Enjoy this very special interview from October 10, 2013.
First of all, Tristan, we have enjoyed this very special journey with Valerie, and it has been unique in so many ways. Thanks for taking our questions.
Since you had a few weeks to get used to the one night a week format, how do you feel about it? Did you like being down on the floor in the “glitter pit” with the other pros and celebrities during the performance and taking questions from Tom and Brooke during the show?
I like the new format to be honest. I’m not the biggest fan of the glitter pit, but I like the pace of the show better now. I don’t like that you are on camera all the time with the new pit, and you can’t go stretch the legs or anything or you will be in the way of the cameras. I don’t know - it’s not for me, but I think the viewers probably enjoy it more and the audience members I’m sure do as well. It’s easier to interact with Tom and Brooke there but harder to mess around because of the cameras you have to be more behaved.
We’re enjoying the opening dances with the cast each week. Would you share with us a little of how those come together since rehearsal times are so limited and the celebrities are involved in those dances as well?
The opening numbers begin on Tuesday morning. After the live show Monday night, we come in at 9 a.m. and learn the new dance from whoever it is that choreographs it. Then we rehearse again for it on Friday or Saturday and then add the celebrities on either the second rehearsal or give them their standing marks on a Sunday or Monday at camera blocking.
What do you miss (if anything) most about the results show?
I miss the crew from the results show. We almost halved our crew with the new format so that’s the main difference and also with the separate shows it meant we had essentially a day off (Tuesday). Granted we work less hours, but your body needs a break for a day, and your head needs a break at some stage during the week. I'm sure the musical acts and stuff will come back in later in the season when there is more time to fill as well as spotlight performances and maybe Macy’s.
This season you danced a Foxtrot, Paso Doble, Cha Cha and a Viennese Waltz with Valerie. In your opinion, which dance did she take to the best, and was there one in particular that she seemed to enjoy doing more than the others? What about you?
I’m not sure which dance Valerie liked the most, but I think the best was the first one - Foxtrot -for the obvious reason that we had more time to learn it with it being the first dance. People really enjoyed it. She done a great job and felt confident and comfortable. I think she done great in every dance, but unfortunately show night wasn’t the best day of the week, and maybe it’s done to not being able to get moving and run things before you perform with the new structure.
In some of the interviews, we’ve heard some couples hint that they might be rehearsing more than the allocated four hours a day. Do you think that the change to four hours was a positive move, and do you believe that that is sufficient time to teach your celebrity partner if that time constraint continues on to future seasons?
I think as the weeks go on and there are less couples, the time restraints will be lifted. It could be up to five or six hours now that people have left. It’s basically down to the amount of producers we have and studio space, so once more couples leave it frees up more crew to cover more hours with people. Four hours can be a lot of time when you are productive, and it really depends on the students whether it’s enough time or not. There is less time to sit and talk I guess, but it also cuts out media coming into rehearsals like they used to which I prefer to be honest. It breaks it up a bit.
There is a very interesting mix of celebrities this season. Have you had a chance to spend time with any of them (other than Valerie) and do you have any fun stories to share with us about the season so far?
I can’t share any stories, no – hahaha – sorry, but I talk a lot to Liz Berkley. I like her a lot. Also Leah Remini is a good one to have around, and obviously bar Valerie, Billy Engvall is my favourite. He is a good guy, and we joke around with each other a lot and talk Scotch. He is a great guy! But honestly everyone is pretty cool. I don’t spend a lot of time with many others, but I talk to them all in passing. Corbin is a genuine guy as well.
What has been your favorite moment of Season 17 up to this point?
Sasha and Emma being given partners!
How did you come up with the Grace Kelly/Freddie Mercury concept, and can we expect to see that mustache make a return anytime soon?
I just wanted to make the dance more about the humour. I didn’t want to dance to that song to be honest but I had changed the song from the week before as well so what can you do? The previous week we forgot a few steps, and I wanted to take the stress and worry out of the equation and thought that we needed to relax more and enjoy it. Obviously the song is called “Grace Kelly” and I knew Val would enjoy dolling up like her and then the reference to Freddie was there. I fought to keep the number the way I wanted, and eventually the producers agreed to let me do what I wanted after the compromise of the track, but it took a bit of back and forth.
