From March 25-April 22, 2016, this website forum ran a contest and our winner, Eva, got to interview Tristan. Eva is a relatively new member of our website but she has been a Tristan MacManus supporter for quite some time. Below you will find the contest prompts and her winning answers along with a lovely message that Tristan sent along for her. After that, enjoy her interview with our favorite dancer.
Contest prompts with Eva's winning responses.
1. Tell us why you want to be the person doing this interview.
"Consider it my vacation since I'm usually taking are of my twin babies 24/7."
2. Share 1 Tristan memory.
"This comment from one of his recent interviews. '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 or 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 hands, and ask them about themselves and their families.' "
3. Give a 5 word description of Tristan or something Tristan-related.
"He isn't just a dancer."
Message from Tristan
Thank you for taking the time to ask these questions and congratulations on the kids. I’m sure they don't know how lucky they are to have you there 24/7. I wish you health and happiness and hope that the answers entertained you as much as the questions did me.
All the best - Slainte
You said in an earlier interview that some of your favorite dances are the slower ones like Waltz and Rumba. But which of the faster dances do you enjoy performing the most?
I do prefer the slower, laid back dances but I can enjoy some of the faster ones as well. It mainly depends on the songs though and the concept. I don't prefer too many any more or less than another. I like rhythm changes and I like fast pace just like I do when I’m running or training. I like Paso and I like Swing.
A couple of years ago you told us 5 places that someone visiting Ireland might want to see. Now that you are spending so much time in Australia, what are some places that you think are especially interesting there?
I don't know this place as much as Ireland but there are a lot of amazing places here. For years, I used to relate a lot to Melbourne. It was in my head a lot more like Dublin but, to be honest, I love Sydney and I never really took to it before. I haven't spent any time up in Queensland but I have it on the radar and the Northern Territory. I couldn't give you any tourist tips on this place but you can't beat the weather!
You have mentioned several times that you might enjoy taking on hosting responsibilities on television or elsewhere. One of the best in the business is your friend Tom Bergeron. What did you learn from being around him?
Tom is the ultimate, yeah. He is just so good at what he does. He has this amazing balance that obviously makes him unique, and I would imagine any show on any channel in any country would love to have a Tom Bergeron. I don't know if you can teach that but you watch someone just be so smooth and natural and in a second make some words into their own. It’s just amazing and fascinating at the same time.
The Summer Olympics are coming up this year. Which of the sports from the summer games most interest you? Do you have favorite athletes that you hope will be competing?
I love watching the Olympics but I wouldn't watch every event and I don't mean to belittle any of them by saying that. Obviously the football is a favourite and Katie Taylor winning the boxing again is how highly we rate her - we almost expect her to win and we certainly all push for her to. Swimming is always good - tennis, triathlon, egg and spoon race, sprinting - I love it all.
Speaking of the Olympics, you mentioned in one interview that it might be fun to recreate Cool Runnings with an Irish bobsled team. Since it is a Summer Olympics year, which sport do you think might best suit you in your quest for Olympic glory?
I don't know if any of them would suit me but I’d love to give the boxing a go. I’d end up on the stretcher before the podium though, I reckon. Some of those Olympians are just beasts - and my frustrating triathlon career - haha. In all honesty though, to represent your country in anything is the pinnacle of your career whether it’s the biggest country in the world or the smallest. It’s always yours and you get to clench your fists and blow out your chest and wail out those lyrics to your country’s anthem with tears in your eyes and make yourself seven feet. It’s absolutely unreal.
Last year you competed in a triathlon and were in training for the Ironman 70.3 Dublin in August, but your work commitments kept you from competing. Are you doing any training now, and do you have plans to compete in another triathlon in the future?
I am training, yeah, but not specifically for a triathlon. My time is pretty thin at the minute with everything that is going on but I try to keep as active as I can day to day. I’d love to do another triathlon. I absolutely loved the discipline in the training I was doing when I had almost all day long free. I want to get back into swimming which I haven't done in a while but I have been running a lot. I recently sold my bike so that’s off for the time being.
Are you getting the chance to play any football these days?
No, I haven't got back to football yet but I’m loving AFL over here so I may get involved there when everything here settles down in a bit. I had reached out to a local team here to play but everything got hectic then for a while and I’d hate to show up every other time and not be able to fully commit to it.
In past interviews you mentioned you had several ideas for DWTS/SCD performances but were holding onto those in case you actually got to use them. Now that you’re not currently on either show could you share a few of those ideas? (or perhaps you’ll be using them for future projects?)
