Tristan is currently appearing in Ballroom With A Twist-Mas in Florida and has been very busy since Strictly Come Dancing finished up last weekend. He took time today to answer a few of your questions.
Several of us were fortunate enough to see the new Ballroom With A Twist-Mas show this week in Maryland. It was a great show, by the way. How did you manage the travel from the UK, rehearsal, and getting a little sleep before show time?
Thanks for coming. I didn't get too much sleep before the Baltimore show to be honest. We finished the Strictly final late on Saturday night and then went straight home to pack and flew first thing to Dublin for a layover where we caught up with my family in Dublin airport for a few hours. We flew all day Sunday and then learned the show Monday morning and did the show Monday night......and then I had a few hours sleep and we left Baltimore at 5 a.m. to fly to West Palm and drive to Boca Raton.
Take us through your numbers with Chelsie and how the show will change in Florida when you will be dancing with Sabrina Bryan, and Gleb Savchenko and Elena Samodanova will be joining you on stage.
We did four numbers - two group numbers and two solos with Chelsie and then I taught the dances to Sabrina, and we give that a bash for the week here. We have a group samba with the cast and then I dance a Foxtrot to “Baby It's Cold Outside” with Sab and a quick Q and A in Act One. Gleb and Elena dance a Cha Cha. In the second act we dance a Jive to “All I want For Christmas” and then we all finish with a group Jive after a quick dance lesson and Gleb and Elena do a Rumba. We come out at different parts of the show and talk to the audience then as well and that is followed by a meet and greet at the end.
Since this is an all new show that you saw for the first time Monday night, do you have any favorite numbers ? (by any of the cast)
No. I didn't get to see too much of the show the first night as I was still learning the running order and cues so I was pretty occupied for that first show but it’s great. It’s a strange one with Christmas music. I don't know if it’s just me but eventually Christmas music gets on my nerves when you hear the same songs over and over and over in and out of work but for some reason it doesn’t bother me with this show. There are your Christmas songs we all love and then there is a Motown medley of songs and the singers we have and live band are unreal so it’s a lot more enjoyable than I would have expected.
It was wonderful to see so many familiar faces in the show – Kiki, Brent, Oksana, CJ, Tony, Magda, Jon, Legacy, etc. It seems like a family. So many of you have performed together again and again over the years – the troupe, the Holland America cruises, BWAT, and other shows. What are your thoughts on the cast? You mentioned in our last interview that Jaymz is a good friend of yours and also the show’s choreographer, but we didn’t see him around this week. Is he there with you all in Florida?
The cast are great, yeah - no egos - just a great bunch of people who love spending time with each other. There is no competition here so everyone is just normal and gets on with their job. Nobody is trying to get one up on each other or going in the background to get ahead. It’s just a show we love performing and performing as a team. Jaymz isn't here yet but he may get here in a few days. He is always busy choreographing shows or performing and he has more DWTS cruises coming up so he is flat out.
The lead vocalists for this show – Von Smith and Vonzell Solomon – were nothing short of amazing (as were the band’s vocalists). Do you have a favorite (so far anyway) of any of their numbers?
No favourites, no. I love them all. Vonzell I hadn't seen in years as she used to sing onBurn The Floor with us way back and Von as always is just unreal. He has such a unique voice. The two work well together and obviously it’s the first time Gina [Gina Glocksen-Ruzicka] isn't singing on the show. Occasionally she would miss a show or two and a different singer would come in but it’s strange not seeing her face here but Vonzell is killing it here. She is great.
Speaking of music and musicians, you’ve occasionally done BWAT with an orchestra, but in this new show a band is on stage for every performance. How does that add to the show?
Everything live is always better, in my opinion, and this band adds so much to the show. Everyone is multi-talented and you can see as well as the musicians playing they are so involved in the dance numbers themselves, which is great to see. You can catch eyes with a guy in the band and you know you are performing together which is what you miss when it’s track. Jacob and Chantelle come out and start singing as well or sing while playing their instruments which I wasn't expecting. It’s just an all round better show in my opinion and being the holidays it just adds a different dimension to it.
