Tristan took time from his very busy schedule to answer more of your questions. This time he talks about rehearsals, working with Jamelia, and most importantly, which cartoon characters he and Jamelia might portray best. Enjoy!
The question everyone is asking – how have rehearsals been going?
Rehearsals have been going well, yeah. We have had a lot of things we have been trying to work on and improve and it’s been a struggle at times but definitely moving in the right direction. We are having a good time and getting a lot of progress and enjoying each other’s company. Day to day, everything is improving and that’s what you want to see.
We got a laugh out of the clip where you told Jamelia that your first dance would involve breakdancing. How long did you string her along with that? And have you ever done a bit of breakdancing yourself?
No, that was was purely for a VT taping. She had an idea we would be doing a ballroom dance as opposed to a Latin dance. The waltz was the dance Jamelia was least looking forward to but she worked hard on it and now it’s out of the way so it’s onwards and upwards with a Cha Cha next week. I think I break the dancing I do now but never done any breakdancing, no. I couldn't think of anything I’d like to do any less.......well that’s over exaggerating.... ..but breakdancing is not for me.
When training for the first dance, you have more time than in later weeks so we are assuming that you have more time to put the dance together and schedule rehearsals. Have you and Jamelia been practicing both your Week 1 and Week 2 dances at each rehearsal or are you waiting until Week 1 is over to work on Week 2’s dance?
No, we just worked on week 1. I think you need to have your immediate focus on what you are doing now, not what you are going to do. I try and incorporate different rhythms and patterns for practice that cross over with different dances but certainly no choreography. For some celebs it can rush them too much and panic sets in. In the ideal world you want to have as less stress as possible going into each week – ha.
Assuming you and Jamelia will be dancing Week 3, how will things work? When do you first get the music? Do you work through it all in your head in advance, listen to the music, or consider possible choreography or do you wait until actual rehearsals and work it out then?
A bit of both. I have groups in my head but then you have to gauge how it looks on an individual. You always get ideas and a visual in your head of how you want it to go and how you want it to look but the reality is that it only works when you actually start moving in rehearsals. In your head everyone moves a lot better and faster – ha. We will probably start getting week 3 music in a few days time. Every department has an idea of what they want each celeb to do week to week and then when it’s all decided we try make that happen.
In the Radio Times interview, both you and Jamelia mentioned one of the “challenges” is her feet. How do you get that little problem worked out? Or is it ongoing?
I think everything is always ongoing. You will only improve by putting the work in but like everything you can always do better so in that sense its always ongoing. You have to look at the bigger picture and prioritize what you want to emphasize. When it comes to live shows sometimes everything you have worked on for weeks goes out the window. Sometimes it doesn’t so you just have to keep working and keep improving. You have to give yourself credit for improving stuff but you have to always at the same time keep working on it. Pros work on their own technique daily so it’s no different for newbies.
In your First Steps video, you and Jamelia were doing a lot of laughing. What was so funny?
I have no idea!! We have a good time. It was the first day so it may have been a mix of excitement and also defense mechanism for people when they are embarrassed about learning and not being confident yet! We are having a good time though all the videos focus on different things in rehearsals and sometimes - I'm not talking about this particular video - it’s not the reality of how the whole week went. It’s a small part of a long week.
We always ask this about your partners, and we can’t help but ask this time. What are Jamelia’s strengths?
Jamelia’s main strength is that she knows exactly who she is and she isn't trying to pretend she is anything else and I like that about her. I like that about anybody. Whether people like you or not you can't change to fit in. She is very aware that some people don't like her and she is fine with that. It might not seem like a strength for dancing but for me it is because you know where you stand and having that directness with her makes everything clearer. I don't have to worry about what I say and how I critique because it’s black and white - this is right or this is wrong and this is why. She is a performer and can grasp character and rhythms so I can always relate things to her career.
You mentioned in one of early interviews that you got to sing along with Gladys Knight during a rehearsal. Jamelia is also a singer. Are there any duets in the works?
No, not at all - haha. Jamelia sings a lot so I just listen. Sometimes I’m just in my own world and singing to myself but I’m not there to show what I can do - haha. Gladys was different gravy at that time. Everything was so surreal and you aren't gonna pass up singing with Gladys.
What is the most outrageous costume you have ever had to wear while performing?
In fairness when you are a Latin dancer you are gonna look a bit dodgy most the time.
Suppose you had to choose a Disney character or cartoon figure for both you and Jamelia to portray in a dance. Who would it be?
The Princess and the Frog....she would be the frog, haha. Ah, I don't know. The thing about Disney is it’s great but it’s been done so much. Everyone wants to do One Jump from Aladdin. I always loved that rooster from Robin Hood.
Tristan has been busy with Strictly Come Dancing rehearsals as well as the taping of the Red Carpet Event and Launch Show. He still took time today to answer your questions about teaching vs. choreography vs. storytelling but he also talks about much more in this brief interview.
We last spoke right after rehearsals began. How as it been going now that the celebrities are involved? What was the first day of rehearsals with the celebrities like?
