In just a few days, Tristan will be back on Holland America’s Dancing With the Stars: At Sea. Immediately after that, he will head to the Fallsview Casino Resort in Niagara Falls, Canada where he will headline Dance Temptation along with Peta Murgatroyd. After that? Tristan will be in London for Strictly Come Dancing where he will be a competing pro for the 2014 season. We were lucky to catch up with Tristan one more time before his travels begin again.
In this interview, Tristan refers to current and past DWTS pros Sharna Burgess, Sasha Farber, Peta Murgatroyd, Emma Slater, and Damian Whitewood and Strictly Come Dancing pros Natalie Lowe, Robin Windsor, Kevin Clifton, Joanne Clifton, Karen Hauer, Janette Manrara, Pasha Kovalev, Aljaž Skorjanec, Artem Chigvinstev, Anya Garnis, Erin Boag and Anton du Beke – many of the dancers that he has crossed paths with during his career.
After two years of interviews with us, you’ve answered lots of questions and have had lots of changes in your life. You’ve always seemed like an “in the moment” kind of guy who doesn’t live in the past. That being said, has there ever been a decision or move that you looked back on and wondered if you could have done things differently?
No. To be honest there is nothing I can do about the things that I’ve done so there is no point in worrying about it. Sometimes your perspective on some things is way off anyway at different times so what seems like a mistake at one time is the best thing you could have done and sure, no matter what you do it leads to where you are now. That’s the only decision you have to make. Let it ride or change. I think I’m doing alright at the minute – ha!
Way back in our first interview in July 2012, you talked briefly about your Burn the Floor days and the time with Simply Ballroom. Would you share more about those experiences? How long were you with each, what was special/unique about each, and who are a few of the people you performed with?
I contacted Burn The Floor when I first tried to get back into dancing in my late teens but they had just cast their 'last tour' so there was no place. The guy I contacted about BTF called me a few weeks later with an offer to do Simply Ballroom. Sharna and her partner Patrick had just left Simply to go do BTF so I kind of replaced them and Emma was already on that show so I done that for a few months in England. On some shows we had Anton and Erin headline a few. Then BTF started a new tour with two companies and the one I joined had Dame, Sasha, Peta, Tobias (DWTS- Sweden/Denmark/Norway), Ash-Leigh and Gosper (DWTS Australia). Nat and Robin were in the other company in Sydney that lasted for three months then back to Simply in Vegas where I rehearsed with BTF in the day and done my Strictly show at night. Then we did a few world tours with BTF again and I blew my knee out so I had a knee op in Melbourne. Then I went to Boston to teach for a year before going back to BTF again in Reno and then another world tour. Kevin was in the cast so I stayed with him and Jo in Grimsby. After that I got dropped from the show in San Francisco so I stayed and learned how to operate the spotlights and sold the merchandise front of house. After a few months Robin broke his toe or hurt his foot so I covered the show for a few numbers. After a few months I left to do Dirty Dancing in London for a year and when BTF came to London I joined that cast again for six months because Robin and Artem were leaving to join Strictly. I danced then with Karen and Janette. Aljaz, Pasha, and Anya were there then as well. Then I was asked to do DWTS. You notice that BTF had their last cast maybe six years ago and it is still going strong now - haha. I have been sacked and dropped from so many shows it’s unreal. Haha!
In an early interview you addressed the issue of making your dance partner’s journey as enjoyable as possible. You said this: “I want my partner, whether they are one of the other professionals or ladies competing on the show to feel as comfortable as possible, trying to take all the stress out of the situation and have as much fun as possible at the same time. That can sometimes conflict with what people want to see and 'expect' from us.” How do you make that happen? How do you go about putting her at ease and creating a balance?
Well, you just can't take it all too seriously. It’s an entertainment show and that’s what it comes down to. You have to keep reminding people of why they wanted to learn it, and I try to teach in a way that relates to things that people feel comfortable doing so when you remove the fear of doing something you don't know how to and replace it with things you do then everything is easier and more fun to do. We are hardly saving lives, you know. We work hard to entertain people who follow the show so good or bad, right or wrong, people like it or don't like it. When you are trying to do something you want to learn how to do and entertain 'strangers' or friends at the same time, then where is the stress? Even if you are shocking, who cares? Work hard and learn how to have a sense of humor about yourself!
Artists tend to have big imaginations and think outside the box. How about you? What gets your creative juices flowing? What about when you were a child? Did you have a big imagination?
I don't really have anything - haha! Sometimes things come to me but sometimes they don't and that is hard to understand sometimes for me and for others but there is a difference in trying to portray stories and then trying to show choreography and all that’s in-between. Sometimes my ideas come from experiences but sometimes they come from interpreting things differently - like when you hear a story and read something and completely hear and think something completely different to the next guy!! I don't 'think like a dancer' because I’m not a 'dancer'. I’m just someone who likes to dance and knows how to teach it the way I understand it. We all come from different places and have all learned different ways so you just follow your own path and give information. If people don't agree then that’s cool. They go do it the way they want. I don't remember what I was like as a kid - I just laughed and talked a lot.....probably too much bordering dumb – hahaha.
If you had complete creative control and could choose any five dances to perform (either on SCD or in a show), what would those dances be – 1-5?
As you move on to Strictly Come Dancing after 3 years and 6 seasons on Dancing With the Stars, would you share one special memory from each of those six seasons? (a performance, interview, rehearsal, someone you met or danced for, etc.)
