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.
Tristan and Jamelia have been gaining more and more fans each week, and we were delighted when some of those new supporters asked if Tristan would answer a few of their questions. Of course, he agreed! Enjoy this new Q and A that includes lots of information from Tristan about the Week 5 Dance Off, how he plans out rehearsals, his working relationship with Jamelia and some special moments from SCD 2015.
First of all, we hear from lots and lots of people that if they wanted to learn to dance, you would be the pro they want to teach them. You and Jamelia seem to have developed a nice rapport and we can see your patience and calm approach – at least in the VT! Is it always like that in your rehearsals and do you have a specific approach when you walk into the rehearsal room or do you see how it all plays out on a day to day basis? Are rehearsals as intense and focused as they look in the limited footage we see? How do you teach a full dance to Jamelia (or anyone else) and how do you determine what you work on each day so that you can get the 90-second dance ready?
Everything is a daily basis for me and certainly for us because you never know how your brain is going to work or how your body is going to feel day to day so you have to approach it day to day or hour by hour or however your schedule dictates. I’m calm and laid back and try to keep it that way. Some people work best under pressure. I can do it but I prefer not to. I think all the pros have their own way of working and they are all amazing and have to do what works best for them and their partners.
Our rehearsals are physically demanding and intense but it’s not enjoyable for me when it’s aggressive or shouting and what not. I treat people like adults and expect them to show me the same respect I show them. I never get mad unless I have a genuine reason - ha -and then I never hold back. The goal is for my partners to enjoy themselves as best they can but also to respect that whenever the show finishes for them they can go back to their jobs. This is mine! I find the best way we work now since week one is to not force overload. I teach the fundamentals that run through all dancing and then I teach the characteristics of whatever dance we have that week while I teach the first half of the routine. Then the next day I teach the second half so we can get full days of each half clear and then drill the full routine until we run out of time. Based on confidence or a particular week I will start with the hardest section so we have longer to get used to it but again confidence only comes from understanding so I make sure we understand what we are doing and why. Take the time and ring that through each week until something contradicts it.
You do a fabulous job of staying positive and being encouraging to your partner. What did you say to Jamelia before the Dance Off? (Other than what we heard on the show, if anything) We loved when you told her it was “easy easy easy.” We think she took it to heart because the second Foxtrot was a winner for sure. How was it different from the one we saw on Saturday?
I can't remember what I said exactly but people again put so much pressure on themselves before those dance offs - It's not the end of the bleeding world??! You only get eliminated from the competition not from life itself!! So what if you have to dance again? That’s why you are doing the show in the first place. There is that moment before everyone goes on stage and panics about forgetting this or forgetting that and even more so in the dance off. I told Jamelia we made one little mistake so just fix that - don't worry about every single step or question whether you done the rest right. Just relax, fix that mistake and enjoy because if it’s better than the first one you either go through or you go home with a better dance. I said the exact same to Ainsley. There were still stakes Sunday but confidence was higher, and it played out a lot calmer than Saturday.
Halloween Week is coming up – can you give us a hint of what’s ahead?
No! It’s Halloween so expect some camp 'scary' themed dances a bit of fun dress up, and a few fun songs that you have probably heard before - hahaha.
We have grown to have a lot of respect for Jamelia and what she brings to Strictly. If you had to describe her with just a few words (or if a few words won’t do, go with whatever works), what would you say?
Well, we get on with each other. I think she is a really nice person. She is a little like Nancy Grace I had in DWTS. She came into the show with a very strong personality that people either liked or didn't like which I think is a great way to be. That way you know where you stand with people . . . you like me - that’s cool, you don't like me – that’s cool too. I think she has won some people over and I think there are a lot of people who won't take to her regardless but I personally like her as a person. I like when people don't try and change or don't go out of their way to pretend to be someone so other people will like them. I’m sure I annoy her sometimes and she annoys me sometimes but so what??!! I know when she likes things and tries and I know when shine doesn’t like things and doesn’t try but because we get each other, we call each other out on it. Always better to be a shepherd than a sheep.
Finally, what have been your best Tristan and Jamelia moments this series of Strictly? (show moments or rehearsal moments)
We laugh a lot - that’s cool. ITT is my favourite so I always like doing that but I think seeing Jamelia with her girls - them watching her dance and watching them practice together I think is a beautiful thing. The show always loves showing those moments but I think it’s enough to know it happens. Parents and their children playing together or working together or just spending time with each other is the best thing so seeing that they are all 'in' the show together is a great thing. I like that the show does that for families.
