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.
This interview took place one week before the Season 15 premiere of DWTS.
Now that you have had a couple of weeks of rehearsals with Pamela, what do you see as her strengths?
Pam is great. We haven’t had as much practice as we would have liked. The first week Pam was away for half of it in Europe and then away for Rio, where finding time to rehearse was very tough. Now she is in Bulgaria for a few days. Her strengths are that she really wants to do the show and that she is great at retaining information. That’s so important when you have a lack of something - time in our case. When you get a second shot at the show you have something to base your experience on. You can decide what you didn’t do the last time that you want to do this time or how to mentally prepare yourself for performances. Her biggest strength is that she is Pam before, during, and after.
One of the members of our website was curious about what a typical day of rehearsal is like. Or is there a typical day?
We don’t really have a typical day. We rehearse away from everybody else, generally early mornings for maybe five or six hours. The balancing act is I think what people find hard sometimes - it’s not just about finding the time to rehearse but it’s really being productive on your time. You can rehearse intensely for three/four hours, physically just power through running the dance and working yourself into the ground, and you can take in huge amounts of information after information - which Pam is great at. You have to be careful that it’s not counter-productive. If you have done that, it’s impossible to stay in five, six, seven hours a day. What I always always get from Pam though is total and utter commitment and attention but also entertainment. We are fighting not just against finalists and champions but also against a large unforgiving population that no matter what she does will have a negative attitude towards her so to have the strength of character she has to want to better herself is very inspiring to me not just as a dancer and teacher but as a person.
You once said that you like to tell a story with every dance. How is it that you are able to consistently weave a storyline into your choreography, and how do you even come up with the story you want to tell?
It can be difficult to tell your story all the time certainly to the degree that you want. You can’t throw somebody around, lift them up high, or different things that go against the rules so you have to do some subtle things and hope that you can pull it off – ha! It’s difficult to come up with a routine before you start with your partner because you don’t know what they are capable of. Whether they have been on the show or not you just have to take the time to get to know your partner, figure out what they want from this experience, what stories they want to tell. Either way I will dance whether it’s on tv or not. These people won’t so its fully their experience. I want to know what they want to tell and then I’ll try to make that happen. You are restricted in a way with how much you can do to portray certain things but you just gotta play the cards you are dealt.
Tell us what we can expect to see from you and Pamela this season or perhaps just from DWTS All-Stars in general.
I don’t know what you guys can expect - maybe just some honest people trying to have a good time. We will work as hard if not harder than anybody else without playing 'the games' that go along with a lot of this stuff. The trophy is a bonus but it’s not the goal - the goal is to push ourselves and try and inspire others to try something new, give something another chance, close a door on something, make a tough decision, take a break whatever it is you want to do and feel that choice is for everyone. Don’t fit in, stand out, be different - there is a place for everyone in everything.
During the DWTS season you have so many commitments that you probably rarely have time to relax. Is there anything you like to do to relax when there are so many demands on your time?
There is a lot to do. I don’t find it too hard to relax. I can shut off to a certain degree but I know sometimes as well that I dwell on things but that is purely the thought inside that I may not be doing enough to help my partners or giving them the right tools to fully express themselves. I’m comfortable being around friends all the time but sometimes I just need to be on my own doing nothing- watch the football, stuff my face with food- when I eat I think of nothing else – hahaha! That usually works - turn on the food channel and I’m good for a few hours! Hahaha!
Do you ever get nervous before a performance, and if so, how do you calm your nerves?
I don’t get nervous anymore. I used to alright during stage shows and stuff. I’d go missing for a bit and right as the music started I’d burst back in the room with a pale face and just run straight on stage. I don’t know what it was. I think it was the adrenaline taking over or wanting to do so well that it got the best of me. With a show like this though I’m fine. It’s my role to be the shoulder or the go-to guy so that calms me. I spend time convincing my partners it’s a doddle what they are doing and that it will be fine. The last thing they want to see is me walking in circles around the trash cans crying!!!
Finally, is there anything you want to say to the supporters of both you and Pamela as you get ready to begin Season 15?
Just want to say thanks for the incredible support you guys give us. Some have already jumped on with thoughts that schedule is taking over and that there is a lack of commitment but I can tell you now it’s certainly not the case. We will do the best job we can. We won’t complain. We won’t look for excuses. If we are good enough we will stay around. If not we will go but not before making some sort of impact. So thank you thank you. Enjoy the ride because we will.
Tristan has been kind enough to give interview after interview (more than 40!) to this website, and we thought it would be a lot of fun to bring them all back. The first was July 17, 2012 - a few months after Season 14 of Dancing With the Stars ended.
