Another fabulous Q and A with our favorite pro!
Congratulations to you and Jamelia on a wonderful run on Strictly. We loved every second of it. Do you have a couple of special memories from your time working together?
Not really. I think all our time we actually spent together was great. We laughed a lot at all the stuff written about us both and our lack of media interest. We are perfectly matched in that sense in that we are both as bad as each other but for the purpose of the show we were probably worst paired for that side of it – haha. We are both the same in that we just concentrate on our work and don't get caught up with all the other stuff that seems to be almost as important when it comes to reality/produced tv. We always had great fun on ITT. It’s the side show where there is no control over you and you can do and say (within reason) what you want - ha. We get on great off the floor and outside of 'work'.
In an interview with us from November 7, 2013 we asked you about partner preferences with regard to past experience. Here was your response.
“If I could choose a partner, anything dance would be the last thing that came into it. If they had a lifetime of ballroom dance experience, and I didn’t like them, I couldn’t think of anyone worse to spend all that time with. I would choose someone with little to none with a brain of their own and a personality of their own every day of the week – breakfast, lunch and dinner!!”
We were discussing this on the forum earlier and someone commented that it sounds like Jamelia might fit that description. Your thoughts? (other than you probably knew these interviews would come back to haunt you)
Yes - 100%. I like people who know who they are and don't change to suit others. Sometimes you say some things that get completely taken out of context and then you have to live with that so you can either spend your days trying to cover it up and make excuses to get people onside or you can put your hands up and say ‘that’s what I said then and let sleeping dogs lay.’ I’d prefer to know the person I have decided I don't like - haha. I say some things day to day that get taken out of context. People will always find fault when they go looking for it. The show isn't all about dancing so when we sit down for breaks or after work or before I don't want to be talking about dancing and what everyone else in the show is doing and how can we get our faces in the paper or whatever. I want to get to know the person I'm spending time with so when this circus is over I have actually met somebody I like spending time with. Jamelia was always pleasant and nice to me and whoever I introduced her to and that is more important to me than people thinking we are good or bad at dancing.
You’ve use the word ‘respect’ a lot in all of our interviews. In your opinion, what does one have to do to earn respect?
You don't have to do anything to earn respect. It should be a given - - YOU RESPECT PEOPLE! That’s the end of it!! You need a reason to lose respect for someone but not to have it. I have had a few issues with people’s opinions on respect and what respect is. You treat people with respect by being a decent human being - not by telling everybody how much you respect people or showing symbols or giving money or whatever it is once a year. Look people in the eye, shake their hand, and ask them about themselves and their families.
Several pros have their own tours and those tours vary substantially in length, content, and format. Is this something you have ever thought about doing?
No, it’s not for me. There are a lot of tours going on and I think they are great but I have no plans for my own.
Do you do anything special to prevent injuries? This might not be the case, but there seem to be fewer injuries on SCD than what we saw on DWTS. Is there anything done differently on SCD?
No, I get a lot of injuries just like everyone else. It’s a very deceiving show in terms of what is involved. We all get fatigued physically and mentally and it takes its toll. We get a lot of injuries on Strictly as well as DWTS. Maybe the styles and the priorities on the shows differ but they are equally as 'dangerous'. A lot of the celebs are shocked at what the show requires after they sign up and with the time given you have to throw yourself in the deep end and you find the balance of who picks up the slack. So everyone is going for it in case it’s the end, and it’s inevitable that something is gonna bruise or break – haha. A lot of dancers internally carry a lot of injuries but we have routines to help us keep going. When I was younger for sure I never looked after injuries. You just pushed through but as you get older they reoccur and the snowball effect kicks in and before you know it you are wrapped in ice and everything clicks and cracks when you sit down or stand up - haha.
When 2015 Strictly ends in a few weeks, will you be getting a much needed break or do you have other projects in the works?
Yeah, I fly out to Florida the morning after Strictly finishes for some shows there, and then I will take a break at the start of the new year unless they ask us to do the Strictly tour which we haven't heard too much about yet. Always working!