This interview was posted a few days after Jamelia and Tristan danced their Charleston, Week 4, Strictly Come Dancing 2015
First, congratulations on your Charleston. Take us through the week – rehearsals, things that Jamelia picked up easily, things she had problems with, when it all came together, etc.
Thank you. Yeah, we had a good week and are happy with the results. I think first off one of the factors that helped was that Jamelia was familiar with some of the moves from the off. She mentioned they were similar to moves that she would have danced in the 90s so straight away there was a little bit of ease with things and then it was a lot easier to focus on the technique of the footwork. With Charleston being quite specific, she could really focus on major points which I felt helped. Also, flat shoes always help people when they are on the floor - they play a big part! It’s a really strong angular dance and so very visual and then the character of the song was easy to connect with. Confidence is a big thing for people and Jamelia is no different. You can listen to somebody tell you every day that you are getting better but until you see it for yourself it doesn’t really matter!
You have Foxtrot this week. Even though you and Jamelia haven’t danced ballroom since your Week 1 Waltz, we’ve seen a lot of improvement in Jamelia’s confidence and overall skills. How will you take that new ability and incorporate into learning a new dance? What do you anticipate will be her biggest strengths?
You can always carry through certain things. I made sure before Week 1 that we nailed the frame. Most of my time with Jamelia was really focussed on that and knowing that is in her body is a major plus before you start the next dance. In saying that, week to week is based on how that week goes and not on what happened previously. Just because you are improving each week, other factors come into that. People always forget. Sometimes you don't have as much time as the previous week. Sometimes you don't like the new dance or music you have been given, and sometimes you don't like the direction of the VT. If you have a slow dance, some might think it’s boring when compared to a fast dance that others are doing so it can always be harder or easier for different reasons. I hope the boost we got last week carries through to this week and hopefully the judges see what we have been working on more than what we are struggling with. I never shy away from mistakes. I don't like hiding them; I like to work them out and sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. The competitiveness I have is not in beating others but in beating ourselves each week. The rest will look after itself if that makes sense?!
You’ve said in the past that Foxtrot is one of your favorite dances. Do any of your past Foxtrots in particular stand out for you?
No, not more than any others. I like the music, and I like the laid back feel of the dance. I had a song I wanted to use for this dance and a back-up song but unfortunately they both got passed off so we will work with this one and try do the best job we can and hope we are smiling at the end. The biggest challenge to both celeb and pro is to 'make it work'.
We’re not looking past this week, but if you had the opportunity to teach Jamelia one particular dance that you have not yet done, which one would it be? Obviously it’s hard to tell at this point, but is there a dance that you think she would excel at or find easier than others?
I really don't know to be honest. Again I had an idea for a particular dance and concept for a particular week but unfortunately it doesn't fit into the week I wanted it for so that was a shame. It’s tough for the producers to make a balanced show especially when there are so many different brains working on concepts and what not. Sometimes you have to just take it on the chin and work with what role needs to be filled. I think it’s best to focus on the fact that people are working really hard to stay in the competition so sometimes you have to just hope that people, judges and viewers see past the reasoning behind choices and just support the work being put into it. I’d like to do the Paso I put together but unless there is a change of view I can't see it happening this season. I have no doubt that with enough time during any particular week that Jamelia can tackle any dance so I’m excited about that and each week her confidence and stamina build.
We missed you in this week’s pro dance? Will you be in the one that airs next week?
Yeah, I'll be back in the group dance next week. I tweaked my shoulder and neck on Week 1 so it was a precaution to come out of the group dance as I was afraid I might aggravate it before our dance with the few lifts in the Charleston. Neil was there and wanted to get involved anyway so I think it was good to see him in there but I’ll be back next week for sure. I’m sure a lot of people would have been happy to see another British dancer on the show – ha.
How does it feel not to have to dance in the Dance Off for two consecutive weeks?