It’s been grand, yeah. We haven't really been rehearsing too much with the celebs yet. We did two days for the group number with them. The first day is always a bit weird how it is all set up. I generally like to just take a step back as they usually bring us into the big hall where all the cameras are and the celebs' faces are hidden from us and then Claudia and Tess announce them to reveal themselves and then we rush over in excitement to meet them all –hahaha. I hang back and just talk to them all during the day. Of course I say hello but I don't like just running in and asking them about their dance experience and all that garb. We done good this year though. Everyone involved seems really enthusiastic and quite easy to talk to so I’m looking forward to it. There are always a few who are panicking straight from the off but as a group I think they have all come together straight away which I think is a nice thing so I’m sure they will all be supporting each other just as much as we have to as their partners.
You have told us many times how much you love to laugh and we are fairly certain there have already been plenty of fun moments since the rehearsals started. Which of this year’s celebrities have already made you laugh? How about the pros? (Still Anton?)
In fairness they are all a great bunch with different personalities. I haven't spent more time with anyone in particular to be honest but I like Katie’s sense of humour and Kirsty's too. Jamelia has one of those infectious laughs as well. I love hearing from people. Of course Anton is always good banter, yeah. We all rip into each other all the time so at least everyone has a sense of humour – ha. Joe (Giovanni) is a funny guy too and Oti is nuts. I like her!
Conversely, obviously all of the pros take their work seriously, but who do you think is the most serious (or focused) pro on Strictly?
No comment but definitely not me – hahaha.
On DWTS there are very often different dance styles that pros do with their celebrity partners (Contemporary and Jazz, as well as others thrown into the mix occasionally like Lambada, Bolero, Flamenco, Country Two Step, Disco, Hustle, etc.). Things are different on Strictly, but what is one dance that you hope you won’t have to do?
I’m pretty set with Strictly to be honest - nothing partner-wise I’m not looking forward to. We don't do contemporary or anything like that here. Sometimes the group numbers I guess are more disco/country themed but we don't have to compete in it so it’s cool. The thing I never liked about these styles to be honest was just teaching them. I wasn't trained in it so I didn't feel I should be trying to teach someone how to do it and I didn't have any interest in learning at this stage because I don't have a desire in knowing how. I much prefer looking at those types of styles but that’s just a preference. I think the show here is very set in what it is and the audience wants to see - Ballroom/ Latin so that’s what the show caters to.
What is one song that you hope you won’t have to dance to on SCD? (which probably means someone will read this and promptly think you should dance to it - sorry).
Off the top of my head I can't think. “Girls Just Want To Have Fun”! That’s Farb’s [Sasha Farber] fav song - hahah - and 100% not “Whip/ Nae Nae”.
In one interview you told us about Iveta’s singing last year (I believe you called it “rubbish.”) Has anybody else taken over where she left off?
Not yet, no, thank the lord. Haha. I’m only joking. I mean I think everyone gets the rush now and again to put a concert on but that’s all for fun. We don't have anyone hitting the Carey and Aguilera notes just yet - not even Jo Clifton (cough cough). She has some decent pipes on her though in all honesty.
You once said that you prefer teaching to choreographing but you also said that you like to tell a story with each dance you choreograph. How difficult is it to blend those 3 things (teaching, choreography, and storytelling) and get it to all come together for a performance that suits your partner?
It can be tricky sometimes for sure sometimes for the celeb to pick it up and sometimes for the pro to teach it properly or portray it properly. I think for both people it has to be about information. The more you have like anything in life the easier everything becomes! I think you have to first understand what it is you are trying to do and what you are trying to show and obviously balance is a huge part - not so much physical balance but the balance between a situation and a move and a story and a dance. The blend is for sure the hardest thing. You might see something happen in a number that doesn’t look like it fits whether it’s a step within the story or a scene within the dance. The best way to see what I mean is by watching all those literal music videos.
Sometimes the celebrities and pros sing along with the music when performing. While on occasion this is part of the choreography and performance, how hard is it to NOT sing along routinely? Have you ever had problems getting a partner not to sing when you don’t want her to (or getting someone to sing along when you wanted them to if that ever happens)?
That’s always a strange one to be honest. I get when judges or audiences say they hate seeing people sing along and some say they love it. I think again it comes to preference and case by case basis. You can argue that it breaks the story and takes the dance out of the 'story' which I agree with in certain dances but at the same time I think it’s important to relax as much as possible and for some people that is to pre-occupy their brain in a positive way when they dance. I think it shows first that they are listening to the music and not just doing steps and I think sometimes they enjoy it more. If I like a song I’ll sing it. I think most people do and I think if the performance permits it then do it. We did an ABBA song last year and the only way to get Jenny to relax was blasting that song so I said just sing the song. Meryl Streep sang the song in the film. It was her story so if that’s your character then be the character. Granted they might not have liked the dance but Jenny enjoyed it and that’s all that matters. I completely understand though that it doesn’t work for all dances and performances so just like anything else there is no point doing it just for the sake of it but you do whatever you feel gives you the best chance of enjoying the dance as much as you can. You shouldn't just get to enjoy it if you are good at it - do what you want to make yourself happy.
Thank you, Tristan!
Since July, 2012, we have interviewed Tristan 75 times and each is posted here with the most recent first.