From November, 2014...
We’re enjoying all of your pro dances but the “Cotton Eyed Joe” dance was so different that we couldn’t help but ask about it. How difficult was that for the pros to learn and was it as much fun as it looked? When learning non-traditional dances, do you find these more difficult to learn or are you able to approach it as you would any other dance?
Cotton Eyed Joe was great craic. We all really enjoyed that number. I pretty much laughed and shouted through the whole thing. It was tiring enough though the third or fourth time round. It wasn't hard to learn, no. It was choreographed by Matt Flint who is great. He was in Dirty Dancing with me so we had a few laughs doing the number and yeah, everyone got into it but again we all have an idea of what we think barn/line dancing is I guess and we just go with that. We have to just remember the steps like every other dance.
Along those same lines, you danced to “Should’ve Been A Cowboy” back in Season 12 of DWTS and did a nice tutorial on It Takes Two. Had you ever done other barn dances or country-western style dancing?
I don't remember that other cowboy one to be honest. I never did line dancing though, no, and I’ve never been a cowboy - maybe I should be! I'm probably more like City Slickers. I’d love to give that trip a try! I think I remember some sort of line dancing phase - maybe my ma did it or something.
During this Saturday’s show some of the biggest laughs came from people spotting you making the scary faces. How long did it take hair and makeup to create that look for you and what was the atmosphere like before and during the show?
Everyone seemed in good form that day alright. Some were a bit on edge for sure with it being show day but generally I think the fancy dress lightened the mood a little. Hair and makeup obviously did a great job and we were all really proud of them. For some it took a few hours I’d imagine. For me it didn't take too long. They were trying different things during the day and then with the dancing some comes off so they keep reapplying and then trying new things. I was just bored at the back so I started messing around. The cameras kept changing angles on me so I had to keep moving – haha.
There is a lot that goes on into a Strictly show but would you share a little bit about how it works day-to-day? Pro rehearsals are on Monday but what happens on Friday and Saturday as the cast prepares for the show? Approximately how much time is there between the live show on Saturday and the taping of the results show that airs on Sunday?
Friday differs each week but usually a few couples come in and do their dance on the stage for the first time and then probably go and see their costumes and what not for the first time. Then we would rehearse the group number for an hour or so and camera block that and then the rest of the couples finish the day and all the girls get their tan.......and some of the guys. Saturday again starts fierce early with pretty much the same deal but it’s the first time the band sing the songs while they dance and make any last minute changes. Then everyone starts getting bits of their hair or makeup done followed by a dress rehearsal of the full show. After that, finish up the hair and makeup, make any changes they need and we would usually pre-record a group dance before the live show, not always - but most weeks, then live show. You might get an hour or so between that show and the recording of the results show and again sometimes there may be a pre-record between the two shows. Usually I go home then before results show........unless I’m still on the results show and I usually stay there until I get eliminated and then I go home – hahaha. The day is usually finished at 9.30/10, sometimes later.
Are eliminated pros (or any pros for that matter) ever asked to help out if those in the competition need some help or advice?
Sometimes we might help but I'm very much of the belief that your teacher is the one to give you the information although it can be helpful. It’s not nice for a pro to see their celeb off asking others how to do things and sometimes as the teacher who is working all week with a pro you see the things that are your priority and that’s where you want the focus so for sure we are there to help if the pro needs us or wants us to help but it’s a tricky one. I think being there more for positive reinforcement and encouragement is the best way to be present and to try to lighten the mood a little.
A quick technical question on the Jive from one of your supporters – when doing a spin in the Jive, what should happen with the free arm?
That’s a personal preference in my opinion but you want your spin to be a lot faster that your turn which is a big difference so the wider your arms the slower your spin is going to be. Some like to put the arm up some around their waist, some across their chest - it really depends on what you want it to look like. Right or wrong I like to think that somebody turns you but you spin yourself so do what you want!! There can't just be one right.
You seem to be enjoying the Strictly Come Dancing experience, but is there something that stands out about it as being particularly enjoyable or fun?