Final note: On November 29, 2015, we will be celebrating the fourth anniversary of the launch of this website and at approximately the same time, we will have reached 900,000 forum views. Tristan sent along these very special words and for that we thank him.
"A week away from 4 years on the website which is unbelievable. It’s as humbling now as it was Day 1 and as always I can't thank you enough for the time and effort you guys put in and support you give out. It’s a testament to the work you guys do that 900,000 or so views have been reached. You keep people more interested than I do, I think. But again from the bottom of my heart, I thank you." --Tristan
Thank you for all the great questions you have sent in for Tristan - here, on Twitter, and on the Facebook Fan Page. As always, Tristan took time out of his very busy schedule on Sunday to interact with his supporters once again by answering some very thought-provoking questions. Enjoy!
We had some laughs watching your Prom Queen/Nerd themedSamba which inspired this question. When you were in school, were you more like the prom king, nerd, party boy having a good time type, or the rebel – a la James Dean?
I wasn't really any kind of way to be honest. We all loved sports so we all wanted to play most of my mates from school. We were all together from preschool growing up through Irish speaking schools. I was pretty lazy in school. I wasn't really into many subjects but I always loved history. I used to just spend most days talking. I always 'had potential if he would just apply himself'!!! I was a bit of a smartarse but I was never the worst. I probably was a bit into myself in school and attention seeking but sure I snapped out of that!! I was just happy as I was. I think it’s very important to be educated but I think the focus sometimes is on the wrong things in my opinion. I’d have liked more opinions in school. What do you think about this? What do you think about that? What would you do? But then again at that age I didn't really give a rats. You go to school and you spend the day hoping they don't ask for your homework that you didn't do or wanting to get home!!! I spent all my time thinking ‘I need to remember this date, that date, when am I ever going to use that?’ I think first aid should be compulsory in schools and also exercise. I wish I had paid more attention to languages but to be honest I think we all look back and wish we paid more attention. I’m assuming this is adults reading this and not impressionable children..... Education is very, very important but I think it starts at home.
We probably know the answer to this already, but your Week 8 costume was perfection – in a nerdy kind of way. Did you ever have anything in your closet that resembled that pink ruffled shirt?
No chance. I’m sure I’ve had a few costumes not far off when I was younger but sure that’s why I walked away from that madness. Anytime I put glasses on people think I’m Austin Powers.
You’re a pro and have been asked to create dances to all kinds of music – good and bad – but do you recall one time in particular when you were presented your music and dance type and thought “now what am I supposed to do with this”?
No comment........haha - yeah always. Again when we were on DWTS you could a lot of the time choose a lot more but here not so much. For sure they try help you out but ultimately it comes down to a boss’s preference. You get songs that you never heard of and you get songs you wish you will never hear again and then you now and again get lucky and get a song you always wanted. The fact of the matter is it’s not about me and what I want. I make a dance to make my partner enjoy herself and I do it to a song that someone has decided the audience will love. I’ve had a few for sure, and the fact is a great idea in your head doesn’t always play out the way you want it to and that has to be accepted across the board in every department. You can't just take the credit when it goes right. The producers need to put on a collective show. Sometimes you get the raw deal but other times you get that helping hand, but people just don't like to see it that way. People love songs and people hate songs. You hear a lot of songs being re-used but you have to remember that every celebrity is doing the show for the first time and their 'experience' is the only shot they get so you have to say ‘I like it’ or ‘I don't like it’ and if they can help, they help and if they won’t, you step back and do your job. Our music guy, Matt, is great with me though. We love a lot of the same songs.
We think that the people behind the scenes don't get nearly enough credit. Obviously lots of people work together to make Strictly run smoothly but are there any behind the scenes staff and crew that you work with regularly that you would like to mention?
