Tristan and Jamelia have been gaining more and more fans each week, and we were delighted when some of those new supporters asked if Tristan would answer a few of their questions. Of course, he agreed! Enjoy this new Q and A that includes lots of information from Tristan about the Week 5 Dance Off, how he plans out rehearsals, his working relationship with Jamelia and some special moments from SCD 2015.
First of all, we hear from lots and lots of people that if they wanted to learn to dance, you would be the pro they want to teach them. You and Jamelia seem to have developed a nice rapport and we can see your patience and calm approach – at least in the VT! Is it always like that in your rehearsals and do you have a specific approach when you walk into the rehearsal room or do you see how it all plays out on a day to day basis? Are rehearsals as intense and focused as they look in the limited footage we see? How do you teach a full dance to Jamelia (or anyone else) and how do you determine what you work on each day so that you can get the 90-second dance ready?
Everything is a daily basis for me and certainly for us because you never know how your brain is going to work or how your body is going to feel day to day so you have to approach it day to day or hour by hour or however your schedule dictates. I’m calm and laid back and try to keep it that way. Some people work best under pressure. I can do it but I prefer not to. I think all the pros have their own way of working and they are all amazing and have to do what works best for them and their partners.
Our rehearsals are physically demanding and intense but it’s not enjoyable for me when it’s aggressive or shouting and what not. I treat people like adults and expect them to show me the same respect I show them. I never get mad unless I have a genuine reason - ha -and then I never hold back. The goal is for my partners to enjoy themselves as best they can but also to respect that whenever the show finishes for them they can go back to their jobs. This is mine! I find the best way we work now since week one is to not force overload. I teach the fundamentals that run through all dancing and then I teach the characteristics of whatever dance we have that week while I teach the first half of the routine. Then the next day I teach the second half so we can get full days of each half clear and then drill the full routine until we run out of time. Based on confidence or a particular week I will start with the hardest section so we have longer to get used to it but again confidence only comes from understanding so I make sure we understand what we are doing and why. Take the time and ring that through each week until something contradicts it.
You do a fabulous job of staying positive and being encouraging to your partner. What did you say to Jamelia before the Dance Off? (Other than what we heard on the show, if anything) We loved when you told her it was “easy easy easy.” We think she took it to heart because the second Foxtrot was a winner for sure. How was it different from the one we saw on Saturday?
I can't remember what I said exactly but people again put so much pressure on themselves before those dance offs - It's not the end of the bleeding world??! You only get eliminated from the competition not from life itself!! So what if you have to dance again? That’s why you are doing the show in the first place. There is that moment before everyone goes on stage and panics about forgetting this or forgetting that and even more so in the dance off. I told Jamelia we made one little mistake so just fix that - don't worry about every single step or question whether you done the rest right. Just relax, fix that mistake and enjoy because if it’s better than the first one you either go through or you go home with a better dance. I said the exact same to Ainsley. There were still stakes Sunday but confidence was higher, and it played out a lot calmer than Saturday.
Halloween Week is coming up – can you give us a hint of what’s ahead?
No! It’s Halloween so expect some camp 'scary' themed dances a bit of fun dress up, and a few fun songs that you have probably heard before - hahaha.
We have grown to have a lot of respect for Jamelia and what she brings to Strictly. If you had to describe her with just a few words (or if a few words won’t do, go with whatever works), what would you say?
Well, we get on with each other. I think she is a really nice person. She is a little like Nancy Grace I had in DWTS. She came into the show with a very strong personality that people either liked or didn't like which I think is a great way to be. That way you know where you stand with people . . . you like me - that’s cool, you don't like me – that’s cool too. I think she has won some people over and I think there are a lot of people who won't take to her regardless but I personally like her as a person. I like when people don't try and change or don't go out of their way to pretend to be someone so other people will like them. I’m sure I annoy her sometimes and she annoys me sometimes but so what??!! I know when she likes things and tries and I know when shine doesn’t like things and doesn’t try but because we get each other, we call each other out on it. Always better to be a shepherd than a sheep.