To be honest I don't mind the dance off. People make a little more of it than needs to be. If your dance doesn’t go well or you didn't do as well as you wanted I think it’s the perfect way to recover straight away without having to wait until next week. It can be dangerous though. Like I said, if you have a dance or song or whatever it may be that is beautiful but you are against a lively, funny, fast dance you can get caught out. I think you can't afford to worry about who you are dancing against. You just have to go out and do better than you did before and make sure you fix what went wrong first. Sometimes people think they did everything wrong and get flustered and forget everything. You just have to stay calm and fix your mistakes. If you do that, you can go through or go home knowing you did your best. The dance off, for all that it's worth, gives you and your partner another chance to dance in front of a live audience which can be the most frightening part so it has to be a positive - and under much more pressure. It’s a character builder.
Finally, what are some of the things you have enjoyed most this year so far on Strictly? (or moments that stand out)
I’m enjoying how everyone has taken to the new guys. I think they are great, and it’s nice to see good things happen to good people. They have fit in very well, and I think generally everyone has been positive and happy this year which makes it fun going into work. I know people have to leave each week but that’s just the game. I’ve been very happy to see everyone’s reactions to getting higher scores and the joy in people’s faces every time we are all on set. I’m glad everyone is getting the credit they deserve for the work being put in, and I hope it continues and that everyone gets out of the show whatever it is they are after.
Screencap Courtesy of @clrhmly via BBC
We caught up with Tristan again today, and he graciously agreed to answer more of your questions. He talks lots about Strictly Come Dancing, costumes, difficulties in matching music with dance styles, Jamelia and the Salsa, his early role in the film Ella Enchanted, and more.
I realize that you have very little control over the music and dance styles assigned to you on Strictly (or on DWTS for that matter) but do you ever get concerned about how you could possibly make it work? And how do you make it work when you think the song/dance style are mismatched?
Yeah, you really don't have much control over most things to be honest and less still here in the UK compared to the US but that’s the way it goes. I think a lot of the time there are cases where things don't match, be a song and dance or a concept and song whatever it may be. It does get concerning sometimes, yeah for sure, and quite stressful at times as well when you know it’s not right but that’s what you have to do. So I do the same as I always do - have a little moan and just get on it with it. I let it go a lot of the time now as you have to accept that’s why there are different departments that do different jobs and remember it’s my responsibility to teach.
You have said in the past that you let the costume department do their job and don’t get too involved in those decisions, but have there been cases when the costumes haven’t worked for the dance? (too much fabric that causes tripping, sleeves catching on something, too tight, too many sparkles that caused a glare, etc.)
Yeah. Again, it happens – a lot. I have huge respect for the costume departments on the shows, both of which are quite different but equally as talented and hard working. I think in US again it’s a little more 'what do you want we will find a compromise’ and in UK its 'this is what we want' and then you fight for a compromise but again that always comes from the top. The departments themselves are always very forthcoming and supportive of what we want but ultimately the decision comes from the top. That’s why it’s always best to be your own boss – haha. There is such a quick turn around for the costume guys to alter and repair mishaps. It probably happens more than you would think.
You seem to be able to ignore a lot of the extraneous nonsense going on in social media and focus on your teaching and your work. Do you deliberately avoid it all or do you just choose not to respond? These days it’s probably easier to laugh at 99% of it, but how do you handle it?
Half the time I don't read it to be honest. Unfortunately social media is becoming more and more important in everyday life and everyone feels the need to tell everyone absolutely everything they are doing – haha. It's just not for me. I just don’t respond most the time for different reasons. Some people only say stuff for a response so I’m not going to bite on stuff like that but to be honest more than anything else I think everyone has their own opinion and are entitled to it and just because I may not agree doesn’t mean that they are wrong. I just don't agree. Some people have blind faith in others as well and as admirable as that may be it often leads to remarks that aren't worth a jot....in my opinion – haha. I’d like to respond to everybody but the reality is that I don't spend much of my time on the Internet and I’m not one for rushing home to check how many people like me day by day or anything like that. Anyone can get attention. You just have to say some crazy stuff and you get what you want but I'm happy getting on with my own life. I can’t thank everyone enough for taking any time to reach out and I try my best to address everyone when I get a chance. I hope this doesn’t get misinterpreted the wrong way. I’m just talking about negativity more than anything else.
In past interviews you’ve said that anybody can dance (although some of us might have more left feet than others) and obviously some people take to it faster than others, but as a teacher, how do you get a new student to relax and trust you? You seem to have a gift for it.