You know what? Unfortunately not enough people in any walk of life get the credit they deserve, and we are very lucky that we have a dedicated bunch who work their socks off regardless! We have all the stage crew and props and lighting and camera departments that are there much longer than we are on a show day and make the show as amazing as it is and take earfulls from every Tom, Dick and Harry who have an air of ego or entitlement about them and still they rock up and do their jobs without looking for a pat on the back from anyone. I make sure I go out of my way to thank them all. We can get caught up in our own mini-dramatics of show days and all that garb but at the end of the day everyone takes pride in what they do - however big or small the job may seem. We have the greatest crew in the business and it’s down to them that the show runs as well as it does and has done since day dot. The banter from the prop boys is great and the hair and make up and costume departments craic me up. The security firm are top notch and obviously our coordinaters take all the flak for the ridiculous early call times but they keep us in check. Sophie Halsey is the best - haha.
You seem to have a gift to be able to talk to anybody about anything, and we think you would make a brilliant presenter/interviewer/host. If you could ask Craig, Darcey, Len, and Bruno each one question, what would it be?
The judges are great. I talk to most of them on show days at different times of the day be it passing in the corridor or in the tent after the shows. They are all great. They have a show to put on as well as we do and their characters for sure are part of their personalities but it’s not all they are. I talk football with Len and I have jokes and drinks with Craig and now and again I’ll spin Darcey around and grab a cuddle but they are very pleasant, nice people so all questions stay between us I’m afraid. I’d imagine Craig loves being that judge I think would be the best just slamming people – haha. Obviously it’s very different when you are on the receiving end but being the villain of anything is more fun. Everyone gets on with the judges off camera. I think Bruno is trying to take his nastiness this season – haha.
Speaking of the judges, do they watch your performance for the first time when you dance it live or do they get a preview at dress run?
Ah, who knows? Officially, yes. Realistically....I don't know.
What will training be like this week for Week 9 and Blackpool? Will things be different in rehearsal because of the massiveness of the Tower Ballroom itself?
Yeah, the first major change with Blackpool is that we lose our day off. We have been in all day rehearsing the two group numbers for next week and fitting in all the extra dancers and celebs into a group dance so already the week has rolled into two. We have a lot more work on and less sleep and even less time to rest the brain which is the most important. We all get on great on the show but I think everyone needs a day off and to not see everyone else for at least one day – ha. We will still travel and rehearse but we will more than likely go to Blackpool Thursday evening - some maybe earlier - and be there Friday and Saturday and Sunday I’d imagine. Your rehearsal rooms are still the same as most other weeks but, yeah, you have to plan for the massiveness of Blackpool which can be quite difficult to do but sure what else can you do!!?? Probably spend the week doing more VTs about how amazing Blackpool is and the sacrifices you made to get there, how many children you sold for that shot at the mirrorball!!!! It’s a fun week but it’s mental - busy usually with it in the end. It’s a special event for a lot of people you know so it’s just best to get your head down and enjoy the ride.
We saw Kym Johnson in the audience Saturday. Did you get a chance to catch up?
Yeah, Kym and Robert were there passing through so we caught up before the show which is always nice. I didn't see them after. It’s pretty full on show day and you are getting pulled here, there, and everywhere but I’m sure we will catch up again soon enough.
Here is a question from Lisa from your Facebook Fan Page: “One of the things I like most about you, Tristan, is the fact that you come across as an ordinary bloke who does have other interests. What advice would you give to young boys who are afraid to dance for fear of being bullied?”
The thing is that unfortunately bullies will always take their insecurities and whatever they are missing in their lives out on others. I think all we can do is teach each other to be strong enough to follow through on what we want to do. You can't affect other people but we can reassure our kids that being yourself is most important and standing up for yourself and what you believe in is the only thing that’s important. Kids will be kids. We all act the maggot at some stage of our lives. Some grow out of it and some just stay assholes but as individuals we need to find what makes us happy and do that. Giving someone a smack feels great but it doesn't get you anywhere. People are just finding their way and trying to fit in. Unfortunately, they feel the need to alienate someone else to do that but when the individual they alienate is confident and very content as themselves, then they almost feel what's the point?! I don't have the answers and I don't really like giving advice on it because every situation is different. For me I took a few digs and smacks and I gave back double but that’s not always the answer. I think nurturing a strong willed individual boy or girl with a mind of their own will set them up for making the right decisions based on their own convictions.
