Hollywood is abuzz with fresh Irish talent, and the most recent newbie, Tristan MacManus, is attracting quite a large fan base – not surprisingly female – with his star turn as Nancy Grace’s dancing partner on ABC’s Dancing With the Stars.
MacManus, 29, was fresh off an interview with Good Morning America and about to go into six hours of dancing rehearsal with his partner Grace, the pit-bull anchor of her own investigative crime show on Headline News, when he took a 20-minute breather to speak to the Irish Voice last Friday.
So how did a young Irish lad end up on one of America’s most watched entertainment programs?
“Well, it all started when I was about nine. Me and my sister took dancing classes in Wicklow and it progressed from there,” said MacManus, who hails form Bray, Co. Wicklow.
Realizing he had a flair for all kinds of dancing, MacManus began entering competitions. Year after year his mother was forced to remove family pictures in their living room to make space for all of her son’s mounting trophies.
“I spent a good bit of time in Dublin and then began traveling to places like London, Sweden and Italy to compete in competitions,” he said.
Although he tried his hand at Irish dancing while in primary school, MacManus knew his future wasn’t with shows like Riverdance or Lord of the Dance. He likes to work his hips, which is evident from his moves on Dancing With the Stars, and Latin style soon became his guilty pleasure.
It was this kind of dancing that brought him to New York on September 10, 2001.
“Yes, what a day to arrive in New York, the day before 9/11,” he said.
But the terror attacks didn’t deter MacManus from his dream. He was adamant about making it in the country where dreams really do come true, and he spent a significant amount of time showing off his moves professionally on Broadway.
MacManus, whose grandparents spent many years living in New Jersey before returning to Ireland, moved to Los Angeles at the beginning of this year to take part in Dancing With the Stars. On season 12 this past spring he was part of the show’s dance troupe who entertained viewers during the results show each week.
The young Irishman had been traveling the country with a ballroom dancing show called Burn the Floor when he was spotted by Dancing With the Stars scouts for his flair and talent.
“I wasn’t the first from Dancing With the Stars to be chosen from this show. Kym Johnson, Mark (Ballas) and Derek (Hough) have all been on it so I was just following in their footsteps,” said MacManus.
No doubt his Irish charm, single status and striking looks helped seal the deal.
Although his contract was only for the 10 weeks of season 12, MacManus told the Irish Voice there was always the “possibility” that he would be kept on for the following season.
However, he was elated to discover during the summer that he had been promoted to dancing partner for the current season 13.
“I guess they (producers) were happy enough with the work I did in the troupe last season,” he said proudly.
“I also had to do a few days where someone who couldn’t dance would come in and I would have to teach them to dance, so I guess that was an audition in itself.”
MacManus is very realistic about being on the show, and has no intention of letting fame go to his head.
“It’s very exciting to be on the show but I’m taking it as it is,” he said in a thick Irish accent.
He doesn’t consider himself a celebrity. When asked if he hangs out with any of the Irish celebrities living in LA he laughed off the question.
“To be honest I don’t have the time or really know any of them. This really is just a job for me, it’s work and I don’t really have any interest in that sort of thing,” he said.