We have interviewed Tristan many times since July, 2012, and each question and answer session is a treat. With Tristan's move to Strictly Come Dancing this year we have been receiving lots more questions, and this week he answered many of them - some from longtime fans, some from new supporters, some from people who use this website regularly. We hope you enjoy the latest in this series of interviews with our favorite professional dancer.
Great pro dance to “Counting Stars.” Aliona tweeted that you will be dancing this week with her (along with Kevin Clifton and Karen Hauer). Any teasers for us about that?
I’m not too sure if the musical act is a secret or not so probably best not saying but yeah, the four of us will do a wee routine probably on the results show Sunday - a Jive. Myself and Aliona get on great so it should be fun to have a dance together.
Let’s suppose that you were to appear on Mrs. Brown’s Boys as a guest star. What kind of character would you like to play?
Whatever character I guess the director wanted me to play – haha. The show is so much about the family that it’s hard to integrate. I’d imagine knowing Brendan though he'd make me someone’s boyfriend in it. Haha.
You mentioned on It Takes Two that when the pros forget the steps or make mistakes you have enough experience to cover it up. Okay, we’re curious. What exactly do you do to cover up mistakes?
I guess we have a way of reacting to what’s happening if we forget what we are meant to do. I know that’s how I try to cover it. We know our character and our intent is a lot clearer so we have a way of jumping back in without the complete blank and panic. I lose what I’m supposed to do all the time - usually if it’s something I don't feel comfortable doing so I change it to something I want to do – haha. I’ve blanked loads of times on choreography.
You said in the last interview that even though the Foxtrot with Jenny might have been your favorite because she enjoyed it the most, the music was not something you would have chosen. If you could have picked the music for Movie Week, what song might you have chosen? (You mentioned on Twitter “Jump In the Line” from Bettlejuice, a song Steve and Ola used in Week 4.)
Yeah, I wanted “Jump In The Line.” I love that song but that’s the way it goes and I also suggested something from The Commitments - “Mustang Sally.” I think we would have done that the following week if we had stuck around. Movie Week can be great but there are issues with specific looks that can't be identical to the movie or moves that you wanna put in but can't. Also they need songs that are really well known which I get but I usually want to do something that people don't know so well - like I wanted to do “Dance Magic Dance” from The Labyrinth or the theme song from Willow.
You’ve always told us how much you enjoy traveling but would you ever want to do another show such as Burn the Floor where you were on the road almost constantly? Similarly, you enjoyed your time as Ballroom Dance Captain in Dirty Dancing and have appeared in many other productions that tell a story – Dance Temptation included. Any interest in performing again in dance-themed shows such as Ballroom With A Twist (or a different production) in the short or long-term?
I think touring has passed to be honest. I don't mind a short tour for a few weeks but I wouldn't like to be away from my wife and dog for too long. I’m not sure what is happening yet with the Strictly tour but that won't be bad because we can travel together but I don't think a tour for a few months or the guts of a year like it used to be would suit me anymore. I love doing different shows and always want to try a new one but my priorities have changed a lot more now and my responsibilities. I’ve been very lucky with the productions I have been a part of so far and would not rule anything out but a long stint on the road isn't really for me anymore.
You have mentioned a few times how you always like to tell a story when creating a dance for you and your celebrity partner. Which of your DWTS or SCD performances do you think told the best story?
I don’t know. I don't really remember too many of them to be honest. Sometimes the story for me is in the teaching of it or the intent of certain steps more than the routine start to finish although I try to do that as best I can. You can lose a good story when you HAVE to incorporate certain things to a routine so I try to have an internal monologue between myself and my partner.
You once told us the story about when you were a child you would go with your grandparents to competitions on Sundays and then on the way home you would “look directly into the street lights on the way home and with my motion sickness I was set” in order to “chuck a sicky” to avoid school on Monday. Any other clever ways you thought of to get out of doing something you didn’t want to do?
No, not really. I have got really good at letting people know what I do and don't want to do. Honesty is the best policy – haha - "My arse I’m doing that" is usually my go to!!
If you could pick any of the SCD celebrities and do an in-depth interview, which celebrity would you choose?
I don't really know. I think most of the celebrities on Strictly are pretty open about themselves here. I’ve started over the last few seasons talking to people and knowing what they want people to know and what they don't and I don't like pushing those buttons because I’m the same. There are certain things people don't want general public to know about them and I respect that. Interviews have a way sometimes of being very structured to me. I just like conversations with people.
You mentioned that you like the It Takes Two format and chatting with Zoe Ball. Let’s suppose you are doing the talking and could create your own segment on ITT – what would you do it on or what would you talk about?
I’d like to do something like “Kids Say the Funniest Things.” I used to love that show - they don't care about agendas. They know why they like things, why they hate things and don't worry about how to word it. I think that would be great craic. You get comedy gold from kids.
We are thinking that there must be Tristan MacManus blooper reel in the works. If you were creating such an entertaining piece of video, what events/things would you include?
They done a great one of Jenny on ITT with all her language so I’d imagine it would probably go a bit like that and then my faces with some production suggestions for things that I’m not going into (both in America and UK). I’m not happy and full of energy jumping around all the time like the tv shows suggest all dancers are so I’d imagine a lot of messing around and real reactions to ridiculousness – haha.
