First, we have a couple of questions about Season 17. In your opinion, what (or who) has been the biggest surprise so far? Could pick a favorite out of all of the performances?
I don’t really know to be honest who was the biggest surprise. I think many will say they are surprised with how far some have gone and how early some have left but for me it is Leah and Bill. I think they have been the spirit of the show. Bill is so endearing and he is great fun to be around and obviously Emma as well (I'm so happy herself and Farbs are doing so well). Leah is doing her best, never slacks off, enjoys herself but most of all I find her so great because she isn’t falling for all the other stuff that comes with the show. It does my head in when people talk about rainbows and fairy tales and act happy ALL the time – HaHa! There is no reality in that. She is being herself and wants to learn and get better for herself because she genuinely loves dancing and that's why I’m so happy every week when she gets through. I’m probably a little surprised by how committed Jack is, and I don’t know why!! (for no reason!) I didn’t know him beforehand so it’s a bit unfair to suggest he was never going to be anything but committed but he is doing everything he can to get the most out of the experience. You can see how happy he makes Cheryl, and again, like Leah there is no acting going on there - just hard work.
With two guest judges this season, have you seen any major change in the judging dynamic? Would you like to see regular guest judges or do you prefer the week-to-week "consistency" of having Bruno, Carrie Ann, and Len?
Consistency is a very funny word to use – haha! To be honest it doesn’t really bother me who is judging. I think it’s good to switch it up now and again just like we do with the pros and just like every season we do with the celebrities, but it is what it is. If having a new judge each week or every other week gives the show even more exposure than it couldn’t be a bad thing. I think the judges we have are grand, and I think they know what they want to see, and to a certain degree everyone has a good idea of what they want to see. Having a guest judge changes the dynamic and probably to a degree inspires the pros more than it does the celebrities but I think it gives us a broader opinion, which I like.
You have been involved in many numbers and commercial bumpers this season. Do you have any favorites? What about in your six seasons on DWTS? Any particular favorite performance that stands out?
Not really. I enjoyed all the dances with Valerie for all different reasons, and I enjoy dancing with different people every week. I really enjoyed Lacey and Benji's number, and I love working with Mandy Moore, and Kevin Wilson and Doriana Sanchez who did the Cher number are great. I enjoyed doing those numbers but again it stresses me out learning them because I don’t feel comfortable learning those styles and don’t have much of an interest in actually dancing those styles. I much prefer the show night to the prep time that goes into most numbers after the team I am on has been eliminated.
There have a been a lot of ups and downs and twists and turns this season. What one thing - (or things) have you found to be the most interesting (or perhaps, the most perplexing!) – the scoring, the eliminations, etc.
I’m never surprised by eliminations or scores. I think you can pluck a number out of the sky each week, and it more than likely won’t match up to the comments. I understand that it’s very hard to judge, don’t get me wrong, but I think you generally know what week the 9's and 10's come out and you can always tell when people are being judged on or voted for based on their likability and ratings, last week’s leaderboard, dance-offs whatever it may be. You just have to enjoy the dances and dancers when they are there, appreciate that everyone is doing their best and then just let it ride and see how the story pans out if you know what I mean. The hard work is being done by everyone on the show, and as long as people appreciate that whether you are on the top or on the bottom, everyone is working their socks off every day to the best of THEIR ability.
If you had to choose one of the following, which would you choose: 1) a celebrity partner who already has quite a bit of dance training and/or experience or 2) a celebrity partner who has little or no dance training and/or experience.
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!!
You have said a few times that you prefer teaching to choreographing. What is it that you like so much about teaching? Along those same lines, do you have a favorite teaching experience (outside of DWTS)?
I enjoy teaching because I think when you teach someone to dance then they can continue to enjoy themselves after the show is over. The best dancing I have ever done in my life and the most satisfying has been at family and friends’ weddings. It’s the best craic I have ever had, and there is absolutely no choreography to that. Haha! I like to think that if I have taught you how to dance that you can go on and relay that in your own way to somebody else because you understand what you have learned. This is just my opinion. I’m sure there are many things to be said against it, but I don’t care. I think generally everything ends up looking the same anyway! It’s not that I don’t like choreographing; it’s just that I prefer to tell stories and sometimes it’s hard to tell a story I want through doing steps. That’s why I admire so much people who can.