Congratulations on getting through to Week 8. It’s a new week, a new dance. Do you have any particular goals ahead or something you really want to work on specifically as you introduce a new dance and new choreography?
To be honest it’s just about forgetting last week and pushing on with a new week. In terms of choreography, I know in my head by this stage what I want to do week to week, however, that all changes when we get into studio and try and physically do it. Time can be a big factor. Being comfortable doing certain things can sway you, and I’ve found that confidence only lasts as long as things get easier. Sometimes you can come in full of beans ready to go and then when it's tough to pick up, you can get drained straight away if not in the right frame of mind. So you compromise. I’d like to have a fun Samba. Generally the Latin dances have been ones Jamelia really enjoys so I’m optimistic going into Week 8 but certainly not complacent. I think to a degree we rode our luck last week and probably got more generous results than we deserved so we are on a mission to justify our inclusion this week.
In the past you have mentioned that you generally leave the costume decisions up to the costume department, but there have been so many compliments about Jamelia’s bold red Viennese Waltz dress that we had to ask. Did you have any input into the color/style choice for that? Also, since we’re nosy, we noticed in some pictures from this week that you had on a pin striped jacket that matched the pants but you danced without the jacket. Any particular reason?
No, I don't have any input. I leave that part to the costume department because that’s what they do best. I’d imagine there are styles and colours that Jamelia likes and probably suits so I’m sure that was a conversation that happened at the beginning but I wear what I’m told although the costume department are great with me. They know I don't like sparkles and see through and stuff like that but they are at the hands of producers as well who make most of the decisions and then we get on with it. The jacket was really just for the walk down. When you have a suit on the show it needs to be cut in a way that you can dance in it, whereas if you have a normal suit on when you lift your arms a certain height the suit folds at the chest or lifts away from your body. The pin stripe was a normal suit from the shop as opposed to a dance suit so they wanted the look for walk down and that’s it - almost like a stunt jacket in films. I read this article somewhere and never thought about it before that they have suits for close up shots, for wide angle shots, and for stunts. I guess it’s the same for Bond that it is for dancers – haha.
Could you take us through a typical (?) week? With the results show airing on Sunday but filmed on Saturday, and then It Takes Two, Jamelia’s schedule, your schedule, and travel back and forth to Birmingham, how do you plan rehearsals, costume fittings, etc.?
Unfortunately we don't have a typical week. It constantly changes and sometimes on the daily. Sunday is the day when we usually try to choreograph the next routine or at least give it a skeleton frame. Monday morning we rehearse the pro number from 9- 12 at the studio where we film the live show and then you head off wherever for your celeb rehearsal. If you are in the bottom two or the dance off you go on Monday to film It Takes Two in London and if not, I go get the train to Birmingham. There are a few hours blocked out for your VT a week so the day changes depending on what they want to do video wise and then you have to work around that - if you are lucky enough to have an open schedule. Jamelia rehearses when the kids are in school or if we are in London after she records Loose Women - whichever morning it is. We rehearse when we can but again you have to prioritize your life, and I can’t demand hours and hours when 'real life' needs attention. All I can demand is effort and respect for my work and time. We all go into the studio Friday to camera block for the first time so we can't rehearse on Friday. We camera block our own number and the pro number and then we see costumes for the first time. Saturday is pretty much the same. We rehearse with the band, maybe do some press, dress rehearsal and then the live show.
Do you and Jamelia ever go back and look at your routines on video and point out things that were strong and things that might need work in the future?