I just think you have to be genuine. You can't force somebody to trust you and it’s very easy to be 'best friends' and 'family' for a few weeks until you get the boot. So I just take the time to get to know whoever it is that I’m teaching and I relate what I teach to what they do so that they know that even if they never dance with me again they can dance with somebody else. Some people wanna learn how to dance, not just learn how to do choreography - and you can't let winning a trophy justify you enjoying something.
Zoe Ball seems to be a fan of yours and you’ve mentioned previously that you have a lot of respect for what she does and that you have plenty of laughs when you're around her, but if you could turn the tables and ask her anything, what would it be?
Zoe is the best. I can't tell you half the stuff we talk about off camera – haha - but she is very funny and I enjoy spending time with her. The thing is you could actually ask Zoe anything and you would get an answer or a very funny reaction every time.
With Salsa coming up, what would you say is Jamelia’s strength in this dance? What is the most difficult part about learning this dance – for Jamelia or in general?
Hopefully Jamelias natural rhythm is a plus. Salsa is a fun dance to do and real salsa is different to competitive dancing so it comes down to technique which shouldn't really have a place in salsa in my eyes. It's all about the music and rhythm. I'm just hoping Jamelia lets her hair down and enjoys it. I never dance for results so I'm just looking forward to this weekend.
Here is a blast from the past. You had an uncredited part in the dance scene in Ella Enchanted, and yes, we were able to spot you but it wasn’t easy! How long did it take to film that scene and how did it even come about?
I can't remember how it came about to be honest but the movie was actually made in my town so when all the dancers came they stayed in my house and the number was actually choreographed by Bruno - that's where I met him first and I'm pretty sure Aidan Turner (The Hobbit) was in that with us. Most of us Irish dancers at the time were in it and then a bunch of contemporary dancers from the UK came over as well. I loved making the film because Cary Elwes was in it and I love that guy. I had a scene where I danced with Vivica Fox as well in the wedding castle but it never made the film in the end. Me and my buddy Marc kept jumping in the back of scenes in case they made the outtakes - hahaha. That was back when I loved attention - haha.
Finally, we’re going to be having a huge celebration in a few months (or weeks depending on how chatty we get) when the website forum reaches 1,000,000 views and we’re thinking we might need to put together a little song and dance in your honor. (Probably not but it seems like a good idea in theory). What song and dance should we use, oh Wise One?
Hahaha - that’s unreal - the amount of views and support - you guys are the best, thank you. I guess you can pick the song and style and words and costumes and names and whatever else needs deciding on. I’m not gonna get ahead of myself and start making my own decisions......I wouldn't know where to start - haha.
Tristan took time from his very busy schedule to answer more of your questions. This time he talks about rehearsals, working with Jamelia, and most importantly, which cartoon characters he and Jamelia might portray best. Enjoy!
The question everyone is asking – how have rehearsals been going?
Rehearsals have been going well, yeah. We have had a lot of things we have been trying to work on and improve and it’s been a struggle at times but definitely moving in the right direction. We are having a good time and getting a lot of progress and enjoying each other’s company. Day to day, everything is improving and that’s what you want to see.
We got a laugh out of the clip where you told Jamelia that your first dance would involve breakdancing. How long did you string her along with that? And have you ever done a bit of breakdancing yourself?
No, that was was purely for a VT taping. She had an idea we would be doing a ballroom dance as opposed to a Latin dance. The waltz was the dance Jamelia was least looking forward to but she worked hard on it and now it’s out of the way so it’s onwards and upwards with a Cha Cha next week. I think I break the dancing I do now but never done any breakdancing, no. I couldn't think of anything I’d like to do any less.......well that’s over exaggerating.... ..but breakdancing is not for me.
When training for the first dance, you have more time than in later weeks so we are assuming that you have more time to put the dance together and schedule rehearsals. Have you and Jamelia been practicing both your Week 1 and Week 2 dances at each rehearsal or are you waiting until Week 1 is over to work on Week 2’s dance?
No, we just worked on week 1. I think you need to have your immediate focus on what you are doing now, not what you are going to do. I try and incorporate different rhythms and patterns for practice that cross over with different dances but certainly no choreography. For some celebs it can rush them too much and panic sets in. In the ideal world you want to have as less stress as possible going into each week – ha.