When you were on DWTS you told us about your great respect for those who worked behind the scenes. Similarly, at Strictly who of those working behind the scenes has particularly impressed you?
Yeah, we have a great crew here - props team, the band, stage managers, security, and the runners who take care of the celebs and dancers are on top of everything. Great hair/makeup department, costume department are all sound. It really is a great crowd.
We noticed that on DWTS there were a lot of injuries in training and performances, and we could be wrong but there seem to be less on Strictly. Are there limits on training hours, or do the teams practice as needed, whenever they can schedule it?
It could be just coincidence, I don't know. I still get injuries and I know a few others have as well. I guess it’s just the luck of the draw. There aren't really any caps on rehearsals that I know of – it’s just do as much as you can or as little as you need. Maybe the fact that there are more rules here and it’s more flashy (maybe that’s not the right word) in America. There are a lot more styles I’m not familiar with in the US but injuries are part of anything physical and dancing for sure is a lot more physical than people expect it to be. Sometimes it’s just that people have pre-existing injuries that keep niggling away. I’ve had dodgy knees which affect my ankles and hips so now and again I’ll get a strain that I don't need and then I compensate until I have time to treat it which causes other injuries.
A year or so ago, you mentioned that with a couple of exceptions, you’ve never been a huge fan of theme weeks or props used in excess. Has that changed?
No - I think theme weeks can be fun if they are your own but not when its somebody's else's idea you are trying to fit into. That’s just frustrating. I think props are sometimes a good idea but sometimes it’s for the sake of having them. I don't see a problem in using them for a purpose but sometimes somebody has to justify having them there so they get more use than they should.
One Strictly fan was curious about how you go about teaching someone to dance in such a short time. For example, do you teach some basics first or go straight into choreography? Do your celebrity partners ever take notes or do they rely on memory alone? At what stage do you start dancing the routine together as if performing it on the show?
Everyone is different so you have to adjust in relation to who you teach. Generally the first few rehearsals you want to get a feel for what gets a reaction and what way your partner learns - maybe basics, maybe just movements, maybe just looking for a reaction to information. As the weeks go on you see a different partner coming out as the confidence builds - same as when you do anything new for a period of time you start to get habits and you start picking things up differently. More pennies drop and you start finding your own groove and interpretations. You can literally start 'performing' the number the first day. It really just depends on the person.
Now that you're no longer training with Jenny during the week, does the BBC give you other things to do or do you get down time to relax?
I’m catching up on a lot of things so there is always something to do. Sometimes you are more busy that when you were in the show! Maybe a little more free time but also a lot more waiting around on show and rehearsal days.
Of the Strictly performances this season (those by the other pros with their celebrities) is there a particular dance that stands out for you?
No, not really. I like to watch the celebrities after they finish their dances and see their reaction to it more than the dance itself. When the show gets into the swing it’s very easy for people to forget that everyone is still a beginner and then you see the change from 'I want to have fun' to 'I have to be better than them'. The important thing for me is how they feel afterwards before the comments and the points - just when they are happy to have done it in the first place!
What happens if you are in the training rooms while cameras are running and something happens that's embarrassing to a celebrity or pro? Is there any chance of that footage not being used or does everything belong to the show?
I don't really know. I guess ITT gets a lot of the footage so they can use it and sometimes the show itself uses clips for promos, but producers choose what people see and what they don't see. Sometimes funny things happen. Sometimes horrible things happen. Sometimes people get angry. Sometimes people cry but the show chooses what is seen and what is not. They own it all for sure.
Are we going to get to see you and your pro partner, Kristina Rihanoff, dancing “solo” to one of the musical acts?
We could but we don't find out about that stuff until closer the time and again Jason G [Gilkison] decides who does what but I enjoy dancing with Kristina. We partner for the pro numbers but I just don't know at this stage if we would do any solos.
When dancing with your celebrity, how far in advance are you told about your music, how are you told (in person or email), and are all pros told together or individually?
I have been told in different ways, different weeks, and at different times so for me I have no expectations. I work on one at a time because you never know what’s going to happen week to week. They try to work a week or two in advance but again things change daily.
After Strictly Come Dancing ends its season in December, will you be staying in London or will you be returning to the U.S. for more dancing adventures? Will you be keeping London as your base?
Who knows what the future holds? We will just keep enjoying ourselves here day to day and when the time is up we will take it from there. Tahyna is a planner but I take it as it comes so we are burying ourselves with work and seeing where it takes us. We may have to go back to America, we may have to stay here, and we may have nowhere to go so no point stressing about it. We have each other so we are good.
One fan mentioned your previous knee injuries and wondered if you still have a problem and if you have to be extra careful or is it back to normal?
Unfortunately I will always have to worry about my knees but they are in a good place at the minute and I’m looking after myself a lot more than I used to so touch wood. Things are going well for me. I get treatment a lot. Ice is my best friend.
Thanks to Tristan for once again taking so many of our questions. We always look forward to it. Feel free to leave comments in the comments section below.