If we need to we will. I try to film us in rehearsals, and we watch that back for reference as the days pass. I think we are quite reflective in general but you have to focus on the positives of what you improved on and take the negatives as work in progress. The live show is a critique on a performance and I get that but my view has to be a critique on a week’s work so that’s why I incorporate the judges’ comments (which I like to think echoes what I try and teach all week) into our look back. After the performance isn't the time to point out what went right or wrong. That’s the time to enjoy the week and then you tweak things for the dance off or you wait until you have watched it back and slept on it. Sometimes the on-screen picture you see isn't the reality of what happened. The camera missed the feet or was too close or was a single shot - when I’d have preferred a full floor shot. That’s why we have to focus on ourselves. You just have to entertain and accept that if people don't like it they will let you know about it -probably harshly - but then if people like it they will rave again probably a bit generously – haha. I have to keep us happy but keep us in reality check. Unfortunately dancing isn't a sport where if you run faster or longer you will win. It’s a competition based on opinions and the majority opinion wins. It seems like a simple thing to just say 'they are rubbish' or 'they need to go home.' 'Why is he still here?' 'She is boring,' 'she is this', 'he is that'! The fact is whether people are great or still improving they are giving up their time and putting in all the effort they can so it’s not fair to judge them against somebody else. You have to judge them on themselves - if they are getting better or not - because all they are trying to do is entertain as well.
You have said in earlier interviews that not only is it important for a pro to teach but it equally important to be willing to learn. What are some things you have learned this year on Strictly and from Jamelia?
You learn a lot. Each time you do a season you learn how to teach a new personality. You find new ways to accomplish things that at some stages feel like they aren't going to come together. You learn how to stay calm, you learn how to talk to people, you learn how to respect people, and you learn about other cultures and homes and families. It’s fascinating. The show is just the show and that’s what people see, but there is much more involved that you don't. I was intrigued to meet Jamelia because there was such a strong opinion about her before the show started, but I really, really like her. That doesn’t mean that everything she does is great and everything she says is right but when you respect people you accept that they have different opinions on things and you just deal with it. Agree to disagree and get on with your life. You realize that manipulation of any situation is just that, and you will never really know the full story unless you are involved. The media lives off Strictly and its 'dramas' and 'scandals’. Here it’s unreal. Half the stuff you read, but because you read it all, you think it’s true. So I just say 'cool- do what you want and say what you want’. I know the real story and I know me so I’ll be alright! You can't say and do things so people will like you. Sometimes it’s the easiest thing to do but at the end of the day you have to be yourself and reaffirming that by being around people who are or people who aren't is the best thing you can learn.
Finally, you have mentioned previously that you like that we occasionally interview other dancers and performers for the website. I’m not sure if you’re aware of this or not, but we have an interview with pro dancer Neil Jones in progress. Had you ever met or worked with Neil before this year’s Strictly?
Yeah, I knew Neil when we were kids but hadn't seen him in a long, long time. I’m pretty sure you will all get to know him a lot better soon enough. I don't think it will be too long before he is on the show competing. I think it’s important for the show to have more British dancers on, and there are a lot of them here who I’m sure the public would love.
Another Q and A with Tristan! Thank you for sending in questions and thanks to Tristan for always making time for his supporters.
What has been the biggest challenge for you and Jamelia through 6 weeks of competition?
We have had a lot of difficulties like everyone else to be honest, and they change as the weeks go on so it’s constant work all the time. I know what I want to work on each week and then time and comfort and confidence levels play a big part in the final product, so I, as the professional and partner, have to decide where the focus has to be to make sure we have a dance that gets us as close to comfort as possible. Footwork has always been an issue for us and it’s one of the things I work most on, however, when that becomes overwhelming and detrimental to time and revision we have to switch focus. We have to take comfort in the fact that the things the judges point out are works in progress and the things they don't have to become the positives of the work put in.
In what area or areas has she most improved in the weeks you’ve been training together?
Jamelia’s approach and reactions to dance offs have impressed me most. She admits that maybe the first couple of weeks took her by surprise, and she wasn't expecting to be in the dance off so there was a lot of nerves and emotional negativity after that first one. The second dance off was more impressive in that there was a determination to correct a mistake, and then the latest to be honest I wasn't really expecting purely based on the fact that it was the most demanding of her stamina and the chances of 'over-enthusiasm' to get it right can make a jive quite difficult to accomplish, but I’m impressed by how she kept calm and just delivered a better performance. So her stamina is improving and her understanding of this particular show and reactions and opinions of everybody to take them on board - however leave them aside while on the floor - has been impressive. We are still working on the focus of the technique. It’s a balancing act of technique and performance each week.