Assuming you and Jamelia will be dancing Week 3, how will things work? When do you first get the music? Do you work through it all in your head in advance, listen to the music, or consider possible choreography or do you wait until actual rehearsals and work it out then?
A bit of both. I have groups in my head but then you have to gauge how it looks on an individual. You always get ideas and a visual in your head of how you want it to go and how you want it to look but the reality is that it only works when you actually start moving in rehearsals. In your head everyone moves a lot better and faster – ha. We will probably start getting week 3 music in a few days time. Every department has an idea of what they want each celeb to do week to week and then when it’s all decided we try make that happen.
In the Radio Times interview, both you and Jamelia mentioned one of the “challenges” is her feet. How do you get that little problem worked out? Or is it ongoing?
I think everything is always ongoing. You will only improve by putting the work in but like everything you can always do better so in that sense its always ongoing. You have to look at the bigger picture and prioritize what you want to emphasize. When it comes to live shows sometimes everything you have worked on for weeks goes out the window. Sometimes it doesn’t so you just have to keep working and keep improving. You have to give yourself credit for improving stuff but you have to always at the same time keep working on it. Pros work on their own technique daily so it’s no different for newbies.
In your First Steps video, you and Jamelia were doing a lot of laughing. What was so funny?
I have no idea!! We have a good time. It was the first day so it may have been a mix of excitement and also defense mechanism for people when they are embarrassed about learning and not being confident yet! We are having a good time though all the videos focus on different things in rehearsals and sometimes - I'm not talking about this particular video - it’s not the reality of how the whole week went. It’s a small part of a long week.
We always ask this about your partners, and we can’t help but ask this time. What are Jamelia’s strengths?
Jamelia’s main strength is that she knows exactly who she is and she isn't trying to pretend she is anything else and I like that about her. I like that about anybody. Whether people like you or not you can't change to fit in. She is very aware that some people don't like her and she is fine with that. It might not seem like a strength for dancing but for me it is because you know where you stand and having that directness with her makes everything clearer. I don't have to worry about what I say and how I critique because it’s black and white - this is right or this is wrong and this is why. She is a performer and can grasp character and rhythms so I can always relate things to her career.
You mentioned in one of early interviews that you got to sing along with Gladys Knight during a rehearsal. Jamelia is also a singer. Are there any duets in the works?
No, not at all - haha. Jamelia sings a lot so I just listen. Sometimes I’m just in my own world and singing to myself but I’m not there to show what I can do - haha. Gladys was different gravy at that time. Everything was so surreal and you aren't gonna pass up singing with Gladys.
What is the most outrageous costume you have ever had to wear while performing?
In fairness when you are a Latin dancer you are gonna look a bit dodgy most the time.
Suppose you had to choose a Disney character or cartoon figure for both you and Jamelia to portray in a dance. Who would it be?
The Princess and the Frog....she would be the frog, haha. Ah, I don't know. The thing about Disney is it’s great but it’s been done so much. Everyone wants to do One Jump from Aladdin. I always loved that rooster from Robin Hood.
Tristan has been busy with Strictly Come Dancing rehearsals as well as the taping of the Red Carpet Event and Launch Show. He still took time today to answer your questions about teaching vs. choreography vs. storytelling but he also talks about much more in this brief interview.
We last spoke right after rehearsals began. How as it been going now that the celebrities are involved? What was the first day of rehearsals with the celebrities like?
It’s been grand, yeah. We haven't really been rehearsing too much with the celebs yet. We did two days for the group number with them. The first day is always a bit weird how it is all set up. I generally like to just take a step back as they usually bring us into the big hall where all the cameras are and the celebs' faces are hidden from us and then Claudia and Tess announce them to reveal themselves and then we rush over in excitement to meet them all –hahaha. I hang back and just talk to them all during the day. Of course I say hello but I don't like just running in and asking them about their dance experience and all that garb. We done good this year though. Everyone involved seems really enthusiastic and quite easy to talk to so I’m looking forward to it. There are always a few who are panicking straight from the off but as a group I think they have all come together straight away which I think is a nice thing so I’m sure they will all be supporting each other just as much as we have to as their partners.
You have told us many times how much you love to laugh and we are fairly certain there have already been plenty of fun moments since the rehearsals started. Which of this year’s celebrities have already made you laugh? How about the pros? (Still Anton?)