On a SCD note – we loved seeing Aliona and Jay win this year and we were sad to hear that Aliona won’t be returning next year to Strictly. What are your thoughts on the series overall?
Yeah, Aliona just mic dropped it and dropped the bomb that she is leaving – haha. It’s gonna be a great loss to the show but she is a top girl. I have a lot of time for her and no doubt whatever she wants to do next will be a huge success. The season was grand, yeah, a little long to be honest but it was great. Starting in August and finishing late December is draining but the cast and crew this season were fun. The new cast members slotted in great and I’m glad they all did so well. I’m sure they will be around for a while and I’m sure a bunch of us will be having our eyes on new adventures and what not - you never really know when each season finishes. Sometimes you can't wait for the next to start and sometimes you couldn't think of anything worse but for now it’s just taking a break and resting up and enjoying the new year and seeing what you wanna do. The show is a machine and will keep going strong as long as the fans of the show want it to as it’s in your hands. The support is always immense.
Finally, Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to you and your family from all of us. Have a happy, healthy, and prosperous New Year.
Well, here is to the holidays. Have a great Christmas and New Year. Don't get caught up too much with presents and gifts this month. Most people just miss a phone call or a visit to say hello and a cuddle. Spend time and not money and enjoy time with your families. Take care.
In this Q and A Tristan talks about Strictly Come Dancing, the new Ballroom With A Twist Christmas show (Ballroom With A Twist-Mas), motivation, entertaiment vs. technique, patience and so much more. Enjoy!
In your two series of Strictly Come Dancing, have there been a lot of changes in the way things are done or in the way you do things or is the format mostly the same?
There aren't too many changes, no, from season to season to be honest - not that I have noticed too much anyway. Then again I'm still pretty new to Strictly. The format of the show is always the same. You kind of just get used to the way it runs and accept it for what it is. Some seasons you stay in. Some seasons you go home. I guess a lot of viewers get more used to you the longer you stick around which makes sense but then again a lot of people think it's my first season so what are you gonna do!? I have enjoyed myself on the show. That's the main thing for me each season and when that stops, I’ll stop unless they stop me.......and then I’ll have to stop – Ha!
We’ve been hearing a lot about Ballroom With a Twist-Mas coming up later this month. Do you know much about the cast and show yet or will that all happen once you get back to the states?
I know bits and bobs. I haven't seen the show yet. I think it's running at the minute but myself and Gleb and his wife Elena join for Christmas Week once Strictly finishes and then we will take a break for New Years. I know I'm gonna dance with Sabrina Bryan for the show but we will put it together once we see each other next week, and the main show itself is choreographed by Jaymz Tuaileva who is super and a good friend of mine so I'm really looking forward to it. The cast are a great, great bunch. I really like them all and can't wait to be in that group again!
Lots of professional dancers mention particular people who they find inspiring or someone or something that motivates them. Whether it’s someone in dance or someone or something completely unrelated, what or who do you find inspiring or perhaps motivates you to keep going? Or does that motivation come from within?
Motivation comes from everywhere I think. For me it's nobody in particular and people throughout my life at different times and places have inspired me and helped me out a lot but having respect in yourself and in what you do should push you on every day. No matter what you do and what you love, some days it just drives you up the wall and you need a break from it so I make sure to give my head a bit of peace when I start to have my head turned. I'm not competitive but I try to do my best and I set my own goals from day to day or week to week but you need to TRY and for me that's always the main motivation whether I get that from within or from investing in others.
You’ve often mentioned telling a story through dance and even said that entertainment value can sometimes take precedence over the technical aspect, but how do you know when to let the entertainment value or the story take over and when do you know that technique shouldn’t be sacrificed? Are there examples?