It’s nice to see Jamelia’s confidence improve each week. How do you help to make that happen?
You have to shut out the outside interference. People’s confidence comes from understanding what you are doing but on this type of show it’s shutting out the negativity and doubt. The only people who know how much work goes into the show and 'your show' are the people involved in the studio day to day. Sometimes you don't want to go to the fairground and jump on a rollercoaster to help with your lifts. Sometimes you don't want to dance on top of a train and try not to fall off to work on your speed and balance, but these are parts of the show that need fulfilling. I can only keep confidence up by reminding ourselves that when we are working hard we are improving and that sometimes others don't see that or focus on other things but we have to remember what we have worked on. If you feel better than you did at the start of the week then you have improved and a 3 or a 5 or whatever shouldn't take that away from you. Unfortunately it does......but it does for everybody. Confidence and improvement come from knowing, not being told.
What’s ahead for Week 7? I don’t know if you can reveal your dance yet, but can you give us a hint of what you have planned?
No, we can't reveal anything just yet but I’m sure It Takes Two will at some stage this week. Once the audience finds out the result of each week, the next week has already begun for the professionals.
Did you have any input into the Halloween costumes? Knowing what we know about Rocky Horror, we were a little afraid about what you and Jamelia might have come down the stairs wearing. Yet, these worked and were surprisingly understated for anything Rocky Horror related, which is probably a very good thing.
Yeah, I did to a degree. At the beginning I didn't particularly fancy doing that dance or song purely because Brendan had done it before and I think it was expected that that is the character you played but I didn't want that and I 100% was never going to be the other fella from the film so I said we would be in the vein of the couple from the film as copyright is prohibited - haha. On the night everyone was then done up like dollies so it ended up being an attempt to get as close to Beetlejuice as I could before anyone noticed!! In the end the only thing Rocky was the haunted house and the song.
Saturday on Strictly there were a lot of special effects – dry ice, lighting, props, and more. After rehearsing all week in a studio, how hard is it to get your partner to adjust to the differences that she’ll encounter on the SCD floor? Do you recall a time when the special effects caused a problem for you and/or your partner? (slippery floor, crowding the space, bumping into skeletons, etc.)
We were only talking about this the other day. It can be a help and it can be a hindrance but at the end of the day I think it sometimes looks pretty cool. When it comes to props it can be quite difficult because you don't get them until the day and sometimes you have to move to a different spot farther away in the same amount of time but the cameras can usually help you out. In terms of performance you up the ante because you physically have what you have been imagining all week. That foggy dry ice can make the floor slippy sometimes but again it depends on how much and they dry the floor afterwards for the next victims.
You’ve given us a few tutorials in the past but someone asked about the Tango and Quickstep. What are the things you consider most important when teaching these 2 dances?
In general, I think for fast dances the slow steps are most important and to a degree in slow dances the fast steps because either you look too much or too little - too frantic or too boring!! People have trouble staying grounded in Tango, I noticed , so using your body and hips is very important for making room and being able to navigate in small spaces - character tents to give new dancers a clearer idea in their heads of what is going on! Quickstep can be difficult in trying to maintain frame while bobbing around so you have to focus on your feet and stop your shoulders from bouncing up and down. It sounds silly but people tense up and forget to breath in these dances - especially the intense ones.
Finally, for all your new supporters out there – and there are lots – how would you describe your approach to being a professional dancer and teacher?
Enjoy it. There is always someone better and always someone more talented so don't let that fear stop you enjoying what you are actually in the position of doing! And for teaching, only teach what you know. Don't make stuff up to make yourself sound great or feel important. The biggest and most important part about teaching is learning. Some people think they know everything and listen to nothing. If you are too good to listen then to me it doesn’t matter what you know.
Since July, 2012, we have interviewed Tristan 70 times and each is posted here with the most recent first. All interviews are posted elsewhere on this website, including our forum.