Tristan prefaced this brief interview with some lovely words about his Season 17 partner on Dancing With the Stars, the incredible Valerie Harper.
I’m delighted to be dancing with Valerie. I think everyone needs an inspiration from someone or something, and that’s the main thing for me. The message is much more important than the competition. People can look at it negatively or they can see the reality of the situation. I get an opportunity to help somebody live out one of their dreams and at the same time offer help in promoting an important message. The show needs a relevance for people to relate to, and I think Valerie is for sure an unbelievable and inspiring relevance. We all can feel unfortunate to have a person in our lives that is suffering from some sort of illness, and in a lot of cases it is cancer. It’s very easy to give up, but we also need to know that there are some people who refuse to, and we can get from them that nudge that we need to enjoy and live our lives as long as we can - whether we are sick or not!
Many of your supporters were fortunate enough to see you in Ballroom With A Twist this summer. What did you enjoy most about that experience? What do you miss most about it?
I really enjoyed Ballroom With A Twist and travelling around in a stage show is something I really miss doing. The whole experience was fun - hanging out with the other dancers and getting to know some people a little better. Then obviously the hosting side of the show is something I want to do more of. I miss the show but I am also lucky to have the opportunity to work on Season 17 which is gonna be good times!
Of all of the dances from Ballroom With A Twist, which was your favorite as a performer and which was your favorite performance by the rest of the cast?
I have a few. “Walking in Memphis” is one of my favourite songs so I loved listening to Gina sing that each night. I loved the “Gravity” number with Jonathon, Legacy and Randi Lynn. Randi is a great, great dancer; I could watch her all day. Then the final number - even as short as it is - is really the only time we are all onstage together and that is great craic. I usually end up just screaming and shouting at everyone to get the last bit of energy out. It’s great craic.
We’ve heard many of the DWTS pros say that when first teaching a dance to a celebrity partner, you often do it without music. Would you explain this process? How do you teach the steps, choreograph the routine, and then bring in the music and make it work?
With the show you usually get a week or so with your partner before you get Week 1 music so initially you start with no music or a CD of standard Ballroom and Latin music - no lyrics - so some choose to dance with no music. I usually take the first few days just to talk and get to know my partner while trying out small little combinations to gauge what we are working with. I think the main thing is to know your team so that’s my approach. I need to choreograph to music so I don’t start putting our actual dance together until I know what we are dancing to. In the meantime, it’s just trying out different things and seeing who my partner is.
Whether on DWTS or elsewhere, what is the most difficult or challenging part of teaching?
The only thing difficult or difference about DWTS and teaching outside of the show is the response - sometimes people just take what they see and make their assumptions on that! Bad teacher- bad choreographer- bad attitude whatever it might be - you only ever see one side so the hardest thing about teaching on DWTS is accepting that people are gonna have strong opinions about things they don’t know about! Haha! If that is important to you then you are lost. If you are happy knowing what you can do, and your partner is happy knowing you are doing best for them, then there are no difficulties, only opinions.
What is it like for the pros from the time the cast is announced until the show premieres? Is it ever difficult to balance rehearsals with your celebrity along with the other demands on your time by the press, pro rehearsals, etc.?
You will always come into difficulties with schedules as some celebs are working and some aren’t; some live in town, some live out so not everybody can be in the same place at the same time. This season is different because we all have a set amount of hours whereas before you could dance until you drop. It will help some people, and it will hinder others but that’s the way it is. We will work a new schedule this season set by the show so we are really waiting to see how it goes. Every day as a pro you should be thinking of ways to make something better. You could have the best routine ever and the best track record ever but if it doesn’t suit the person you dance with, what can you do?! I prefer to work than talk and do publicity, but I get it that it’s a big part of what we do so you have to make time for that. But also we are here to dance so the majority of the time you just have to prioritize!
Another great interview. Thank you, Tristan.
Since July, 2012, we have interviewed Tristan 67 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.