It’s just a really cool environment that I like. Everyone is on the same scale with each other and for me I have known most of the dancers here a long, long time. We all do a group number together each week. Nobody gets a particular type of partner. It switches each season and there is no competition or anything between pros or at least it’s not a dramatic twist or anything each week. Don't get me wrong. This isn't a slight on DWTS or anything. I just think it’s a different machine here and there and the demographic of the show is different. I don't particularly like doing contemporary or anything like that and here I don't have to come up with dances for any styles we aren't trained in. I just teach. It’s true the show here is a lot more controlled but I’m enjoying being here and if I end up going back to do DWTS, that’s cool too.
Finally, how do you relax and/or wind down these days? Still watching the Cooking Channel like you mentioned in an earlier interview?
I’m watching a lot more football here, which is great, walking the dog with the wife, catching up with friends, catching some plays/museums. I’m not getting too much tv in to be honest but it suits me. I’m happier being outdoors here. I’m happier eating the food then watching it being made at the minute.
From October, 2014
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.
From October, 2014
As he has done so many times before, Tristan took time to answer your questions. Enjoy the latest in our series of interviews with our favorite professional dancer and all-around good guy.
So, first question. What are you up to these days?
Still doing pro numbers but mainly resting, physio, spending time with the wife and walking the dog. We haven't had much time for a few months now with all the work we have both being doing so we are enjoying time to ourselves now and getting a chance to see where we have moved to.
In our last interview, you indicated that you and Jennifer would be going to Glasgow, Scotland to train and that it would be your first trip there. Did you get some time to look around? Any favorite places during your brief time there?
Yeah, Glasgow is beautiful. I still can't believe I’d never been to Scotland before, but we got in a few hours before Jen so we went strolling round Buchanan Street and Glasgow Green, botanical gardens, all that lark. It was beautiful. I’d love to go back with a bit more time - maybe next month for the Euro qualifiers!! We didn't get too much time there. It was really three days but most time was spent in the studio and nice family dinners.
We are thoroughly enjoying all of your pro dances on Strictly. Do you have a favorite? Is it correct that you will be appearing most weeks in pro dances through the rest of the series?
The pro numbers have been fun here for sure. There is a refresher each week on a Monday morning for that weekend’s dance which is great so a lot of time goes into the numbers but the final product is usually pretty decent. A lot of people have been commenting on the pro numbers, and they are great to be part of. Working with all the different choreographers each week is a great experience in seeing how different people work. I’m sure there will be the odd week where I might not be dancing but the producers have been pretty cool with me and want to have me in as much as possible which is great.
Since the SCD dynamic is different from that of DWTS, we’re curious as to how you like the speedy voting process followed by immediate taping of the results show which airs the following night.
It's different for sure. I like doing the results show straight away but the voting is all a bit rushed I think which makes it difficult for the people who dance quite early - especially at the beginning if you happen to be one of the couples who people don't particularly sway either way. It can be difficult I think being up early because you are forgotten by the time the other 13/15 couples dance. In this case I think it’s more beneficial to be as close to the end as possible as you stay fresh in the mind, but again the argument is if it's good enough people won't forget. There will always be an argument about it. I like getting the show done and then your celebrity doesn’t have to stew for the night waiting - especially if they haven't done as well as they would have liked. Whatever people wanna see, that’s the best way to do it.
Of the 3 dances you performed with Jennifer, did you have a favorite? In all 3, you looked like you were both having a lot of fun.
I think maybe the “Mamma Mia” number purely because Jen enjoyed that one the most. I can't stand ABBA - it really annoys me hearing them – hahaha! I don't know why but I was dreading that week as soon as we got the music and I was trying to change it all week but I think Jen was most relaxed that week so it made it my favorite. When you finish the show you wanna say 'I had a great time and I’m proud of what I did' not 'I done really well but it wasn't that much fun'. Comments really make a difference for people out of their comfort zone so for me it was taking back our enthusiasm and reason for doing the show and that’s why we can go home with a smile and no tears.
One of our website members asked if the format of Strictly is mostly the same as DWTS with regard to music, choreography, costumes, etc. In other words, are you given the music and dance style and then choreograph accordingly? Is there choreographic assistance or do you handle that all yourself? Do you have input into costumes, props, music, etc.
