You have been so great about answering our questions, and now we are curious – if you could interview anyone from Dancing With the Stars (pro, celebrity, host, anyone working backstage), who would it be and why?
As far as interviews, I think it would be interesting to interview the script editors and field producers first off because they film everything and read word for word what happens every day through every rehearsal and decide what goes in packages. Basically between them and the executive producers the decision is made as to what an audience sees so I think people would enjoy their perspective. I know I would. The singers on the show are a big, big factor as well along with the band and stand-ins for tech runs. They have all been around just as long as the longest serving pros so their opinions on things would be good to hear and also see how they interact with everyone. I always think the loud people will always give their opinion but the quiet ones you actually wanna hear from!!
When working on a dance that involves special effects like the fog/smoke in the Paso Trio or the breaking mirror, does it require a lot of extra rehearsal to get that working just right? Along these same lines, have you ever had a performance involving these kinds of special effects that didn’t quite work out the way it did in rehearsal?
To a certain degree, yes it really depends on the particular prop. For the glass we basically got it before the dress rehearsal and were advised on how far from the shattering glass we were to stand. It smashed for us to see, and then the dress run was the first time we tried the dance with the effects. The fog and stuff not so much - if anything you get to rehearse it less. On the day of the show you get a tempo check of the music, a run through to the music, and one or two runs with full cameras depending on how difficult the camera angles are. If you have to check the smoke and fog and dance with it, it takes a wee bit longer so you may get less time if that makes sense. I’ve been lucky that I haven’t had any mishaps, but if I come up with an idea to use something and the producers think it may go wrong they cut it. Haha.
We’ve heard the superstition bad dress rehearsal/good show. Have you found that to ever be true? And have you ever had a great dress rehearsal and a not so great performance?
Yeah, that’s usually a rule of thumb that people believe in and to a certain degree it’s right, but often wrong. It has worked both ways in the past for me. If it doesn’t go how you want it to it’s very easy to shut down for people, and they forget how many times they did it right because of the one time they did it wrong! It’s the first time they might have done it in front of a bigger crowd and get an actual reaction to it, so it is daunting and depending on your character, it can really make you shut down. Sometimes when you have done it so well in dress run, you take the foot off the pedal a little (for some people). I think maybe for some celebrities they focus on their main competition for the week and can get to a place where they think ‘well at least if I’m better than that person I’ll be ok this week.' You can only direct people so far but at the end of the day, we are all adults and we make our own minds up about how we approach things.
In one of Mark Ballas’s post-show interviews, he mentioned that the music he and Aly had for Afro-Jazz was changed just before the live show. Has that ever happened to you? That’s not something you can really plan for, but how would you would make the adjustment and get your partner ready to perform?
I didn’t know that. I don’t know if his actual song changed or what happened but I know we can have problems sometimes with the music we dance to all week and then hear the actual show music. We rehearse to the actual track of each artist all week, and then on show day it’s the first time we dance to the orchestra and obviously all the instruments are different and the vocals sound different and that throws our celebs a lot so you have to just keep focus and comfort your partners to make them feel comfortable. We are used to it but our partners aren’t so you have to take that into consideration.
This season, we saw the addition of Afro-Jazz, Charleston, Hip Hop, Flamenco, and Lindy Hop as well. From a pro’s standpoint, how do you feel about adding these in (and with the choice being made by Twitter votes) and which would you prefer to have if you had these same choices in Season 17?
Em...I think there are good things and bad things about it. They are all great styles in their own right. Some are related to what we know, and some aren’t - for me personally anyway. I love to watch Flamenco, and I love doing the Lindy moves and Charleston. Hip Hop is not for me but I love seeing it done. A lot of my friends are super Hip Hop dancers. I still don’t know what Afro-Jazz is!!! I think the Twitter thing is what it is if it works. It worked, but everyone decided what they wanted to do so they told people what they wanted and then they ended up doing what they said they wanted. Haha! You tell me if it worked!!
Is there one particular dance (by any of the pros or teams) from your seasons on DWTS that stands out for you as being the standout performance?
Honestly I didn’t get to see the last two weeks of the show, I had to sort some things out but of what I saw I obviously loved the dance I got to do with Derek and Kellie but as a performance of everything - theme, music and feel good factor - I have to go with Val’s Trio with Zendaya and Gleb and his Side-By-Side with Maks and Anna. The Sherlock Holmes thing was super fun.
We missed you in the finale but it turned out to be a very emotional performance with Dorothy and Kristi taking the dance floor together. Would you tell us a little bit about how that all came together?