In fairness they are all a great bunch with different personalities. I haven't spent more time with anyone in particular to be honest but I like Katie’s sense of humour and Kirsty's too. Jamelia has one of those infectious laughs as well. I love hearing from people. Of course Anton is always good banter, yeah. We all rip into each other all the time so at least everyone has a sense of humour – ha. Joe (Giovanni) is a funny guy too and Oti is nuts. I like her!
Conversely, obviously all of the pros take their work seriously, but who do you think is the most serious (or focused) pro on Strictly?
No comment but definitely not me – hahaha.
On DWTS there are very often different dance styles that pros do with their celebrity partners (Contemporary and Jazz, as well as others thrown into the mix occasionally like Lambada, Bolero, Flamenco, Country Two Step, Disco, Hustle, etc.). Things are different on Strictly, but what is one dance that you hope you won’t have to do?
I’m pretty set with Strictly to be honest - nothing partner-wise I’m not looking forward to. We don't do contemporary or anything like that here. Sometimes the group numbers I guess are more disco/country themed but we don't have to compete in it so it’s cool. The thing I never liked about these styles to be honest was just teaching them. I wasn't trained in it so I didn't feel I should be trying to teach someone how to do it and I didn't have any interest in learning at this stage because I don't have a desire in knowing how. I much prefer looking at those types of styles but that’s just a preference. I think the show here is very set in what it is and the audience wants to see - Ballroom/ Latin so that’s what the show caters to.
What is one song that you hope you won’t have to dance to on SCD? (which probably means someone will read this and promptly think you should dance to it - sorry).
Off the top of my head I can't think. “Girls Just Want To Have Fun”! That’s Farb’s [Sasha Farber] fav song - hahah - and 100% not “Whip/ Nae Nae”.
In one interview you told us about Iveta’s singing last year (I believe you called it “rubbish.”) Has anybody else taken over where she left off?
Not yet, no, thank the lord. Haha. I’m only joking. I mean I think everyone gets the rush now and again to put a concert on but that’s all for fun. We don't have anyone hitting the Carey and Aguilera notes just yet - not even Jo Clifton (cough cough). She has some decent pipes on her though in all honesty.
You once said that you prefer teaching to choreographing but you also said that you like to tell a story with each dance you choreograph. How difficult is it to blend those 3 things (teaching, choreography, and storytelling) and get it to all come together for a performance that suits your partner?
It can be tricky sometimes for sure sometimes for the celeb to pick it up and sometimes for the pro to teach it properly or portray it properly. I think for both people it has to be about information. The more you have like anything in life the easier everything becomes! I think you have to first understand what it is you are trying to do and what you are trying to show and obviously balance is a huge part - not so much physical balance but the balance between a situation and a move and a story and a dance. The blend is for sure the hardest thing. You might see something happen in a number that doesn’t look like it fits whether it’s a step within the story or a scene within the dance. The best way to see what I mean is by watching all those literal music videos.
Sometimes the celebrities and pros sing along with the music when performing. While on occasion this is part of the choreography and performance, how hard is it to NOT sing along routinely? Have you ever had problems getting a partner not to sing when you don’t want her to (or getting someone to sing along when you wanted them to if that ever happens)?
That’s always a strange one to be honest. I get when judges or audiences say they hate seeing people sing along and some say they love it. I think again it comes to preference and case by case basis. You can argue that it breaks the story and takes the dance out of the 'story' which I agree with in certain dances but at the same time I think it’s important to relax as much as possible and for some people that is to pre-occupy their brain in a positive way when they dance. I think it shows first that they are listening to the music and not just doing steps and I think sometimes they enjoy it more. If I like a song I’ll sing it. I think most people do and I think if the performance permits it then do it. We did an ABBA song last year and the only way to get Jenny to relax was blasting that song so I said just sing the song. Meryl Streep sang the song in the film. It was her story so if that’s your character then be the character. Granted they might not have liked the dance but Jenny enjoyed it and that’s all that matters. I completely understand though that it doesn’t work for all dances and performances so just like anything else there is no point doing it just for the sake of it but you do whatever you feel gives you the best chance of enjoying the dance as much as you can. You shouldn't just get to enjoy it if you are good at it - do what you want to make yourself happy.
Thank you, Tristan!
Since July, 2012, we have interviewed Tristan 75 times and each is posted here with the most recent first.