Yeah, there are a few I’d have loved to do. I wanted to use “Is This Love” by Corinne Bailey Rae. It’s a cover of Bob Marley but it got vetoed and also "Sesame Street". I’ve wanted that one for a long time and it never gets passed for some reason. I like nostalgic ones that I guess the shows feel won't fit well. On the bigger scale I always wanted to do a Labyrinth themed number or one from Willow. I just think it would have been class - in my head anyway. My biggest disappointment though is still from last season as soon as I got Jamelia I knew what I wanted for Halloween but it got rejected and I was so disappointed about it – haha. I wanted to use “Scream” by Michael and Janet Jackson and I had all these hologram and trapdoors and dance breaks for it but they already had an MJ song they wanted to use. I also wanted “Hallelujah I Love Her So” by Ray Charles but, hey, sometimes you get it and sometimes you don't. But I’d have loved to use those songs and still wanted to do my Beetlejuice but it’s been used now and nobody wants to use songs that have already been done.
You’ve stressed the importance of not only teaching but always being willing to learn as well. What did you learn when touring with “Good Mourning, Mrs. Brown”? Did you get any acting tips? Do you have any other acting gigs planned? We would all love to see more!
Mrs Brown’s Boys was amazing. I absolutely loved every minute of touring with those guys but I was spoiled with how well the family treat you there, and the cast were unreal with me. I’d love to be a Brown Boy and as much fun as it was, I don't know if acting in general would be as fun as that experience was. I’d give it a go for sure if there was an opportunity but generally when you are asked to do stuff now a lot of people feel it needs to be dance related somehow so it can be quite limiting in what you get offered. I’d like to do a little more so maybe in the future I can do something.
Obviously you have a lot going on in your life right now, but the past few years have been times of almost non-stop performing, teaching, and DWTS/SCD and other commitments. Do you miss the hectic schedule and nearly constant travel?
No, to be honest. This is all pretty new to me at the minute - this little change and shift in life - but I’m loving it. I like not worrying about having to leave my wife and life behind me for a few days here and there or months on the road and not being able to put some roots down. There are more worries I guess now in what I can work at and what I am going to do career-wise in a new country where I don't know anybody but I’m loving everything at the minute and enjoying time in my own house with my family and knowing I don't have to up and leave any time soon.
We did a recent survey on the website about favorite decades of music, and the overwhelming winner was the 1980s. You love all kinds of music, but which decade of music is your favorite overall?
Yeah, the 80s are pretty amazing- haha - but it's a fine balance between amazing and terrible. 80s rock and I guess 60/70s Motown are my favorites. Michael Jackson, I think, wins all decades though.
Things stay very busy on the website, and another survey gave the list of current Broadway musicals and we were asked to pick the 4 that we thought you would be most suited for. The results are 1) Something Rotten 2) Kinky Boots 3) On Your Feet 4) Disaster! Which do you think you would be most suited for?
I’m not really up on musicals to be honest at the minute so I couldn't say about those but I do know Kinky Boots - great show - but I’m interested to know what role you guys see me suiting – hahaha. I own boots but there is nothing kinky or red about them.
Speaking of Broadway, you once mentioned that you would love to perform there. Obviously you have other considerations now and your family takes priority, but if you had the opportunity to do something in the theatre and that wouldn’t take a lot of time away from your family would you like to give it a try?
I’d still love to do something on stage for sure but it doesn't have to be Broadway. I think that ship has sailed and I’m very content with that. I think maybe something quite dark would be fun to play on stage.
We know you had a small part in Ella Enchanted and you mentioned that the whole auditioning process might deter you from acting, but if you could walk into a movie role, which role or type of role would it be?
I’d like to do something historical. I love movies like that or documentaries where you can actually learn about something that happened and portray someone who actually made a difference. Besides that, I’d love to be Rocky – hahaha. You look at all the training that the guys go through for films like that for months on end. You literally get paid to be trained to look like a beast and then you get fit and you walk away counting your money and in great shape - double bonus. I wanna play Thor and I want Sasha [Farber] to play Ironman to make him happy.
You have said many times that you are not just a dancer and while it is part of your life, it’s certainly not everything or even the most important thing. You seem to stay grounded throughout all the ups and downs of life as a dancer. We always like to look at the positives. What have been some of the highs to your performing career thus far?
Everything I have done has been a highlight to be honest. I had some amazing ups and some pretty devastating lows, but I’m very happy with what I have done and I’m very happy to walk away from it all as well. I have met some amazing people along the way and I have met some terrible people who everyone spends their everyday trying to impress and get justification from. I could have done a lot better and achieved a lot more in some people’s eyes if I had been a lot more committed but at the same time I could have been a lot more miserable. I worked hard to get to a point and found that it’s not all its made out to be. I look at people on the shows I have been part of and get inspired by their commitment and dedication to dancing and think I want to find the thing that gives me that satisfaction and I hope that others with that same drive get a chance to do the show and see if it gives them what they are looking for. I think some people have confused me leaving the shows with me not liking the shows, and that’s wrong. It’s just not for me.
With your gift of gab, we think you would make a spectacular bartender. How about giving us your signature drink and naming it?
