When Westie Met Cha Cha: Tristan MacManus OKC Master Class Recap


Professional dancer Tristan MacManus teaches a Cha Cha Master class at Dance 3Sixty in OKC. – Photo Credit: Ken Sprous

A room full of grown women turn into bashful giggling school girls and the men are inspired to puff their chests with a little more bravado. An extremely handsome and charming gentleman must be present to cause such a reaction. Enter “Dancing With the Stars” and “Strictly Come Dancing” Professional, Tristan MacManus. DZP 3Sixty Dance Studio invited Tristan on April 13 & 14th to teach group classes and private lessons.

Why is a Westie taking a Cha Cha class? My dance background began in Latin/Ballroom before I even took my first West Coast Swing steps. MacManus himself inspired me to get back into dance two years ago  after a hiatus. The course was on Cha Cha, but the  material was very transferable to WCS.

Class Highlights – What I appreciated from Tristan is he used patterns as method to teach technique. Sometimes instructors often fall into the habit of teaching “cool patterns,” but there is no explanation of the motivation behind the movement. MacManus explains his reasoning with simplicity many can relate to when learning dance.

– Rhythm: The first thing we learned was the connection of the hip movement, to the leg. A lot of dancers (especially at the beginner level) do not realize the movement of the hips comes from the bending and straightening of the leg (Sound familiar? 😉 #WestieBodyRollAnchors). He had us do the cha cha rhythm in place while being aware of our bent vs. straight leg. Sean McKeever did a drill with me in my private lesson that reminded me a lot of this. He had me step the basic WCS rhythm in place, making sure I gain the “rolling count” action by having my knees pass in the middle. Tristan also did the bending and straightening of the leg to show the length of our right and left sides… Ever wonder why pros drill you with body isolations? Not only does it help your overall form/posture… You realize where your weight is committed.  This applies to WCS triples and when we shift our weight in the lateral movements.

– Spot Turns: Dancers on occasion when doing crossovers in Cha Cha or spins in WCS they tend to pick their foot off the floor and swing it around (guilty!). For more grounded footwork, the weight needs to be focused more on the ball of the foot. The spot turns helped A LOT with weight transfer and balance. Michael Kielbasa and I spent pretty much 75-80% my last private lesson on pivot drills/rotations similar to these spot turns. #BalanceIsYourFriend

-Lock Steps/Rondes: One of the last things we covered was lock steps and rondes. The lock step (or a forward/backward triple for us Westies) often turns into a gallop if not careful. We would tuck our feet to stop the travel, but to use that lock to push off with our free foot in a diagonal. This obviously gives us the more fluid and linked “cha cha cha” look in the Chasse step. The ronde we applied to a basic demonstrated on the focus was not only on the sweeping foot, but the hip as well. When we ronde are actually opening our hips. Think in WCS when we do leg sweeps… we open our hips for that stretch to send the message through our connection.

The combo that resulted in the end product of all these steps and more was super fun! MacManus was patient with his instruction, and his humor made the class  that much more enjoyable.

The biggest takeaway – Tristan was in the middle of teaching, and made a resonating statement. He said: “Some dancers will be so focused on the technique that they forget to relax and dance with feeling.” A big topic in WCS is how emotion is now playing a larger role in judging during competitions. You have to be able to feel something when you watch a couple dance otherwise it is “stepping” versus “dancing.” Overall, a very beneficial class for all kinds of dancers!

Tris, I cannot believe after three years and the several gracious interviews you have given this site, we finally met! It was a true pleasure and I learned so much. 🙂 Thank you for being so sweet to all the patrons!

Thanks to the folks at  Dance 3Sixty for hosting Tristan MacManus! The beautiful venue was a great spot for a very informative master class. Having master classes in Ballroom/Latin of this magnitude is a rarity in Oklahoma. The experience was truly magically delicious.

Tristan MacManus and Steph Pham at Dance 3Sixty in OKC, OK.
Tristan MacManus and Steph Pham at Dance 3Sixty in OKC, OK.

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