Congratulations on getting through to Week 8. It’s a new week, a new dance. Do you have any particular goals ahead or something you really want to work on specifically as you introduce a new dance and new choreography?
To be honest it’s just about forgetting last week and pushing on with a new week. In terms of choreography, I know in my head by this stage what I want to do week to week, however, that all changes when we get into studio and try and physically do it. Time can be a big factor. Being comfortable doing certain things can sway you, and I’ve found that confidence only lasts as long as things get easier. Sometimes you can come in full of beans ready to go and then when it's tough to pick up, you can get drained straight away if not in the right frame of mind. So you compromise. I’d like to have a fun Samba. Generally the Latin dances have been ones Jamelia really enjoys so I’m optimistic going into Week 8 but certainly not complacent. I think to a degree we rode our luck last week and probably got more generous results than we deserved so we are on a mission to justify our inclusion this week.
In the past you have mentioned that you generally leave the costume decisions up to the costume department, but there have been so many compliments about Jamelia’s bold red Viennese Waltz dress that we had to ask. Did you have any input into the color/style choice for that? Also, since we’re nosy, we noticed in some pictures from this week that you had on a pin striped jacket that matched the pants but you danced without the jacket. Any particular reason?
No, I don't have any input. I leave that part to the costume department because that’s what they do best. I’d imagine there are styles and colours that Jamelia likes and probably suits so I’m sure that was a conversation that happened at the beginning but I wear what I’m told although the costume department are great with me. They know I don't like sparkles and see through and stuff like that but they are at the hands of producers as well who make most of the decisions and then we get on with it. The jacket was really just for the walk down. When you have a suit on the show it needs to be cut in a way that you can dance in it, whereas if you have a normal suit on when you lift your arms a certain height the suit folds at the chest or lifts away from your body. The pin stripe was a normal suit from the shop as opposed to a dance suit so they wanted the look for walk down and that’s it - almost like a stunt jacket in films. I read this article somewhere and never thought about it before that they have suits for close up shots, for wide angle shots, and for stunts. I guess it’s the same for Bond that it is for dancers – haha.
Could you take us through a typical (?) week? With the results show airing on Sunday but filmed on Saturday, and then It Takes Two, Jamelia’s schedule, your schedule, and travel back and forth to Birmingham, how do you plan rehearsals, costume fittings, etc.?
Unfortunately we don't have a typical week. It constantly changes and sometimes on the daily. Sunday is the day when we usually try to choreograph the next routine or at least give it a skeleton frame. Monday morning we rehearse the pro number from 9- 12 at the studio where we film the live show and then you head off wherever for your celeb rehearsal. If you are in the bottom two or the dance off you go on Monday to film It Takes Two in London and if not, I go get the train to Birmingham. There are a few hours blocked out for your VT a week so the day changes depending on what they want to do video wise and then you have to work around that - if you are lucky enough to have an open schedule. Jamelia rehearses when the kids are in school or if we are in London after she records Loose Women - whichever morning it is. We rehearse when we can but again you have to prioritize your life, and I can’t demand hours and hours when 'real life' needs attention. All I can demand is effort and respect for my work and time. We all go into the studio Friday to camera block for the first time so we can't rehearse on Friday. We camera block our own number and the pro number and then we see costumes for the first time. Saturday is pretty much the same. We rehearse with the band, maybe do some press, dress rehearsal and then the live show.
Do you and Jamelia ever go back and look at your routines on video and point out things that were strong and things that might need work in the future?
If we need to we will. I try to film us in rehearsals, and we watch that back for reference as the days pass. I think we are quite reflective in general but you have to focus on the positives of what you improved on and take the negatives as work in progress. The live show is a critique on a performance and I get that but my view has to be a critique on a week’s work so that’s why I incorporate the judges’ comments (which I like to think echoes what I try and teach all week) into our look back. After the performance isn't the time to point out what went right or wrong. That’s the time to enjoy the week and then you tweak things for the dance off or you wait until you have watched it back and slept on it. Sometimes the on-screen picture you see isn't the reality of what happened. The camera missed the feet or was too close or was a single shot - when I’d have preferred a full floor shot. That’s why we have to focus on ourselves. You just have to entertain and accept that if people don't like it they will let you know about it -probably harshly - but then if people like it they will rave again probably a bit generously – haha. I have to keep us happy but keep us in reality check. Unfortunately dancing isn't a sport where if you run faster or longer you will win. It’s a competition based on opinions and the majority opinion wins. It seems like a simple thing to just say 'they are rubbish' or 'they need to go home.' 'Why is he still here?' 'She is boring,' 'she is this', 'he is that'! The fact is whether people are great or still improving they are giving up their time and putting in all the effort they can so it’s not fair to judge them against somebody else. You have to judge them on themselves - if they are getting better or not - because all they are trying to do is entertain as well.
You have said in earlier interviews that not only is it important for a pro to teach but it equally important to be willing to learn. What are some things you have learned this year on Strictly and from Jamelia?
You learn a lot. Each time you do a season you learn how to teach a new personality. You find new ways to accomplish things that at some stages feel like they aren't going to come together. You learn how to stay calm, you learn how to talk to people, you learn how to respect people, and you learn about other cultures and homes and families. It’s fascinating. The show is just the show and that’s what people see, but there is much more involved that you don't. I was intrigued to meet Jamelia because there was such a strong opinion about her before the show started, but I really, really like her. That doesn’t mean that everything she does is great and everything she says is right but when you respect people you accept that they have different opinions on things and you just deal with it. Agree to disagree and get on with your life. You realize that manipulation of any situation is just that, and you will never really know the full story unless you are involved. The media lives off Strictly and its 'dramas' and 'scandals’. Here it’s unreal. Half the stuff you read, but because you read it all, you think it’s true. So I just say 'cool- do what you want and say what you want’. I know the real story and I know me so I’ll be alright! You can't say and do things so people will like you. Sometimes it’s the easiest thing to do but at the end of the day you have to be yourself and reaffirming that by being around people who are or people who aren't is the best thing you can learn.
Finally, you have mentioned previously that you like that we occasionally interview other dancers and performers for the website. I’m not sure if you’re aware of this or not, but we have an interview with pro dancer Neil Jones in progress. Had you ever met or worked with Neil before this year’s Strictly?
Yeah, I knew Neil when we were kids but hadn't seen him in a long, long time. I’m pretty sure you will all get to know him a lot better soon enough. I don't think it will be too long before he is on the show competing. I think it’s important for the show to have more British dancers on, and there are a lot of them here who I’m sure the public would love.
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.