I’m a ROB ROY guy! I went through a phase of only drinking Rob Roys and I loved it usually by the end of the night I couldn't remember what it was called so it usually had multiple names..........but I’m mature now..........I don't drink cocktails. A great quote from The Quiet Man is "when I drink whiskey I drink whiskey and when I drink water I drink water". Michaleen was a wise man – haha.
If you were to create a motto or slogan that describes your approach to life, what would it say?
Don’t worry about what might happen and don't worry about what is happening - just what you are going to do about it!
You appeared on stage in many different shows, and you have worked with many of your Burn the Floor castmates on SCD and DWTS. Do you keep up with any of the other dancers and performers from your earlier shows such as Burn the Floor, Dirty Dancing, Simply Ballroom, etc.?
I keep in touch with the ones I liked – hahaha. I always look out for everyone and hope that they are doing well and happy with where they are. Just like any job or any environment some people put their goals before their relationships and will pull some David Copperfield tricks to steal your underpants which is cool but it’s not for me. I like the same people when I’m doing well and when I’m not doing so good and I don't forget who helped me along the way. I have friends from before I had any of these shows and I have friends who worked behind the scenes on these shows and I have some best friends from the shows. I wouldn't change any of my friends in the world, but I can take or leave some of the people I have met though – haha.
Finally, your life has changed so much over the last few years and 2016 has been a big year already. How do you like being a Dad?
It’s the most important and best thing that has ever happened to me. Whatever I have been through and did in my life - right or wrong - I ended up with the most amazing wife and daughter in the world.
Tristan is in the final three weeks of the Good Mourning, Mrs. Brown Australia/New Zealand Tour and took time today for our questions. Continue reading to find out the latest news and updates. As always, Tristan's humor, candor, and humility are truly refreshing.
We have seen the occasional photo of you with the cast and crew of Good Mourning, Mrs. Brown. Are you still doing the tour as it winds down and have there been any especially memorable moments?
Yeah, I’m still doing the tour. Only three weeks to go now - one in Perth and two in New Zealand. It’s been real fun and I will miss it when it finishes, but it’s been great. Everything is memorable about it. The cast are great. People have really taken me on board and looked after me there. Every show is great and every night Agnes makes me laugh on stage so the struggle is getting through the lines without laughing....it’s that way for everyone in every scene though.
We did a survey on the website and had close to a thousand responses about which of your dances with your celebrity partners were our favorites. Here are the results. Any surprises on this list? Your supporters seem to remember every dance and could talk about them all day.
1. Cha Cha with Gladys - "Best Of My Love"
2. Contemporary with Dorothy - "Tiny Dancer"
3. Foxtrot with Nancy - "Always Look On the Bright Side of Life"
4. Waltz with Valerie in Finale - "What A Wonderful World"
5. Charleston with Jamelia - "Straight Up"
6. Samba with Gladys - "Fiebre"
7. Quickstep with Jamelia - "I'm A Believer"
8. Foxtrot with Valerie - "Some Kind of Wonderful"
9. Foxtrot with Gladys - "Cupid"
10. Tango with Nancy - "The Naughty of Shady Lane"
11. Waltz with Jenny - "Natural Woman"
That’s nice. You forget what numbers you have done before and that was a nice surprise. I liked the dance with Gladys the best probably as well. That was one of my favourite seasons. I think with Valerie's “Carry On” sticks out, and I knew in my head after that dance that I wasn't going to come back.
You have answered a lot of our questions about learning and education in the past and here is an interesting one we recently received. If you could be a teacher of anything besides dance, what would it be?
There isn't anything else I’d be able to teach - haha - but I love History. Maybe PE. I think that’s really important for kids to do in school for social skills and mainly for health reasons.
We haven’t heard much about little Pike lately? Is he still around stirring up trouble?
Pikey is great. He is back in Ireland with my folks having the time of his life. He loves it there, and we are travelling so much that it’s not right to be dragging him around everywhere. He is very happy and probably too comfortable with his life in Ireland – haha.
Being a professional dancer definitely has its ups and downs. Generally speaking, what do you see as the highs and lows of your job? Does the uncertainty of the profession ever bother you or do you just accept it for what it is?
Yeah, there is an uncertainty with the profession but only if you limit yourself to the things you want to do. There is uncertainty whether you are gonna be on a tv show or not, but you can still be a dancer and you can still do shows and you can still take class and earn a living from it. The tv shows aren't the be all and end all of everything. You probably just earn more that way. I accept the way it is because the majority of people who do it get it. Take Maks and Val. They capitalize on the fact that they are on the show to make their own show or shows and make opportunities for their crowd to be able to work all year round. You just have to decide what you want to do. For me in a way it’s the same as everything else. Do you want to be a dancer or you want to be a famous dancer??! Do you want to be an actor or you want to be a famous actor?! Do you actually want to do something or do you want people to know what you do? It’s all perspective. I enjoy being a dancer, but it’s only a part of my life. It’s not everything.
