This interview was posted early in Season 15 of Dancing With the Stars.
Obviously your season with Pamela ended much sooner than you would have liked, but sometimes things happen for a reason. What is something that you have learned from this experience?
There is a lot to be learned from every situation. What I take from this season is that sometimes your first story is your last, and you have to fully commit to what you are doing, and I think that is what we did. We had a particular angle that we wanted to go with our dance and although it may not have fit into this particular situation (the show), it was still something we wanted to do and something we wanted to tell. People have suggested that it was uncomfortable to watch at times, but again that is a situation that occurred for this particular person - it wasn’t nice,but it happened. A fake slap, a throw around, a rough interaction, a love-hate, sensitive yet volatile relationship. People say I didn’t look happy and was angry but that was the character that I played in that scenario. Opinions aren’t facts and that is why I respect people’s views on what we did; the performance didn’t suit the occasion but it was a story we wanted to tell regardless. If the competition and trophy were the goal, then we would have gone a different route but this was a story that Pam didn’t get to tell her first go around so that was what was most important. It still takes a lot of guts to perform something when you haven’t put the time in, and technique was limited as was our time. We didn’t wanna leave but the experience will stay with me, and although the result was disappointing I still thoroughly enjoyed myself. My role, whether a week or ten weeks, was to help someone learn and enjoy themselves, and I can be proud that I tried.
Continuing along those same lines, we all loved your “You Know I’m No Good” Cha Cha and the very emotional story that you told so well. Is it difficult to find the balance between creating the story with appropriate choreography and just doing what you think everyone wants to see?
Definitely there is a balance in finding what people want to see and staying true to what you are doing. We had a story that didn’t play out how we wanted it to, but all you can do is try. We weren’t as good as everyone else but I enjoyed taking a different route, and I’m glad that we went a different route. Another week it may have been received differently, but it wasn’t to be this time around. As a whole it didn’t come across great, but Carrie Anne felt as a performance it told a lot and that’s what we wanted to do - not in relation to what anybody else did but to what we wanted. I’m sorry the experience didn’t last longer as we had a lot of ideas and stories that we will try tell in our own time.
In a week where teams on DWTS are choosing a previous performance to re-create, is there one dance that stands out in your mind that you would like to bring back and add your own spin to?
There were a few songs that have been used before that I’d have liked to use but I think it’s difficult to compare to what it was before if that makes sense. These are new ideas that people are gonna try to do; if it’s a variation of what’s been done, what’s the point? I think all the performances are gonna be different than before so they need to be viewed as new dances and not compared to the previous ones because they are all new perspectives. If people were gonna do the same routines as before it’s easier to judge, but they aren’t, so to me it’s just like any other week that I’m looking forward to.
You have danced so many wonderful pro dances in your seasons on Dancing With the Stars. Do you have a personal favorite?
I don’t have any favourites to be honest. I enjoyed them all! I love dancing with Kym and Peta so those performances stand out a bit, and Karina when we did our waltz…. I’d have liked that to have been longer but I think those are my favourite dances - Waltzes and Rumbas. I like dancing to other people’s choreography because the dancers on the show are so talented and have different styles to what I’m used to so learning from them is great.
Similarly, in your seasons as a pro, you have choreographed some amazing dances with Nancy, Gladys, and Pamela that tell some incredible stories. Of all the dances you have choreographed for your celebrity partners, do you have a few that stand out as favorites?
I enjoyed my Tango with Nancy because she enjoyed it so much, and Gladys looked so happy doing her Cha Cha that it’s hard to not enjoy yourself. I loved the Rumba because it was so good to have the Temptations sing and the occasion itself for me was unreal. I got to sing in rehearsals with Gladys and Bubba that week so I’ll remember that one, and I really enjoyed how different our Cha Cha with Pamela was. The time spent with my partners has been the most enjoyable times for me!
What do you see as some of the challenges of being a pro on Dancing With the Stars?