You have influence to a degree but not as much as in America. A wardrobe department comes up with your costume and you are given your music although you are asked to suggest music and concepts when you get partnered up. The balance is decided by production as to concept and dance. The show tries to work here two weeks in advance of itself so for us it’s about taking it one week at a time and then trying to make some amendments when the time comes. There is a team who are available for help when it comes to the less familiar dances - Charleston, Salsa, Argentine Tango although not everyone uses them. We are expected, and rightly so, to do our own work for Ballroom and Latin as that is what we train in and are paid to teach but there is always help available if needed although all teaching is done by us, the professional, just like America.
How do you like the It Takes Two format? It seems like a great way for the fans to get to know the dancers a little better, but we’re curious as to your thoughts.
I love It Takes Two. I think the team there are great and I like Zoe Ball a lot. She is really cool. It gives us a chance to be ourselves a lot more than the show, I guess. You can answer everything in your own words and how you like as it’s all live whereas the rehearsal videos and interviews are pre-taped and follow a story line of the week. I’m looking forward to doing different things on ITT now the appearances with Jen are no longer a weekly thing, so I'll be chancing my arm with suggesting ideas on that. I usually prefer talking more on there than dancing. The pro challenges aren't really for me but I’ll talk for days - haha!
In addition to Strictly pro dances, do you have some other projects in the works? (even if you can’t share specifics). Of course, if you want to share details, we won’t complain.
Yes, yes I do............haha
You got to see Jennifer and Brendan in action on Mrs. Brown’s Boys. Did you get to watch any of the filming or production and meet the cast? Have you had a chance to watch any of the episodes yet?
Yes I met the whole family. They are very tight knit and I have a lot of time for all of them – really, really friendly genuine people who took myself and Tahyna in as one of their own. We would often have dinner and talks and laughs together which was the best part of the whole experience and hopefully we will be in contact for a long time yet. I’m a big fan of the show so it was great to see it being put together and to be reassured that good people get their rewards for hard work and belief in what you are doing regardless of who else believes in it.
Speaking of television, have you been catching any of the British tv shows? Any football?
I haven't had anytime for tele to be honest but we have been catching some shows after rehearsals, and date night we might go catch a film and dinner. I keep the football updates on during the show day but free time goes to my wife and dog now not football. Maybe now I’ve more time off I may sneak in some matches during the week.
A few silly and “speed round” questions:
If Pike hadn’t been named Pike, what was choice number 2?
I wanted to call him Seamus but that got vetoed - Seamus-Pike but he got Pikey.
Favorite thing you have done in London so far
We walk the dog in Kensington Park most days and that’s beautiful. Also Portobello Market.
The Strictly celebrity (other than Jennifer) that has surprised you the most
Nobody really surprised me to be honest as I didn't know anyone before but I like Simon a lot and I love seeing Sunetra getting more confidence in herself. Thom is a nice guy and I have a lot of time for Steve and Tim.
The Strictly celebrity (other than Jennifer) that you have gotten to know the best (or who makes you laugh the most)
Alison is great fun. She is pretty funny and Judy, I like her. I haven't spent too much time with the other celebs really but in passing and the odd conversation you have with each of them are fun.
Len is funny as always I have a lot of time for Lenny.
The Strictly pro that has made you laugh the most
Anton - We get on well and we do have good banter. Aljaz is a funny bloke as well but we used to room together so I already knew that.
Any new tattoos planned?
Yeah, I’m sure I’ll get another piece done. It’s just trying to find the time. Tahyna tells me to do what I want but I think she is happy with where I am now.
Finally, we have been fortunate to find some very special people in the UK (Claire and Arabella) who have graciously been supplying us with screencaps and video clips of all of your performances and interviews (Claire) as well as links to interviews, articles, etc. (Arabella) so that we have everything quickly for the Facebook Fan Page and the website. Thanks to them, your USA supporters (and fans all over the world!) get to enjoy the Strictly experience.
I’m hearing all the help and work Claire and Arabella are doing, so thanks very much for all your time and keeping up with everything.
Now you all know how my ma feels when I'm away she doesn’t hear a thing from me – haha!
Since July, 2012, we have interviewed Tristan 73 times and each is posted here with the most recent first. All interviews are posted elsewhere on this website, including our forum.