Have you ever wondered what goes on in the website forum to get us to 1 million views? (Or do you assume it is insanity – or lunacy – at work)
People are always posting everything from the website to me, so I see a lot of things and the pictures are always a nice surprise but I’ve no doubt missed the bulk of all the work you guys put in and the banter between you all that no doubt is what has people coming back more than what I’m doing.
Also, there have been a lot of questions about Ballroom With A Twist and Dancing With the Movies here in the states. Do you currently have any plans to be in any of those shows later this spring and summer?
I have heard great things about the new show and maybe later in the year I may do some but right now I have a lot of stuff going on that needs my undivided attention, and I’m putting all thoughts of what’s next out of my head for a bit. I’m very happy where I am working at the minute and very content.
The question everyone is asking - Do you know if you will be coming back to Strictly?
No, I won't be going back. I think over the time I have been there I have realized more and more that it is not for me. I think the show needs someone a lot different to me on the show to get what they want, and I need something a lot different to make me happy and get what I want out of it. I think there will be a lot of changes on the show, and I have enjoyed it for the most part but right now I just need a break from it all. This kind of goes hand in hand with the other question in that you can do whatever it is you want to do but when you have to start doing things you don't, then you have to decide if it’s for you or not. You can be a dancer or you can be a dancer on a tv show and with that comes a whole other bag. It can be fun, but I’d sooner leave it as it is then spend all my time complaining about it.
First of all, what’s going on with Good Mourning, Mrs. Brown?! Tahyna posted a picture, and there you were in Wollongong on stage! What is your character? We were talking about that on the site – some said you looked the part of a minister, another said a Geek Squad computer repairman, another an accountant. Have you been doing the full Australian tour or only select performances?
Yeah, I have been doing the show here. We came out in January and decided we wanted to stay here for a bit and it happened that MBB was coming out too, so Brendan and Jenny asked me would I be interested in playing one of the roles while I was here - it was a no-brainer! The cast is great. I had got to know them a little over the last few years and now to be part of the show itself is an unreal experience. I love it. I play one of the Mormons from the Church of the Latter Day Saints who call to Mrs. Brown’s house. It's a comedy show obviously, and it’s been great fun working with these guys and seeing how they work together. It makes you wonder why everything else can't be so much fun and run so smoothly – haha.
Every season on DWTS and SCD has challenges, but what was the biggest challenge for you on SCD in 2015?
I think for me the biggest challenge each season and every episode is fitting into what the producers want to happen and trying to compromise your ideas and work. I understand it has to happen but it's hard when that becomes the priority. Sometimes you have to play 'the role' you don't want and it can be frustrating when everyone isn't privy to it. That's the nature of the show though and some work with it and some fight it, but I just think if you are going to be judged (more so by the audience) it should be your work and your work and ideas alone that are being judged.
Speaking of SCD 2015, Carol Kirkwood paid you some very nice compliments on Twitter a few weeks ago. Have you had the chance to dance with her or perform with her away from SCD? Did you get to know her well during the series?
No, I haven't danced with Carol since but she is such a beautiful person. I have a lot of time for her. We danced together in the group number at the very beginning of last season and we talked a lot during the season and are still in touch now like I am with a few others from last season and the previous one. Sometimes you meet people on the season and that's the last you hear of them unless you put yourself in those circles, but other times you get some messages asking how ' real life ' is – haha.
You have been asked many times what you would do if you weren’t a dancer, but this question from one of your fans in Europe touches on something different. If you were to have an alternate career in the entertainment industry, what do you think it would most likely be? Or conversely, what would you like it to be?
I don't really know. I like to talk and I'd love to do some presenting so maybe that. I have been very lucky with the opportunity I have been given now with MBB but I know not every gig is as smooth and as fun as this one. I don't know how much I would enjoy acting or certainly auditioning for acting roles – haha - maybe viewer is best option for me.
As a teacher of dance, what is the most important lesson you want your students (of all ages and occupations) to learn?
That enjoyment come first and improvement comes second. They are not equally as important but if you want to focus on one more than the other then that's up to you, and you have to decide and make sure that you realize that your opinion is most important not someone else's. If it's for fun, don't treat it like a competition, and if it's a competition don't treat it like fun. But you decide.
We all get bored at times. You travel a lot and have spent a lot of time on airplanes. Do you ever get bored on long flights? How do you pass the time?
100% - everyone gets bored on long haul flights. I just do the same as everyone else really - watch some films and think about what you are gonna do when you get to wherever you are going! I never used to move on planes. I'd plant myself down and just stay until we got ther,e but more recently I’ll go take a walk. I can't seem to sleep on planes and when I do I wake up with the bed neck and a chin full of slob - hahaha! I have been lucky enough with some companies where they flew us business class and then a few times I have corpsed it almost straight away after take off. I used to be bad with turbulence as well but I'm over that now.