The most challenging part as a pro is the whole process of everything. There is so much that goes into the show and what you get judged on is the final product. It’s the way of the world; all your work is judged on the dance and the video packages which don’t always tell the full story. So once you can walk away and say that you met somebody and made them smile each day even once - that is the most rewarding part. The criticisms and strong opinions of others are just what you deal with. HaHa! Ideas sometimes need to be diluted to fit into what’s needed and that can be frustrating, but it’s a small price to pay for the enjoyment I get out of doing it.
I'm sure you have aspirations and goals beyond Dancing With the Stars, and you've mentioned Broadway a couple of times. Do you have favorite Broadway shows that you especially enjoy, and are there any potential roles that intrigue you?
I love Broadway, yeah, and I would love to do something in the future. Jersey Boys is my favourite show and I love Once. I don’t necessarily see a role in them for me although I’d love to give it a go. I need to understand though that there are people who have dedicated all their lives to being in those and other Broadway shows, so it would be a disservice to those people to just waltz in and take a role because I may have had more coverage than them. I think theatre and film and tv are very tough to do, and I think we need to appreciate all the work that people go through to get that opportunity. There are so many talented people in every walk of life that don’t get to showcase their talents. My interests come from things that intrigue people and things that people get enjoyment out of doing regardless of the reviews and accolades - those are the people who inspire me.
Music is a huge part of your life, and we hear that you love all kinds of music. What groups and/or performers are your favorites and what is on your current playlist?
I love traditional music - particularly Irish but I don’t know it all and get stumped when people sometimes ask me about artists who I probably should know but don’t - ha! I have a very eclectic taste in music. I like it all because I appreciate the art. I am super unco when it comes to instruments but I’d love to be able to play. I just love to hear people play and can’t praise singer-songwriters enough. I love lyrics and songs more than musicians. No matter who your favourite singer or band is they will always have some song that you just don’t like for whatever reason, but it doesn’t make them any worse. It’s the same as us dancers - not everyone will enjoy what you do all the time.
What advice would you give to someone who is aspiring to be a professional dancer?
I’m not really one for giving advice to people, but no matter what it is you do, love it and give it your all. Don’t be afraid to try something new because it’s the people who aren’t afraid to try that get the rewards or sometimes it just inspires others to. Your mind is your best weapon so use it.
Do you have any interest in ever opening your own studio? If so, where do you see it happening?
I’d like to own a studio, I guess at some stage. I enjoy teaching, but I want to experience and explore a lot of other things while I can. I’m not done moving around yet, but I’m lucky enough to get a chance to teach in other studios at the minute, so it works for me.
You are involved with a wonderful charity, Grassroot Soccer, and your supporters have happily endorsed your work with DublinDown330 to help such a great cause. How did you become involved with this charity, and what are your plans going forward?
I was approached to be a part of this great charity and enjoy giving as much as I can to it. I like to help where I can, and if I can raise money for people by doing something I enjoy then it’s a no brainer. I can’t help with every charity but this was one that gave me an opportunity so I’m going with it. Giving a lesson here and there and setting up events to meet people and answer a few questions is very little to do for the donations that this cause collects and how much it helps.
We are all very excited about your fund-raiser in New Jersey in January. Is there anything you would like to say to all of us who plan to attend (or thinking about attending)?
Well, just to the people who plan on attending, thank you. You are donating to a great cause and the people benefitting from it are very appreciative as am I. All proceeds go to the charity so every little helps and remember that you are playing a big part in helping a lot of people.
Lots of people on the site ask about your knee. How is the recovery going?
My knee is ok. I still have a lot of pain in it but I’m still working on getting better. It’s just part and parcel of being a dancer, I guess. There are people in a worse off situation then me so I’ll keep going. If I can walk, I can dance - ice goes along long way. HaHa!
What are your plans for the DWTS off-season? Last spring and summer you were busy with DWTS Las Vegas along with many special appearances. Should we expect more of the same this winter?
My plans change daily to be honest. I have a few projects I’m working on and hopefully that will open doors for other things. I have a few lessons to teach and a contest winner to go visit and teach, and then I look forward to going home for a wee bit and seeing my family and friends - hopefully fit in a holiday. I’m open to whatever may happen I live day to day and see what comes up.
Any words of wisdom for us?
Everyday is the start of something special. Every action causes a reaction so you have two choices.
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.