Tristan MacManus brings dancer’s sizzle to sparkling version of ‘Ballroom With A Twist’

Dust off your dancing shoes, because several of the professionals from “Dancing With The Stars” are hitting the road and bringing the sizzle straight to New England. From the Samba to the Waltz, Foxtrot, Quickstep, Jive and more, the evening promises a frenzy for the eyes and ears.
“Ballroom With A Twist,” starring Tristan MacManus, Peta Murgatroyd, and Anna Trebunskaya with an international company of dancers including finalists from “So You Think You Can Dance,” is coming to North Shore Music Theatre in Beverly on August 8 and 9. “DWTS” 2013 Champ Derek Hough will also be making an exclusive appearance in Beverly along with “American Idol” finalist Melinda Doolittle. (“Ballroom” also plays Cape Cod Playhouse through August 3 and The Ogunquit Playhouse from August 27 through 31, although some casting is subject to change.)

As loyal BIR readers know, championship dancer Tristan MacManus spent time in Boston several years ago teaching at SuperShag Dance Studios in Charlestown. When we last spoke in 2011, he was on the verge of becoming one of the “DWTS” pros, having already spent a season as a member of the show’s Troupe.
Since then, he has been paired with celebrities ranging from Gladys Knight and Nancy Grace to Pamela Anderson and Dorothy Hamill. At the same time, he has become one of the show’s most endearing talents.
A native of Bray, Tristan started dancing when he was nine years old. He danced extensively in Ireland before moving on to Europe to participate in, and eventually win, a variety of championships. He later performed in musical theater productions throughout Europe, in a highly successful tour of “Simply Ballroom” in London and Las Vegas, and in the stage version of “Dirty Dancing.” Tours of the dance spectacular “Burn The Floor” followed, including a run in Boston.
I caught up with Tristan on the road a few weeks ago to talk about both “Ballroom With A Twist” and the most recent season of “DWTS.” Here’s a condensed look at our long distance conversation.
BIR: You’re got a full touring schedule this summer. What can audiences expect with “Ballroom With A Twist.”
TM: “Ballroom With A Twist” is a show choreographed by Louis Van Amstel (from “Dancing With The Stars”). I’ve been a part of it, on and off, for the last couple of seasons. It’s a great, fun show made up of different dancers from “DWTS,” previous contestants from “So You Think You Can Dance,” and great singers from “American Idol.” So I guess you could say it’s a combination of all your favorite TV shows.
BIR: But there’s no scoring involved, correct?
TM: There’s no competition here – we’re just all coming together to put on a great show and entertain. There’s something for everyone whether its ballroom, contemporary, break dancing, vocals – it’s got it all. Myself and Anna host the show together, which is fun for me, and there’s a short audience Q & A involved as well.
BIR: With so many choices on “DWTS,” do you have a favorite dance to present?
TM: My favorite dances are always the slow ones. I love the Waltz and Rumba . . . I’m pretty laid back and I enjoy taking my time and moving around to the more emotional dances, more so than the action packed ones. Although I just love to perform whatever my partners get the most enjoyment out of.
BIR: Speaking of your partners, you joined Derek Hough and Kellie Pickler near the end of the “DWTS” season this past spring for a spectacular trio Paso Doble. The audience went insane over it. Carrie Ann and Bruno both loved it, but Len Goodman was pretty pointed in his criticism. That had to be a little tough to take when the live studio response was so phenomenal.
TM: I loved performing that dance with Kellie and Derek, yeah, but I wasn’t disappointed with the comments. I think if you take the praise you have to take the criticism, so I choose to do neither. I didn’t agree with some of the comments. And it’s not a discussion, it’s an opinion. So that’s what I take it as and know that I don’t need to convince someone to like it or not . . . We did what we needed to do to entertain the audience, so that’s all that matters . . . I think more people liked it than not, so I’m happy with that.
BIR: This past season, when you were partnered with Dorothy Hamill, I think a lot of viewers really thought the two of you had a solid shot because the athletes seem to do pretty well on the show. It must have been disappointing to you both when Dorothy had to withdraw because of her spinal injury.
TM: It’s always disappointing when somebody has to withdraw through injury. To me that’s the only important thing – if you can’t dance you shouldn’t. If you’re injured in anything, you should take the time to heal . . . the competition isn’t important when something like that happens.
BIR: When you’re beginning to work with a new partner, and sometimes it’s someone who has very little dance experience, what are the challenges?
TM: I think the basics to every dance are easy to teach to people once they want to learn them. If you’re prepared to make mistakes and keep going you’ll be fine. It’s only negative thinking that holds people back from learning. Granted it gets more difficult when the choreography comes into the equation, because then you’re using more interpretations and different rhythms and timings. But the basic [steps] are either forward-backward or side-to-side . . . Waltz and Cha Cha are usually the first you learn. Or Swing. . . . It could be that they’re the most recognizable to people.
BIR: So when this summer tour ends for you, can fans expect to see you back for another season with Boston’s own Tom Bergeron on “Dancing With The Stars?”
TM: Unfortunately we don’t know if we’re involved or not until the day or so before the cast is revealed. It’s not an ideal situation, but we have to wait like everyone else and hope that the producers want to use us. Or not. So I’ll have to get back to you in late August!
R. J. Donovan is Editor and Publisher of
“Ballroom With A Twist,” North Shore Music Theatre in Beverly, August 8, 9, (Also Cape Cod Playhouse in Dennis, through August 3,; and Ogunquit Playhouse in Ogunquit, ME, August 27 - 31,