In one of our recent interviews, you mentioned egos and then spoke about the cast of BWAT and how there are no real ego issues with the close cast. We’re sure you’ve come across this now and then in your career, but how do you deal with people who have inflated opinions of themselves - on SCD, DWTS, or just in everyday life?
The thing about that is that it's just my opinion. It's not to say I'm right and it frustrates me to bits, but I just leave that as it is. People are people and everyone has their reasons for whatever they do but I've stopped letting things like that get to me and just worry about my own stuff. Sure some people think I have an ego! That's the way it works. We see things the way we want to. Everyone can do whatever they want to and let's leave it at that – haha. Ego is frustrating but not as frustrating as entitlement.
Thinking back to your time in Burn the Floor, does any particular dance stand out as a favorite or is there perhaps one that you especially enjoyed performing night after night?
No, I don't think of shows that way - just the experience in general or whether it was good or bad! There are always songs we dance to and I remember them from BTF but the show changed so much so many times and at different stages. I'm sure I liked some dances more than others. I don't remember dancing through the dances just through the people and the times I had doing them. I'm not the type to think that dancing is everything and it fixes everything and it doesn't control my life like I believe it does a lot of people. I just enjoy doing it and the times I've had doing it and the people I've met and the places I've gone through and because of dancing are what make me happy.
The website forum contains a thread called “Tristan Trivia” and as you can imagine, it covers a lot of territory. One of the most recent questions involved the USO tour from several years ago when you, Chelsie Hightower, and Peta Murgatroyd visited and performed for troops in Germany. What do you remember about that experience?
Yeah, I remember the USO tour. It was a great experience and it's a shame I didn't get to do more of them. I really, really would have loved to. I remember meeting all the families that had been there and meeting the guys who has just flown in to Germany and were trying to settle. It just set me back seeing how young so many of these guys were and what they were committing themselves too. I mean you look back to the war times we learned about in school and you see kids fighting 14/15/16. It's all different times now but still surprising and sad at how young so many soldiers are! We visited a lot of the injured soldiers while there as well so it was very humbling. In saying that, we were looked after really well and had fun there doing the shows and hanging out with the soldiers. Afterwards, Chelsie came to Ireland and stayed in Bray and I showed her around Dublin. We had a great time.
We have to ask – do you have any scheduled performances coming up?
I don't have anything scheduled, no.
After a very busy 2015 with almost non-stop appearances and performing, Tristan is taking a break for some rest and relaxation. He still made time for some of your questions today, and in this short interview Tristan discusses his work with the Bord Gáis Energy Student Theatre Awards, how things he says are often taken out of context and then printed as fact, the importance of giving back, and more. It's always a pleasure to hear from Tristan, and we appreciate how much time he gives to his supporters. Enjoy!
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You’ve been busy. A lot of your supporters from all over the world have expressed an interest in what you’ve been doing lately and wanted to know how we could help so I thought the best way was to spread the word as much as we can so that no matter where you are, there is always a group waiting to support any causes or work you are doing if we can.
Things are good. I’m kicking back a little bit and taking a break after a long year and busy holiday period. Now I’m just clearing my head and getting my ducks in a row. Work has been good. Things have been working out alright lately and I’m lucky to have a lot of options on the table after putting a lot of time and effort into things at the minute so no complaints.
First of all, tell us about your involvement in the Bord Gáis Energy Student Theatre Awards which will be held in May.
I was contacted and asked to be involved - simple enough to be honest. It’s something I’m really happy to be involved in. It’s not something I had been following for a while or anything but when I looked into it a bit more I realized how important it is. It’s not necessarily important to see who is amazing and who isn't but it gives students at home an opportunity to have their talents recognized a bit more. There are a lot of amazing theatres in Ireland and I’d love to, in a little way, try to help promote something that helps us fill them with our own talents from home. It starts with things like this where we have students from primary and secondary schools being encouraged to put their stamp on the industry.
Obviously the arts are important to you, but from your perspective, how important is it for children to be exposed to the arts at a young age – whether they ultimately choose it as a career path or not?
Just to encourage the youth to express themselves and encourage them to work hard is paramount.
Along these same lines, several articles have been published recently about your desire to possibly, at some point, work back in Ireland in some form in stage and theatre training. In the event this comes to fruition, what would you like to see as the focus of such a school or venture?
