Tristan MacManus Waltzes into a New Role on 'Dancing With The Stars: Australia'

by Kristyn Burtt | 2/8/2019 2:52 PM

Photo credit: BBC.

When Dancing With the Stars Australia announced its return to the airwaves, fans got excited. Not only because this country's series has always delivered lots of memorable moments, but because they've added a star-studded judging panel that is going to have everyone wanting to tune in from the U.S. to the U.K.

Craig Revel Horwood, Sharna Burgess and Tristan MacManus will be looking for that technique and performance when the show returns on Feb. 18 on Channel 10. They all have vast experience from Dancing With the Stars and Strictly Come Dancing on both sides of the judging table. 

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Dance Network spoke with Tristan MacManus this week to talk about his days on DWTS, how this opportunity for DWTSau came about and why this is the right time to take this new gig. There was a lot of laughter during this interview and Tristan's humor really is missed on DWTS.

However, this new gig is the perfect fit for him professionally as he wants to spend more time home in Australia with his family. His wife, Tahyna Tozzi, is due with their son in March, and daughter Echo, is almost three and already dancing up a storm.

Dance Network: How did the Dancing With the Stars Australia opportunity come about?

Tristan MacManus: It was something that I looked at doing when I moved to Australia. I was starting to get into production, so I had that in mind. They asked if I would like to dance on it, which is something I wasn't considering. They also asked my wife if she wanted to dance on it, but she was pregnant at the time. Then I went back to Strictly and then the show went off air on Channel 7. 

It just got announced that it was coming back to Channel 10 and the same executive producer was involved. She asked if I would be interested in having a role on the show. I thought maybe something in production or hosting the show, but then a role came up for judging. I thought, why not?

DN: Have you given some thought as to what kind of judge you're going to be?

Tristan: I don't know. I am very different hour to hour, minute to minute. I am more of a reactive judge than an active judge. I don't think about stuff before I say it. That could be a problem. [He laughs.] But it's actually what I am thinking at the time. If I say things that I think they can improve, then I will say that. But I am not looking for people to make mistakes. 

I enjoy the dancing because I have been on the other side of it as well. I want to try and help and suggest things. You have to have complete trust in the dancers on the show. They have to teach and they are the ones who have the best perspective on what happens from week to week. As judges, our role is to judge a performance. It can go great on a night and it can go terribly on a night, but that's what you are getting judged on. You aren't getting judged on the work you put in for the week. 

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DN: You have two fantastic judges joining you on the panel. Are you excited to work with Sharna and Craig?

Tristan: Sharna and I have known each other for a long time. We go way back — 15, 16, 17 years ago. We crossed over in Simply Ballroom and then she joined Burn the Floor and I made it over there. Then I left that show to join Dancing With the Stars. A couple of years after that, Sharna came to Dancing With the Stars. It's crazy!

I don't really know how Australian audiences will react to Craig's scoring. I will be interested to see how they go with Craig, but I have to see how they go with me first. [He laughs.] Craig likes to give low scores. I personally think it's great for the show. Craig is an Aussie himself and they will get his humor. If you take it to heart too much, it will be offensive, but it's funny, man. You have to enjoy yourself. 


DN: Could American DWTS fans handle Craig's scoring?

Tristan: I don't think so. [We both laugh.] When American audiences like someone, if you say anything about them and you're on the other side — you're gone. Even with Len [Goodman]. Everyone likes Len and Bruno [Tonioli] in the States. Bruno can say some horrible things, but it's the way you deliver it. He can get away with it. 

DN: Are you officially retired from dancing as a pro?

Tristan: Yeah, what I need most is that I need breaks from things. I still enjoy dancing and this [DWTS] format; I like the interaction with the partners. I miss it to a degree, but at the same time, I am happy outside of that. With the injuries that I have, I was waking up with chronic pain during those shows between my neck, knees and ankle. It's not fun.

I can still dance in stage shows, which I really enjoy. I can do one-offs, but the intensity of dancing every day, I don't think my sanity could take it with my knees.

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DN: How do you reflect on your time on DWTS as a pro?

Tristan: I've always been understated when I was dancing. I enjoy dancing, but I don't enjoy the flamboyance that is required of it. That's why group numbers suit me. I like being a part of it. I like the camaraderie behind it all. I don't need that spotlight for something like that.

It was never a goal to do Dancing With the Stars, it was something that came across at the right. time. I really enjoyed it and then I didn't and then I did and then I didn't. It wasn't something I worked my life toward, so I could enjoy it and walk away happy.

DN: With the casting of you, Sharna and Craig, this is a panel that will have a lot of global viewers — if we can get our hands on the videos.

Tristan: There is a lot of interest. It's going to be a lot of fun. The panel is new, the network is new, the dancers are new, the celebrities are new. It's going to be an important show because it has nothing to fall back on. It can't live off the previous seasons because the previous seasons were on a different network run by different people. I think it's going to be really fresh. 

DN: Well, we are thrilled for you here in the U.S. and we are looking forward to whatever clips we can see.

Tristan: They are trying to push me to do more social media now. That's always been something I haven't been great at, but Sharna's great at it! 

'Dancing With the Stars Australia' premieres Monday, Feb. 18 on Channel 10.

Don't miss Dance Network's latest 'To The Pointe' interview with one of the 'World of Dance' supervising choreographers, Brittany Cherry: