and watchful - gentler - not as "wired" and serious and careful to make things clear and repeat enough that most people got it - he really knows this stuff in and out - and so does Lacey.)
Since we'd just done Samba with Tristan, Lacey spiced it up and had the women doing boob punches or whatever you call it where you jut your chest out quickly over and over - then whole body shimmies - and also she had us draw our hands up over the sides of our bodies as we moved our hips. Oh it's hard to explain but she tried to get us to make it more like a "show" number where you're acting as sexy as you can for the audience - and she picked on Tristan who was behind us, doing a private lesson, for making it boring by just teaching "step by numbers figures". But heck, how could you add the flourishes if you didn't know any of the basic steps that he'd just taught us?
I'm sure she was just teasing and having lived in Ireland and travelled to a dozen countries or so, I've never seen any people who tease each other more than the Irish, so I'm sure he wasn't bothered, but she did mention it more than once - that he'd done it the "boring" way but we were gonna have FUN!!!!!!! darnit. She ever gathered us around for a little lecture of sorts saying that you MUST MUST MUST let go and have fun dancing. A fair amount of psychology in that little talk about freeing your spirit and dancing for the LOVE of it and not just to be doing something "right". I really liked it - but it was quite different than the WCS. Maybe because Tristan had just taught the basic steps anyway so she was able to continue into stylizing and stuff - when with WCS she had to get us able to do ANYthing.
MISCELLANEOUS - During our private lesson, Tristan said the guy should adjust his hold DOWN to fit the lady - and lower his arms and I shouldn’t have to reach up (I'm 5'1" or so). I told him my left arm couldn't reach his back, in that weird flat-hand Tango way the woman holds her left hand, but he said just try - often your hand won't reach all the way to the guy's back.
Tristan is very serious and careful - I guess I'd call it, though I was serious and shy - I think he reacts to the person and gets on with things, not taking control to goof off or anything - just gentle, shy, not pushy or a domineering personality though he's got a quick wit and a very playful side. And he's the sweetest person I think I've ever met - even with perfect strangers/fans.
In the first place, Ft. Walton, during his Cha Cha class, someone asked about Lacey - he said, "Well, I guess she's gone home" and he laughed. In the second group class (Panama City) he emphasized the difference between the girls and guys' parts of Samba (so did Lacey.) Girls are frillier, more shimmying, less stompy. He said to keep my upper body like a mannequin and don't bend it, so that it's easier for the guy to lead. I kept trying to take extra steps and he said EVERY step I take should have a signal from the lead. I had trouble figuring out if I should take a side step or a back step - and he stepped on my foot several times but he's good at dancing and it didn't really hurt. I probably stepped on his but I don't remember that.
He said he always tries to tell a "story" with his choreography .
Thank you, Elsa, for sharing your story with us!!!! Most of our members know this, but if you haven’t seen the photos on the Fred Astaire Dance Studio Panama City facebook page, be sure and check them out. There are so many wonderful photos of the show and after party available. We will also be posting some of Elsa's personal photos in our gallery within the next few days. Enjoy!