That was all taken out of context to a degree. I think there was an angle that I wasn't really privy to when all those questions came in. They should have been about the student awards but it ended up being about Strictly and me and reality shows and silly things. In response to a question, I said that of course at some stage to come home to Ireland would be great and that I could see myself living there but not right now. If a dance show came about I would consider it but there is so much more to it than just that. I suggested a great show would be something put together by different counties throughout the country and there would be a cast selected from the same production across the board and that way it would actually mean something. Students could be taught how to put a show on, how to manage a show, how to perform or produce essentially like a theatre school. It would be a show that didn't rely on celebrity to sell it. There are too many people getting excluded from too many things for absolutely no reason so I said it would have to be a show or something that actually meant something to people and not just a reality fad for a few weeks or months. I think the best thing about Strictly is that they have a People’s Strictly which consists of people who contribute to their communities somehow and are fans of the show so they come on and dance with the professionals for a live show. I think that brings the whole place together more.
In addition, we saw a photo of you with the Purple House Cancer dancers and since cancer prevention and cure is a cause near and dear to many of us, someone asked if you are working with any particular charities these days. A lot of the people on the website are heavily involved in different charities – many cancer related – and the question came up a few days ago and this seemed like a good time to ask. We always encourage the people on the site to support any cause important to them either by giving their time or money when possible but we are always happy to give them a nudge in a certain direction if they want to help in some way.
I don't have any particular charities I work with, no, and there are so many it’s hard to exclude. If I can help something I will. If not, I try to not feel guilty about it. Unfortunately, there are so many people who need help and there never seems to be enough around! Purple House is a great charity. We all hate cancer and we all have been affected by it somehow. This time I’ll try to raise money for that. Last time it was homelessness. There are a number of people who work their arses off every day for these great causes so to help in any way - however small it seems - I think is necessary. There is so much money in the world and although it’s not the answer to everything, it goes a long way to helping. There are a lot of amazing people in the world who give everything they have so it’s not much to try and ask people to give a little if they can. We never know how we can help and we never realize that what we do helps more than we know so if there is anything you have an interest in, sometimes the biggest step is making the contact. Just maybe the people who feel most hopelessness and helplessness in their own lives can be the most important in somebody else’s.
We all hope you’ve enjoyed being home. Have you had lots of time to rest and relax and just take it easy?
Not just yet but I’m working on it!!
Finally, back to that dancing thing for a moment…do you have anything coming up? We’ve been keeping an eye on the 2016 Ballroom With A Twist dates in the U.S. and weren’t sure if you would be available for any of those or any other planned shows or events here in the states, in Ireland, or elsewhere. There is a lot of interest, as always.
Nothing is booked in just yet. I’m working on a whole bunch of things but I’m not looking past this week at the moment! I’m shattered and my body and more importantly my head needs a break.
Tristan is currently appearing in Ballroom With A Twist-Mas in Florida and has been very busy since Strictly Come Dancing finished up last weekend. He took time today to answer a few of your questions.
Several of us were fortunate enough to see the new Ballroom With A Twist-Mas show this week in Maryland. It was a great show, by the way. How did you manage the travel from the UK, rehearsal, and getting a little sleep before show time?
Thanks for coming. I didn't get too much sleep before the Baltimore show to be honest. We finished the Strictly final late on Saturday night and then went straight home to pack and flew first thing to Dublin for a layover where we caught up with my family in Dublin airport for a few hours. We flew all day Sunday and then learned the show Monday morning and did the show Monday night......and then I had a few hours sleep and we left Baltimore at 5 a.m. to fly to West Palm and drive to Boca Raton.
Take us through your numbers with Chelsie and how the show will change in Florida when you will be dancing with Sabrina Bryan, and Gleb Savchenko and Elena Samodanova will be joining you on stage.
We did four numbers - two group numbers and two solos with Chelsie and then I taught the dances to Sabrina, and we give that a bash for the week here. We have a group samba with the cast and then I dance a Foxtrot to “Baby It's Cold Outside” with Sab and a quick Q and A in Act One. Gleb and Elena dance a Cha Cha. In the second act we dance a Jive to “All I want For Christmas” and then we all finish with a group Jive after a quick dance lesson and Gleb and Elena do a Rumba. We come out at different parts of the show and talk to the audience then as well and that is followed by a meet and greet at the end.
Since this is an all new show that you saw for the first time Monday night, do you have any favorite numbers ? (by any of the cast)
No. I didn't get to see too much of the show the first night as I was still learning the running order and cues so I was pretty occupied for that first show but it’s great. It’s a strange one with Christmas music. I don't know if it’s just me but eventually Christmas music gets on my nerves when you hear the same songs over and over and over in and out of work but for some reason it doesn’t bother me with this show. There are your Christmas songs we all love and then there is a Motown medley of songs and the singers we have and live band are unreal so it’s a lot more enjoyable than I would have expected.
It was wonderful to see so many familiar faces in the show – Kiki, Brent, Oksana, CJ, Tony, Magda, Jon, Legacy, etc. It seems like a family. So many of you have performed together again and again over the years – the troupe, the Holland America cruises, BWAT, and other shows. What are your thoughts on the cast? You mentioned in our last interview that Jaymz is a good friend of yours and also the show’s choreographer, but we didn’t see him around this week. Is he there with you all in Florida?
The cast are great, yeah - no egos - just a great bunch of people who love spending time with each other. There is no competition here so everyone is just normal and gets on with their job. Nobody is trying to get one up on each other or going in the background to get ahead. It’s just a show we love performing and performing as a team. Jaymz isn't here yet but he may get here in a few days. He is always busy choreographing shows or performing and he has more DWTS cruises coming up so he is flat out.
The lead vocalists for this show – Von Smith and Vonzell Solomon – were nothing short of amazing (as were the band’s vocalists). Do you have a favorite (so far anyway) of any of their numbers?
No favourites, no. I love them all. Vonzell I hadn't seen in years as she used to sing onBurn The Floor with us way back and Von as always is just unreal. He has such a unique voice. The two work well together and obviously it’s the first time Gina [Gina Glocksen-Ruzicka] isn't singing on the show. Occasionally she would miss a show or two and a different singer would come in but it’s strange not seeing her face here but Vonzell is killing it here. She is great.
Speaking of music and musicians, you’ve occasionally done BWAT with an orchestra, but in this new show a band is on stage for every performance. How does that add to the show?
Everything live is always better, in my opinion, and this band adds so much to the show. Everyone is multi-talented and you can see as well as the musicians playing they are so involved in the dance numbers themselves, which is great to see. You can catch eyes with a guy in the band and you know you are performing together which is what you miss when it’s track. Jacob and Chantelle come out and start singing as well or sing while playing their instruments which I wasn't expecting. It’s just an all round better show in my opinion and being the holidays it just adds a different dimension to it.
On a SCD note – we loved seeing Aliona and Jay win this year and we were sad to hear that Aliona won’t be returning next year to Strictly. What are your thoughts on the series overall?
Yeah, Aliona just mic dropped it and dropped the bomb that she is leaving – haha. It’s gonna be a great loss to the show but she is a top girl. I have a lot of time for her and no doubt whatever she wants to do next will be a huge success. The season was grand, yeah, a little long to be honest but it was great. Starting in August and finishing late December is draining but the cast and crew this season were fun. The new cast members slotted in great and I’m glad they all did so well. I’m sure they will be around for a while and I’m sure a bunch of us will be having our eyes on new adventures and what not - you never really know when each season finishes. Sometimes you can't wait for the next to start and sometimes you couldn't think of anything worse but for now it’s just taking a break and resting up and enjoying the new year and seeing what you wanna do. The show is a machine and will keep going strong as long as the fans of the show want it to as it’s in your hands. The support is always immense.
Finally, Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to you and your family from all of us. Have a happy, healthy, and prosperous New Year.
Well, here is to the holidays. Have a great Christmas and New Year. Don't get caught up too much with presents and gifts this month. Most people just miss a phone call or a visit to say hello and a cuddle. Spend time and not money and enjoy time with your families. Take care.
In this Q and A Tristan talks about Strictly Come Dancing, the new Ballroom With A Twist Christmas show (Ballroom With A Twist-Mas), motivation, entertaiment vs. technique, patience and so much more. Enjoy!
In your two series of Strictly Come Dancing, have there been a lot of changes in the way things are done or in the way you do things or is the format mostly the same?
There aren't too many changes, no, from season to season to be honest - not that I have noticed too much anyway. Then again I'm still pretty new to Strictly. The format of the show is always the same. You kind of just get used to the way it runs and accept it for what it is. Some seasons you stay in. Some seasons you go home. I guess a lot of viewers get more used to you the longer you stick around which makes sense but then again a lot of people think it's my first season so what are you gonna do!? I have enjoyed myself on the show. That's the main thing for me each season and when that stops, I’ll stop unless they stop me.......and then I’ll have to stop – Ha!
We’ve been hearing a lot about Ballroom With a Twist-Mas coming up later this month. Do you know much about the cast and show yet or will that all happen once you get back to the states?
I know bits and bobs. I haven't seen the show yet. I think it's running at the minute but myself and Gleb and his wife Elena join for Christmas Week once Strictly finishes and then we will take a break for New Years. I know I'm gonna dance with Sabrina Bryan for the show but we will put it together once we see each other next week, and the main show itself is choreographed by Jaymz Tuaileva who is super and a good friend of mine so I'm really looking forward to it. The cast are a great, great bunch. I really like them all and can't wait to be in that group again!
Lots of professional dancers mention particular people who they find inspiring or someone or something that motivates them. Whether it’s someone in dance or someone or something completely unrelated, what or who do you find inspiring or perhaps motivates you to keep going? Or does that motivation come from within?