Finally, what have been your best Tristan and Jamelia moments this series of Strictly? (show moments or rehearsal moments)
We laugh a lot - that’s cool. ITT is my favourite so I always like doing that but I think seeing Jamelia with her girls - them watching her dance and watching them practice together I think is a beautiful thing. The show always loves showing those moments but I think it’s enough to know it happens. Parents and their children playing together or working together or just spending time with each other is the best thing so seeing that they are all 'in' the show together is a great thing. I like that the show does that for families.
This interview was posted a few days after Jamelia and Tristan danced their Charleston, Week 4, Strictly Come Dancing 2015
First, congratulations on your Charleston. Take us through the week – rehearsals, things that Jamelia picked up easily, things she had problems with, when it all came together, etc.
Thank you. Yeah, we had a good week and are happy with the results. I think first off one of the factors that helped was that Jamelia was familiar with some of the moves from the off. She mentioned they were similar to moves that she would have danced in the 90s so straight away there was a little bit of ease with things and then it was a lot easier to focus on the technique of the footwork. With Charleston being quite specific, she could really focus on major points which I felt helped. Also, flat shoes always help people when they are on the floor - they play a big part! It’s a really strong angular dance and so very visual and then the character of the song was easy to connect with. Confidence is a big thing for people and Jamelia is no different. You can listen to somebody tell you every day that you are getting better but until you see it for yourself it doesn’t really matter!
You have Foxtrot this week. Even though you and Jamelia haven’t danced ballroom since your Week 1 Waltz, we’ve seen a lot of improvement in Jamelia’s confidence and overall skills. How will you take that new ability and incorporate into learning a new dance? What do you anticipate will be her biggest strengths?
You can always carry through certain things. I made sure before Week 1 that we nailed the frame. Most of my time with Jamelia was really focussed on that and knowing that is in her body is a major plus before you start the next dance. In saying that, week to week is based on how that week goes and not on what happened previously. Just because you are improving each week, other factors come into that. People always forget. Sometimes you don't have as much time as the previous week. Sometimes you don't like the new dance or music you have been given, and sometimes you don't like the direction of the VT. If you have a slow dance, some might think it’s boring when compared to a fast dance that others are doing so it can always be harder or easier for different reasons. I hope the boost we got last week carries through to this week and hopefully the judges see what we have been working on more than what we are struggling with. I never shy away from mistakes. I don't like hiding them; I like to work them out and sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. The competitiveness I have is not in beating others but in beating ourselves each week. The rest will look after itself if that makes sense?!
You’ve said in the past that Foxtrot is one of your favorite dances. Do any of your past Foxtrots in particular stand out for you?
No, not more than any others. I like the music, and I like the laid back feel of the dance. I had a song I wanted to use for this dance and a back-up song but unfortunately they both got passed off so we will work with this one and try do the best job we can and hope we are smiling at the end. The biggest challenge to both celeb and pro is to 'make it work'.
We’re not looking past this week, but if you had the opportunity to teach Jamelia one particular dance that you have not yet done, which one would it be? Obviously it’s hard to tell at this point, but is there a dance that you think she would excel at or find easier than others?
I really don't know to be honest. Again I had an idea for a particular dance and concept for a particular week but unfortunately it doesn't fit into the week I wanted it for so that was a shame. It’s tough for the producers to make a balanced show especially when there are so many different brains working on concepts and what not. Sometimes you have to just take it on the chin and work with what role needs to be filled. I think it’s best to focus on the fact that people are working really hard to stay in the competition so sometimes you have to just hope that people, judges and viewers see past the reasoning behind choices and just support the work being put into it. I’d like to do the Paso I put together but unless there is a change of view I can't see it happening this season. I have no doubt that with enough time during any particular week that Jamelia can tackle any dance so I’m excited about that and each week her confidence and stamina build.