The finale number was cool, everything was up and down. Initially I didn’t know if Dorothy could dance as much as I knew she wanted to and because we don’t get to rehearse until the week before the show I couldn’t get an idea of what Dorothy could and couldn’t do after her injury so I asked if it was possible to get Kristi involved. I had planned on doing a tribute kind of dance with Kristi for Dorothy and then when I knew Kristi was in, we needed a second guy so I said I wanted Farbs. I was trying to buy as much time as possible because I had obviously broken my toe at this stage so I verbally - haha - taught the routine to Kristi on the Tuesday, and she went away then I got Henry in Thursday with Dorothy and put that together. Then I had a family emergency to take care of so I left the four of them to rehearse together while I flew out of the country. I saw the number and I thought they all did a great job and am glad that they all got a chance to enjoy the experience for four different reasons.
You have a lot of Ballroom With A Twist dates scheduled this summer. What is a typical day like on a show day? Sometimes there are cast changes, and if that happens, do you need a lot of rehearsal time to learn a dance with a new partner or do the adjustments come fairly easily after all these years of dancing and performing?
The show days of BWAT are fine. To be honest, all the rehearsals are done before we show up. Partners and cast change all the time but we have our numbers rehearsed together before we go. When we get to the venue we have some time to rehearse and block positions and stuff and then we rest, eat, stretch whatever it is and then go do the show. There are certain things as host that they make sure you say, but to be honest I like to talk so I just gab on when I get the microphone and if I forget something someone always reminds me. Anna is really good at that, and we just joke off each other!
There are lots of changes in the works for Season 17, and the most notable being the elimination of the Tuesday Results Show. How do you feel about this change, and how do you think it will affect the show overall?
It’s a shame that the Tuesday show is gone now, and it has a big,big impact on a lot of people there unfortunately. I think the results shows have been consistently been getting stronger and stronger. I wouldn’t argue that in a lot of people’s eyes it may have been more entertaining than the Monday show and it’s a credit to the amount of work and new ideas being put in by everyone involved. It will be interesting to see the Monday show now – it will such a different dynamic to it, but I think every decision that’s being made or at least attempted is to secure the best for the show and its longevity, so only time will tell on the new structure. Hopefully nobody gets to miss out and there is a place for everyone next season all across the board.
There has a been a lot of talk about the possibility of adding a fourth judge on DWTS. Do you think that is a good idea, and if it happens, what type of person do you think should be added? (another DWTS pro, a celebrity, a non-DWTS dancer, etc.)
There could be a fourth judge. I don’t know but I would imagine that if there was, it could only really work in the latter stages of the competition seeing as the show is already going to be more compressed. How you would fit another judge's comments or whatever into it I don’t know, but I guess it works in other countries, and if the producers think they can make it work and it helps, I don’t see why not. Maybe it could be ex-pros. Maybe it could just be a viewer of the week kind of thing. At the end of the day the show isn’t really aimed at dancers; it is aimed at homes with viewers so sometimes maybe a genuine reaction and comment from a viewer and not a dancer would be good for the show. It’s all about entertainment. One judge can stick to technique, one to costumes and sets, one for full production and one for pure entertainment - everyone wins!!
You’ve told us in the past about teaching Jive and Cha Cha, and one of our members asked about the Slow Waltz and Viennese Waltz. Is one more difficult than the other? What are the particular challenges involved?
There are a lot of differences I guess and I know that different people have struggled with each. Viennese is a constant revolve and some people find that tricky. Also the footwork can be a bit quicker as the tempo is slightly faster. Some with Slow Waltz find balancing quite difficult and lose control on rising and falling - silly technical things. It all really depends on the person.
So, we hear you will be throwing out the ceremonial first pitch at the New Britain Rock Cats game on June 13. We’re curious….how are your baseball skills? Have you had a chance to go to any Major League Baseball games since living in the USA (and do you have a favorite team)?
If throwing a pitch is anything like throwing down whiskey, I’ll be alright. Haha! No, baseball isn’t really my game. I’ve been to see the Red Sox a couple of times, and I saw the Braves play the Dodgers in Atlanta while I danced with Nancy. I think I like the atmosphere of the games more so than the game, but I think the difference is I never grew up with baseball. I only really got exposed to it when I came here so while kids here throw a ball and have their mitts, from an early age, I had a football, so I like that about the sport. I’m happy to go to the games. I know it’s a big deal in America and anything like that that brings families together and is seen like a father or mother to son or daughter kind of thing is something that we should all encourage and get involved in. I can play football, but Val tried to teach me basketball one time so if that’s anything to go by, I can’t see this pitch going too well. Haha!
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.