Motivation comes from everywhere I think. For me it's nobody in particular and people throughout my life at different times and places have inspired me and helped me out a lot but having respect in yourself and in what you do should push you on every day. No matter what you do and what you love, some days it just drives you up the wall and you need a break from it so I make sure to give my head a bit of peace when I start to have my head turned. I'm not competitive but I try to do my best and I set my own goals from day to day or week to week but you need to TRY and for me that's always the main motivation whether I get that from within or from investing in others.
You’ve often mentioned telling a story through dance and even said that entertainment value can sometimes take precedence over the technical aspect, but how do you know when to let the entertainment value or the story take over and when do you know that technique shouldn’t be sacrificed? Are there examples?
It always depends on the situation. Technique can obviously make things easier but time plays a big factor and then nerves do even more so. You can work on technique all week but it means nothing when you step on the floor and your focus is something completely different. My focus - all the time, every single time - is how my partner feels and what she needs to feel good about herself and confident of having a good time. Judging depends on a personal perspective so unless you are going to pick up on every single thing wrong and not mention anything right or vice versa, how is that going to help anything?! It's easy to look at a performance and say what is wrong but you don't know what has improved and/or how it started so I have to prioritize for our comfort. Some people improve a lot more but can't improve as quickly and getting slammed for and it doesn't help. We as teachers are the most critical so we judge on the work, and the judges and audience judge on performance.
You have the ability to deal with all kinds of personalities in your work. People often say you are extremely patient. Do you think the word ‘patient’ describes you?
I don't think it describes me, no, but it's an attribute I have and something I find hard to believe is such a big deal – ha. Why shouldn't we all be patient? We know something that others don't and should take the time to try and explain things. I'm not the quickest at picking things up so I'd lose my mind and my temper I think if somebody was annoying me and complaining about it. We should be trying to find ways to improve ourselves as teachers not just improving 'celebrities' as dancers for our own benefit. It annoys me when everyone makes it just about winning. It turns me off. I want us to do as good as we can and be the best we can. If that helps us win then it's a bonus but my job on the show is to teach and make the experience enjoyable for the partner. It's not my job just to win.
Do you remember the first dance lesson you ever taught? Do you remember the first dance lesson you ever took and who taught it?
No, I don't actually remember the first class I took or taught to be honest but for no particular reason. It's just that it was so long ago. I remember the first time I represented Ireland in the world championships and I remember when I decided to finish competing and dancing but that's about it. I'm sure I can remember more if I tried but those are the main ones that I don't forget. I enjoy teaching now and remember a lot of lessons and classes and different studios and the teachers who work there full time and the students who show up every day for their lessons. I think that is the heartbeat of the dancing world and for me the thing that keeps my interest in it at all.
In terms of pure fun, which dance has been the most enjoyable for you to dance since you’ve been on SCD?
I won't forget the Riverdance number. I loved it. We didn't do much in it but the experience was unreal for me a bit like the Lion King number we did last week was for Oti. It was just special and even though it was not about us we both felt quite proud to be involved in the numbers. And my Jive with Jenny was fun because that was a nightmare day, and we couldn't have been further from smiling all day before that - hahaha.
We enjoyed the pro group dance with the cast of Lion King. Did you have rehearsals together and have you seen the show?
Yeah, the Lion King was great. They all came in and rehearsed the number a few days before and then the night before. They were great. It was a pretty big deal apparently. It was the first collaboration they had done in twenty years but the cast were unreal. I have a lot of friends who have been in the show over the years and it was one of the first shows I ever saw on Broadway. I could watch that show over and over and especially now that we hit it off with this cast so much.
Any SCD updates you can share such as pro dances, etc.?
No updates, no. We have two weeks left so the celebs all come back in next week for the big finale number. I'd imagine we have another pro number and then we have two more pro numbers tomorrow night so it will be a busy week next week but fitting for the last show.
You mentioned on a clip that aired on It Takes Two that the pro group dance would be to “On the Floor”. Being that we seem to remember way too much, we’re curious if you remember dancing to that song in the first pro and troupe dance on DWTS in Season 12.
I knew I had danced to it before but I couldn't remember when. That must have been the first number with Peta, Teddy, Nicole, Oksana and Kiki. That was a great bunch there. I loved that Troupe. It's such a well known song and used a lot. Sometimes you associate it with a particular time and number but it will be a completely different experience this time around. Neil and Katya have choreographed this one again and it's all the eliminated pros so we will just see how it goes. ITT usually happens on the first day of rehearsals so they are talking to you as you are finding out things and then if you don't say the right things they cut you out - hahaha.
We were sorry to hear that you won’t be doing the tour this year but beyond your Ballroom With A Twist-mas shows, do you have teaching or performing plans for the new year or will you be getting some time off from what has been another very busy year?
I'm taking time off after Florida shows, yeah for sure. I haven't had a break in a fair bit of time so I'm gonna sit down and have a think about what I want to do with my life and just see where that takes me.
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.