We missed you in this week’s pro dance? Will you be in the one that airs next week?
Yeah, I'll be back in the group dance next week. I tweaked my shoulder and neck on Week 1 so it was a precaution to come out of the group dance as I was afraid I might aggravate it before our dance with the few lifts in the Charleston. Neil was there and wanted to get involved anyway so I think it was good to see him in there but I’ll be back next week for sure. I’m sure a lot of people would have been happy to see another British dancer on the show – ha.
How does it feel not to have to dance in the Dance Off for two consecutive weeks?
To be honest I don't mind the dance off. People make a little more of it than needs to be. If your dance doesn’t go well or you didn't do as well as you wanted I think it’s the perfect way to recover straight away without having to wait until next week. It can be dangerous though. Like I said, if you have a dance or song or whatever it may be that is beautiful but you are against a lively, funny, fast dance you can get caught out. I think you can't afford to worry about who you are dancing against. You just have to go out and do better than you did before and make sure you fix what went wrong first. Sometimes people think they did everything wrong and get flustered and forget everything. You just have to stay calm and fix your mistakes. If you do that, you can go through or go home knowing you did your best. The dance off, for all that it's worth, gives you and your partner another chance to dance in front of a live audience which can be the most frightening part so it has to be a positive - and under much more pressure. It’s a character builder.
Finally, what are some of the things you have enjoyed most this year so far on Strictly? (or moments that stand out)
I’m enjoying how everyone has taken to the new guys. I think they are great, and it’s nice to see good things happen to good people. They have fit in very well, and I think generally everyone has been positive and happy this year which makes it fun going into work. I know people have to leave each week but that’s just the game. I’ve been very happy to see everyone’s reactions to getting higher scores and the joy in people’s faces every time we are all on set. I’m glad everyone is getting the credit they deserve for the work being put in, and I hope it continues and that everyone gets out of the show whatever it is they are after.
Screencap Courtesy of @clrhmly via BBC
We caught up with Tristan again today, and he graciously agreed to answer more of your questions. He talks lots about Strictly Come Dancing, costumes, difficulties in matching music with dance styles, Jamelia and the Salsa, his early role in the film Ella Enchanted, and more.
I realize that you have very little control over the music and dance styles assigned to you on Strictly (or on DWTS for that matter) but do you ever get concerned about how you could possibly make it work? And how do you make it work when you think the song/dance style are mismatched?
Yeah, you really don't have much control over most things to be honest and less still here in the UK compared to the US but that’s the way it goes. I think a lot of the time there are cases where things don't match, be a song and dance or a concept and song whatever it may be. It does get concerning sometimes, yeah for sure, and quite stressful at times as well when you know it’s not right but that’s what you have to do. So I do the same as I always do - have a little moan and just get on it with it. I let it go a lot of the time now as you have to accept that’s why there are different departments that do different jobs and remember it’s my responsibility to teach.
You have said in the past that you let the costume department do their job and don’t get too involved in those decisions, but have there been cases when the costumes haven’t worked for the dance? (too much fabric that causes tripping, sleeves catching on something, too tight, too many sparkles that caused a glare, etc.)
Yeah. Again, it happens – a lot. I have huge respect for the costume departments on the shows, both of which are quite different but equally as talented and hard working. I think in US again it’s a little more 'what do you want we will find a compromise’ and in UK its 'this is what we want' and then you fight for a compromise but again that always comes from the top. The departments themselves are always very forthcoming and supportive of what we want but ultimately the decision comes from the top. That’s why it’s always best to be your own boss – haha. There is such a quick turn around for the costume guys to alter and repair mishaps. It probably happens more than you would think.
You seem to be able to ignore a lot of the extraneous nonsense going on in social media and focus on your teaching and your work. Do you deliberately avoid it all or do you just choose not to respond? These days it’s probably easier to laugh at 99% of it, but how do you handle it?