In Season 13, you danced to “Moon River” to tie in with the theme of Nancy’s Most Memorable Year. If you could choose a Most Memorable Year (for yourself), which one would it be and what dance would you choreograph to which song?
I don’t really have a memorable year. I have memorable moments in my life that might have happened in a February and then the year turned on its arse in June so no memorable years for me - just a whole ton of great and horrible moments but I wouldn't change it for the world. There are too many songs for too many memories but I love nostalgic songs. I know songs always take you back but I mean songs about being nostalgic like the old Irish songs. I think it’s why music is so special. Sometimes I just love to hear the music and sit and enjoy it. If I had to dance to it I’d probably forget what I was doing. I’d be too distracted!
Do you like the addition of dances such as Jazz and Contemporary on DWTS or would you prefer that they stay with traditional ballroom and Latin styles?
I don’t like doing the styles, but I do enjoy watching them so from that point of view I’d prefer to keep it to what I know. But on the flip our dancers are so versatile that it’s great that they can showcase that and it opens up the show to other dancers and styles which entertain people just as much or in some cases more so than the traditional ones. I think you have to give the people what they want to see and that is the only important factor. I don’t think it makes much difference to the celebs who have no experience although it may make it easier for some of them to relate to something different or styles they have at least heard of.
Touching briefly on Theme Weeks such as Halloween Week, Rock Week, Movie Week, etc., if you had the choice of one of those to do on DWTS and had complete control over the music and dance style choices, what would you like to do?
I think the theme weeks are a nice novelty act now and again. It can be fun on Halloween when you can all have a dress up. Rock Week was grand; we got to see Kiss. Motown Week was super as well. Sometimes I think the concept is a bit too broad but again if it’s what people want to see then you gotta do it. Maybe we need an Irish themed week - it could go either way. Hahaha! It would be amazing or it would never end - excessive compulsive as Richard Harris put it. Haha!
One of my favourite songs is ”Wicked Game” and I’ve always wanted to dance to that so a Rumba but I couldn’t pick any one; they are all great. As much as I love Chris Isaak though I would still dance to James Vincent McMorrows version. Or an a capella version of Bob Seger’s “Hollywood Nights.” I get a bit over excited in the car when the song comes on.
Previously you have given us a little tutorial in the Cha Cha, Rumba, Samba, and Waltz, but what can you tell us about teaching dances like the Paso Doble or Argentine Tango? What does a student need to learn in order to perform those successfully?
Find the character for both dances. In my eyes, it’s the only important thing. If you know the character you don’t need to know the steps.
What is your favorite DWTS memory so far? (a performance, a team, a guest artist, anything at all)
I still remember my first dance in the troupe as being pretty special. Hearing the audience in the studio for the first time was great ,and then there is one point I guess of each season where you get the pride in your heart. It’s hard to explain sometime. It’s there at the most nothing of moments and the moments where people think 'you must have loved that!' It’s funny how sometimes those moments just pass you by. I enjoy a lot about the show and a great number of people who work behind the scenes. I’ll remember a lot of moments when I pack it in.
We heard that you are scheduled to be in Hawaii on December 6 as a celebrity judge and guest performer for the Dancing With the Stars Hawaii Fundraiser for the Kapi’olaini Medical Center for Women and Children. Could you share a little bit about that with us?
Yeah, I’ll be heading to Honolulu to do a bit of teaching down there again before I head off for the year. There is a fundraiser I was asked to attend and judge a dance comp at for the hospital which I think is great. I’m trying to get Farbs and Emma to come along too so hopefully we get a bit of down time too but it’s a great cause for the women and children and I’m more than happy to help and feel grateful for the opportunity to come and try and help. I went there before for a few days but I literally went to the studio and then bed, studio, bed, and studio then back to LA. I don’t think this time will be much different but they are a great bunch who I work for down there so I’m more than happy. This pasty skin could do with a bit of sunshine!
Since July, 2012, we have interviewed Tristan 75 times and each is posted here with the most recent first. All interviews are posted elsewhere on this website, including our forum.