It always depends on the situation. Technique can obviously make things easier but time plays a big factor and then nerves do even more so. You can work on technique all week but it means nothing when you step on the floor and your focus is something completely different. My focus - all the time, every single time - is how my partner feels and what she needs to feel good about herself and confident of having a good time. Judging depends on a personal perspective so unless you are going to pick up on every single thing wrong and not mention anything right or vice versa, how is that going to help anything?! It's easy to look at a performance and say what is wrong but you don't know what has improved and/or how it started so I have to prioritize for our comfort. Some people improve a lot more but can't improve as quickly and getting slammed for and it doesn't help. We as teachers are the most critical so we judge on the work, and the judges and audience judge on performance.
You have the ability to deal with all kinds of personalities in your work. People often say you are extremely patient. Do you think the word ‘patient’ describes you?
I don't think it describes me, no, but it's an attribute I have and something I find hard to believe is such a big deal – ha. Why shouldn't we all be patient? We know something that others don't and should take the time to try and explain things. I'm not the quickest at picking things up so I'd lose my mind and my temper I think if somebody was annoying me and complaining about it. We should be trying to find ways to improve ourselves as teachers not just improving 'celebrities' as dancers for our own benefit. It annoys me when everyone makes it just about winning. It turns me off. I want us to do as good as we can and be the best we can. If that helps us win then it's a bonus but my job on the show is to teach and make the experience enjoyable for the partner. It's not my job just to win.
Do you remember the first dance lesson you ever taught? Do you remember the first dance lesson you ever took and who taught it?
No, I don't actually remember the first class I took or taught to be honest but for no particular reason. It's just that it was so long ago. I remember the first time I represented Ireland in the world championships and I remember when I decided to finish competing and dancing but that's about it. I'm sure I can remember more if I tried but those are the main ones that I don't forget. I enjoy teaching now and remember a lot of lessons and classes and different studios and the teachers who work there full time and the students who show up every day for their lessons. I think that is the heartbeat of the dancing world and for me the thing that keeps my interest in it at all.
In terms of pure fun, which dance has been the most enjoyable for you to dance since you’ve been on SCD?
I won't forget the Riverdance number. I loved it. We didn't do much in it but the experience was unreal for me a bit like the Lion King number we did last week was for Oti. It was just special and even though it was not about us we both felt quite proud to be involved in the numbers. And my Jive with Jenny was fun because that was a nightmare day, and we couldn't have been further from smiling all day before that - hahaha.
We enjoyed the pro group dance with the cast of Lion King. Did you have rehearsals together and have you seen the show?
Yeah, the Lion King was great. They all came in and rehearsed the number a few days before and then the night before. They were great. It was a pretty big deal apparently. It was the first collaboration they had done in twenty years but the cast were unreal. I have a lot of friends who have been in the show over the years and it was one of the first shows I ever saw on Broadway. I could watch that show over and over and especially now that we hit it off with this cast so much.
Any SCD updates you can share such as pro dances, etc.?
No updates, no. We have two weeks left so the celebs all come back in next week for the big finale number. I'd imagine we have another pro number and then we have two more pro numbers tomorrow night so it will be a busy week next week but fitting for the last show.
You mentioned on a clip that aired on It Takes Two that the pro group dance would be to “On the Floor”. Being that we seem to remember way too much, we’re curious if you remember dancing to that song in the first pro and troupe dance on DWTS in Season 12.
I knew I had danced to it before but I couldn't remember when. That must have been the first number with Peta, Teddy, Nicole, Oksana and Kiki. That was a great bunch there. I loved that Troupe. It's such a well known song and used a lot. Sometimes you associate it with a particular time and number but it will be a completely different experience this time around. Neil and Katya have choreographed this one again and it's all the eliminated pros so we will just see how it goes. ITT usually happens on the first day of rehearsals so they are talking to you as you are finding out things and then if you don't say the right things they cut you out - hahaha.
We were sorry to hear that you won’t be doing the tour this year but beyond your Ballroom With A Twist-mas shows, do you have teaching or performing plans for the new year or will you be getting some time off from what has been another very busy year?
I'm taking time off after Florida shows, yeah for sure. I haven't had a break in a fair bit of time so I'm gonna sit down and have a think about what I want to do with my life and just see where that takes me.
Since July, 2012, we have interviewed Tristan 66 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.