First season was great fun with a great bunch - Kiki, Nicole, Teddy, Oksana and Peta. We had great craic then and randomly - Hanson – haha!
Nancy was great fun as well so just fighting every week was actually very entertaining for me. It was all real but we got on great and that almost led it all to being a bit of a parody after that. I have no problem with drama when it's natural, as annoying as it is, and that was the last drama I enjoyed!!!
Meeting all the Motown legends and getting to spend time with Gladys was the best memory. I got to sing with Gladys, Bubba and The Temptations. I got to meet Kiss that season as well which was bittersweet. Let’s say the majority of the band are really really cool!
Joey Fatone is one of the coolest guys I know. We had some good nights out. I did no dancing that season! Haha!
Dorothy got injured so I felt terrible for her but bar that Victor was cool. We hang out and D.L is a great guy. I have a lot of time for him - he got a raw deal a bit on the show.
I had a great time with Valerie so I didn't really care too much about the competition. It was just keeping happy and enjoying the experience. Everyone that season was really cool. I remember most thinking that was a season where everyone was really comfortable with who they were. There was no pretense from anyone, and that is a great place to be. It was really fun and it was the most enjoyable all round.
We know you love to laugh. What makes you laugh these days?
Funny things........... I still love when people are in uncomfortable situations or if they 'get struck'.
Since we’ve gotten to know you a little bit, we’ve noticed how strongly you support various causes and how you’ve been able to help get the word out. Is there a particular charity or cause that you are involved with currently that we could mention or help spread the word about? Or do you have a message about the importance of being involved on some level?
Merryn [Lacy] is still the biggest foundation I’m involved with. Unfortunately that is one that we keep having to dig deep for but she is such a great kid and deserves it all. I love how my town has come together so much over it and of course so proud of Merryn for her fight. I am not involved in too many foundations really although I try to help where I can and get the word out as much as possible. It does do my nuts in though when people don't follow through on what they promote.
[For more on how to help, links are provided at the end of this interview.]
Obviously the choice of music is a big part of any performance that you do with your pro or celebrity partner, but what do you do when you feel like the music just doesn’t work? How do you work around it?
It’s difficult for sure and there is no right or wrong but I think if the music doesn’t work and there is nothing you can do about it, you dance to the music and you take the dance’s characteristic and then that’s that. Dancing is expressing yourself to music so that's what you do. If you just need to express a dance, then you use the dance’s characteristics and then you find the balance.
As a teacher, you see different strengths and weaknesses from each student, but in terms of new dancers, is there one thing that most struggle with? Along these same lines, is there a particular move, dance, or step that surprises you when an inexperienced student does it well?
Usually the major obstacle is somebody’s confidence or opinions standing in their way. There are certain people (not everyone) who act like somebody else and find it hard to let go and just be themselves. When you are so afraid of what others think you forget what you think and it becomes more difficult. Confidence or carefree go a long way when dancing. Just remember what it’s like dancing in the mirror –haha - you are the best and you don't care if you can translate that to time in front of people who are on a winner. STEPS ARE STEPS!!!
If you could trade places with one person (past or present) for a day, who would it be and why?
We know you play football, but if you had the time and inclination to learn a new sport and become proficient at it, what would it be? Growing up in Ireland, did you play other sports besides football?
I’d like to be a decent boxer. I’ve done some before but I’d love to be good at it or martial arts would be pretty cool. I played Gaelic Football and Hurling in school - they are the best sports. I’m getting more into Rugby but only when Ireland play really.
You’ve been in Los Angeles for a while now. What (if anything) will you miss about it when you are in London?
I will miss wishing I was closer to home!! I’ll miss the sun a little bit but I like the trade.
Will little Pike be packing up and moving to London too or will he be enjoying the California lifestyle just a bit longer?
Yeah - Pikey is coming for sure. He has all his shots and is getting the passport now. (How stupid is that!!) He is a happy dog so he is gonna love it.
Lots of Strictly Come Dancing fans in the UK are asking us about you but since you’re the expert, how about a couple of sentences describing yourself?
What are you supposed to say about yourself??!! I’m grand I don't take myself too serious. I get annoyed by simple things like everyone else. I don't pretend to be anyone else. I like dancing but I like other things more. I love teaching and I am normal—I’m dying to see midweek championship games. Haha!
More nosy stuff:
Around the house, how good of a handyman are you? (Or should we just call a plumber, electrician, or carpenter?)
I can fix most things around the house but I’m pretty good at breaking them as well. I have electrocuted myself more times than I would have liked to and I’m pretty handy in the garden. I love painting the house and cleaning the garage.
Favorite flavor of ice cream
Ever surfed? How did that go?
Yeah, last Christmas in Sydney. I wasn't the best but I loved it so I’m gonna take it up when we get back. It’s great craic.
Ever played tennis, golf, or gone bowling? Results?
I like tennis but I have a terrible serve. I like to hit hard and go home – haha. Bowling is the best but I get hard shots and miss easy shots so that means I’m no good! I can be real good or real bad. Golf is the most boring game I have ever played.....tried to play! I don't get why people like it so much but it’s not for me....no I’m actually bored talking about golf.
For more information on the Merryn Lacy Fund:
Thanks to Tristan for another great interview! Since our first on July 17, 2012, Tristan has answered hundreds of your questions, and we can't thank him enough. We'll be catching up with him when he's in London. Until then, thank you, Tristan!