What has been the biggest challenge you've faced since being on DWTS? (For example, is it the teaching, the schedule, the travel with Gladys, etc.)
I think the biggest challenge so far has probably been just the whole package if that makes sense. I enjoy it but trying to keep everybody happy is impossible. Ha! I always say that 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! Some want to see the chemistry and relationship and some just want to see great dancing so trying to find the balance has been difficult enough but I think you have to stick to your convictions and do whatever you feel is right for each situation. Any given season is that person’s only experience of the show outside of being a viewer and fan, so I want to make it as enjoyable as possible.
We know that you’ve performed all over the world in many different productions. Of all of those, do you have a favorite or is there one that is particularly memorable for you?
I’ve been lucky enough to do a few shows and they have all contributed to where I am now and what I am striving to achieve so in that sense I can’t really pick a favourite, but I have enjoyed each production I have been lucky enough to be part of. Burn The Floor was the show that really opened my eyes to Latin and Ballroom dancing as we know it now and showed me another side of ballroom that I never knew of before then. Before that I did Simply Ballroom which was the first dance show I did when I decided to come back to dancing and if it wasn’t for that show I wouldn’t have been in Vegas at the same time as BTF which got me back in that show and touring the world. Dirty Dancing gave me a new role and also a chance to work on the West End and be in the environment which I love - theatre. Another stint on BTF in London led to Dancing With The Stars. I try to take something positive from every situation I’m in, but just like everyone else sometimes I don’t see that until later on!
We all love your "it is what it is" approach. How did you manage to develop such a positive attitude in a career that could never have been easy?
It’s easy to stay positive about what I do because it’s what I love to do. I have been in so many positions before where I couldn’t rub two pennies together. I was lucky to have a family supportive enough to 'bail me out' and also give me the ear full I needed to get straight. I know that I can get by without being in the public eye because I have done it all along and it’s what the majority of people do every day so when you don’t crave that role, it’s easy. What’s the worst that could happen? If something is wrong you have to ask yourself if you can do anything about it- if you can’t there is no point stressing about it. If you can, well, then you change it. It’s all about priorities for me.
When you are teaching someone who has little or no dance experience, how do you begin the teaching process? We know everyone is different, but how do you teach a beginner? Is there a particular dance you might choose to teach someone who has never danced before?
Everybody is different so as far as teaching goes there isn’t a formula that I stick to, but with everybody I try to just be normal - ask them how they are, what they like, what they don’t like, and try to relate everything to what I need them to do. It’s no different to me then meeting somebody new through a friend or on the street or anywhere in everyday life. You don’t try to make people your friend; you talk and then you relate and then you gain respect and start to work! You are both there to help each other so you can’t forget that you have to teach but you also have to learn. The term 'DANCE' sometimes intimidates people so without starting any particular dance you just get movement going and try to get your partner to follow directions - walk forward, turn around, go over there, straighten your legs, don’t look down - those kind of things.
You have developed a large fan base very quickly and earned an enormous amount of respect as a dancer, teacher, and choreographer. How does that make you feel, and how do you stay so kind and grounded when there is so much attention focused on you? (For instance, is it difficult dealing with all the demands on your time from so many different people?)
I have been surprised by the amount of attention I have been getting, but that’s a testament to how big the show is, and thanks goes to production and all the professionals before me for keeping the interest there. It’s very humbling and it is nice to give something back to my family for the support they have given me over the years and sacrifices they have made for me. It can be difficult with the demands and unfortunately I can’t accommodate them all but I will try. I make it easier for myself though because I know why I am part of the show and what I want from it…I don’t have to go to every premiere. I don’t have to support anything I don’t have an interest in. I don’t endorse things I don’t use so all I have to worry about is putting together dances and teaching them to my partner. If somebody contacts me with something of interest and I have the time, I will try get involved but for the sake that I have a genuine interest in it and not to get more face time. I stay grounded because that’s who I am and that is who my family and friends like and love so to be anything else would be somebody else.
Is there anything you would like to say to your fans and supporters?
Just a big thank you for all the support. I love to dance but I love even more to entertain and all the well wishes and notes of support are what inspire me to do it. The negativity doesn’t faze me so I suggest it doesn’t you either – Ha! I don’t need to be compared to anybody else because that’s not what I am in it for. I love what I do and if I entertain 1 or one million I’m happy because it only takes one person to make a difference, and if I can convince one person to follow what they love then they in turn can convince the next person and so on. Thank you for all your efforts and I will continue to try my best to give you all what you deserve which is a great show and if not........what’s the worst that could happen????
Since July, 2012, we have interviewed Tristan 75 times and each is posted here with the most recent first. All interviews are posted elsewhere on this website, including our forum.