You have had five very different partners on DWTS and each seems to have a unique sense of humor. What is the most fun you ever had in a DWTS rehearsal? (Is there a particular rehearsal that stands out from any season as just being plain fun?)
I can’t really remember too many, but one of my favourites was Motown week when I got to sing “My Girl” with Gladys, Bubba and the Temptations. That was great fun. We had great times with Gladys travelling and seeing her shows. I loved that so much, but I have had good times with all my partners so far.
If you could write an article about Valerie or ask her the questions in an interview, what would you make its focus? For example – her health, her family, her career, her experiences as a dancer, etc.
There is so much to Valerie that I think you would have to include everything. She is super cool. I used to just ask her random questions about nothing in particular, and that was always great fun. Her family are great, and her husband is great to talk to, but it is great fun listening to Valerie’s old stories about Hollywood.
We’ve asked you so many questions over the last year or so, and you have been very gracious (and funny) in answering them all. We’ve also seen that you have a gift for hosting and being a fun emcee. If you were to conduct an interview with any of this season’s pros or celebrities (other than Valerie), which one would it be and why? Any particular question you might ask?
I would love to sit down with Bill Engvall and have people throw us topics and see what jokes we can come up with on the spot - try and see what rubbish we come up with - or listen to Leah Remini rant about something. She is hilarious.
If you were a judge critiquing any of your performances with Valerie from Week 1, 2, 3, or 4 what things would you say were particularly strong? What would you say could have been improved?
Valerie used her arms very well and was good showing pictures, but we for sure needed to improve the transitions between those pictures. Letting yourself be right can be harder than it sounds; trying to find a balance between always improving but also being confident in what you have improved upon play a big part in performing a dance. Again though unfortunately we can only be judged on what we do on Monday, I was happy to know that although Monday didn’t go right, I have seen Valerie improve each week and perform better in rehearsals to justify all the hard work. Live shows are live shows. They don’t always go your way. The live show is sometimes the only time things go wrong!
We understand that you are assigned the dances to do with you celebrity partner, but even though you and Valerie are no longer competing, if you could pick one particular dance style that you think most suits her and then dance that dance on DWTS, which one would it be?
The first dance is always picked for you, and usually Week 2 as well. From then on you can sometimes get more influence depending on whether there is a theme week or what not. We had Foxtrot and Paso and then Cha Cha picked for us, and then I chose Viennese Waltz - first off because I wanted to do it. I knew the ballroom dances and the slower dances were the ones that suited Valerie better even more so when her knees became too painful. I tried to make something more about our dances and I put my own themes to the weeks and sold that to Valerie. I tried to make each dance a reaction to terrible news: Week 1 Foxtrot was accepting the news and appreciating what you have been through. Week 2 Paso was anger and frustration towards it which I think is a stage that a lot of people go through. Week 3 Cha Cha was more about people who use humour to face their problems not so much to say you should laugh about it, but I know family and friends who have reacted in this way. Then I guess Week 4 Viennese Waltz was for those who don’t give up and whether they accept it or not carry on. It was always my intention to use this song for Valerie, and I thought it was great to finish up with that one.
This has been a very emotional but very inspiring season on DWTS. As a teacher, artist, choreographer, and performer, do you have any words of wisdom for us?
No words of wisdom from me, no. Just live your life and make your own decisions. There are too many instances where people don’t take responsibility for their own actions and try to shift the blame to others. Make your own path and follow your own head and live and die by your own sword.
Finally, if you have any message for your supporters, I would be happy to pass it along.
Thank you all for the unbelievable support you keep showing me. I had a blast being on the show and this experience has been amazing.
Since July, 2012, we have interviewed Tristan 74 times and each is posted here with the most recent first. All interviews are posted elsewhere on this website, including our forum.