Half the time I don't read it to be honest. Unfortunately social media is becoming more and more important in everyday life and everyone feels the need to tell everyone absolutely everything they are doing – haha. It's just not for me. I just don’t respond most the time for different reasons. Some people only say stuff for a response so I’m not going to bite on stuff like that but to be honest more than anything else I think everyone has their own opinion and are entitled to it and just because I may not agree doesn’t mean that they are wrong. I just don't agree. Some people have blind faith in others as well and as admirable as that may be it often leads to remarks that aren't worth a jot....in my opinion – haha. I’d like to respond to everybody but the reality is that I don't spend much of my time on the Internet and I’m not one for rushing home to check how many people like me day by day or anything like that. Anyone can get attention. You just have to say some crazy stuff and you get what you want but I'm happy getting on with my own life. I can’t thank everyone enough for taking any time to reach out and I try my best to address everyone when I get a chance. I hope this doesn’t get misinterpreted the wrong way. I’m just talking about negativity more than anything else.
In past interviews you’ve said that anybody can dance (although some of us might have more left feet than others) and obviously some people take to it faster than others, but as a teacher, how do you get a new student to relax and trust you? You seem to have a gift for it.
I just think you have to be genuine. You can't force somebody to trust you and it’s very easy to be 'best friends' and 'family' for a few weeks until you get the boot. So I just take the time to get to know whoever it is that I’m teaching and I relate what I teach to what they do so that they know that even if they never dance with me again they can dance with somebody else. Some people wanna learn how to dance, not just learn how to do choreography - and you can't let winning a trophy justify you enjoying something.
Zoe Ball seems to be a fan of yours and you’ve mentioned previously that you have a lot of respect for what she does and that you have plenty of laughs when you're around her, but if you could turn the tables and ask her anything, what would it be?
Zoe is the best. I can't tell you half the stuff we talk about off camera – haha - but she is very funny and I enjoy spending time with her. The thing is you could actually ask Zoe anything and you would get an answer or a very funny reaction every time.
With Salsa coming up, what would you say is Jamelia’s strength in this dance? What is the most difficult part about learning this dance – for Jamelia or in general?
Hopefully Jamelias natural rhythm is a plus. Salsa is a fun dance to do and real salsa is different to competitive dancing so it comes down to technique which shouldn't really have a place in salsa in my eyes. It's all about the music and rhythm. I'm just hoping Jamelia lets her hair down and enjoys it. I never dance for results so I'm just looking forward to this weekend.
Here is a blast from the past. You had an uncredited part in the dance scene in Ella Enchanted, and yes, we were able to spot you but it wasn’t easy! How long did it take to film that scene and how did it even come about?
I can't remember how it came about to be honest but the movie was actually made in my town so when all the dancers came they stayed in my house and the number was actually choreographed by Bruno - that's where I met him first and I'm pretty sure Aidan Turner (The Hobbit) was in that with us. Most of us Irish dancers at the time were in it and then a bunch of contemporary dancers from the UK came over as well. I loved making the film because Cary Elwes was in it and I love that guy. I had a scene where I danced with Vivica Fox as well in the wedding castle but it never made the film in the end. Me and my buddy Marc kept jumping in the back of scenes in case they made the outtakes - hahaha. That was back when I loved attention - haha.
Finally, we’re going to be having a huge celebration in a few months (or weeks depending on how chatty we get) when the website forum reaches 1,000,000 views and we’re thinking we might need to put together a little song and dance in your honor. (Probably not but it seems like a good idea in theory). What song and dance should we use, oh Wise One?
Hahaha - that’s unreal - the amount of views and support - you guys are the best, thank you. I guess you can pick the song and style and words and costumes and names and whatever else needs deciding on. I’m not gonna get ahead of myself and start making my own decisions......I wouldn't know where to start - haha.
Since July, 2012, we have interviewed Tristan 64 times and in honor of our website forum reaching 1 million views in February, 2016, we decided to bring them all back beginning with the first one. We hope you enjoy this very special feature. All interviews are posted elsewhere on this website, including our forum.