Tuesday 27 June 2017

Strictly mad about one another

Currently lighting up Saturday nights with Jamelia, the real woman in Tristan MacManus' life is his wife Tahyna Tozzi

Global love: Dancer Tristan MacManus and actor-turned-writer Tahyna Tozzi met in LA and travel all around the world for work. Photo: Tony Gavin
Global love: Dancer Tristan MacManus and actor-turned-writer Tahyna Tozzi met in LA and travel all around the world for work. Photo: Tony Gavin
Andrea Smith

Andrea Smith

When Tahyna Tozzi first met Tristan MacManus in January 2011, she didn't believe he was a ballroom dancer because he was Irish and had tattoos. They were with mutual friends at Galanga, a Thai restaurant in LA, and neither ­realised their friends were trying to set them up ­together. Mind you, there didn't seem much point as Tristan was going on tour the next day and Tahyna was planning on leaving LA. When he came back a month later, Tahyna held a Super Bowl barbecue at home, and as soon as Tristan walked in, she fell for him really hard.

Luckily, the admiration was reciprocated. "I was crazy about her," says Tristan. "I phoned my mum and told her I had met the girl I was going to marry. She thought I was just drunk! Tahyna was obviously very beautiful, but she was also different to any other girl I had come across in LA. There is no pretence about her and she didn't really care what I did, which makes a huge difference in a place like LA. She was also very generous and honest."

Tristan, 33, and Tahyna, 29, started dating and she decided to stay on in LA, although they have had a wildly nomadic life due to their work commitments, living between the US and London, with frequent visits to ­Wicklow and Sydney. Tristan's parents, Carol and Paul, went to LA to visit them, and they hit it off with Tahyna instantly. "They were just the loveliest people and have just been the best to me from the ­get-go," she says. "Everyone from Ireland is so lovely."

The pair were married in January 2014 in a Catholic church in Sydney, and were stalked by paparazzi as both have a high profile. They have now bought a place in Tahyna's hometown of Cronulla as they think it will be a beautiful area to eventually raise children, and regard themselves as a very solid unit. They have a little rescue Maltese poodle called Pike, whom they adore.

Tristan grew up with his older sister Kelly in Bray. They ­started going to ballroom ­dancing lessons with their ­grandparents, Joe and Phyllis, and Tristan loved it. He ­entered ­competitions up to world ­championship ­level, and started ­teaching when he was 16. He worked with his electrician dad after school, sold life ­insurance policies at Bank of Ireland, and worked as a landscaper with his uncle.

He was offered some dance shows, which brought him back into theatre, and he went on a UK tour of Simply Ballroom, followed by three months in Burn the Floor in Atlantic City. He also worked on both shows in Las Vegas, and was approached about doing Dancing with the Stars in the US, working as part of the dance troupe the first year, and then with ­celebrities. His partners were Pamela ­Anderson, ­Gladys Knight, CNN ­presenter Nancy Grace, and ice-skater Dorothy Hamill, plus Valerie Harper, best known as Rhoda of The Mary ­Tyler Moore Show fame, who has ­terminal lung cancer. "She is such a sound person, really cool," says Tristan. "I never won the show but was always very lucky with the partners I had."

Tristan was very popular though, and has a group of fans called the MacManiacs who travel to see him in everything, which gives Tahyna a kick. He then started on the BBC show Strictly Come Dancing and, having danced with Mrs Brown's Boys star Jennifer Gibney last year, he has been dancing up a storm this season with singer Jamelia.

Tristan was home this summer to ­choreograph June Rodgers' Strictly ­Christmas Show, adding plenty of his Latin and ­Ballroom pzazz to the routines. With her cast of seven singers and dancers, and the hilarious ­routines and parodies that June is famous for, it ­promises to be a great night. This year, there is an added dimension with children from ­Xquisite Dance performing Tristan's routines. "It's great to work on an Irish show," he says. "June is fabulous and has such a strong following, but she's always looking for ways to improve the show. It's great that she's bringing in something so new with the ballroom dancing."

The beautiful Tahyna and her sister ­Cheyenne are both famous in Australia and the US. Cheyenne is a model and Tahyna is a model-turned-actress who shot to fame as Perri in the Australian soap Blue Water High. Their mum, Yvonne, is Dutch and was also a model, while their dad, Nicola, is Italian and a windsurf instructor. He and Yvonne are not together but are very close, and both love Tristan too.

Tahyna moved to New York to study ­theatre, as Cheyenne was already a model there. "She has legs that go on for days, but I was only 5' 6" so I never took it as seriously as she did because I knew I was never going to be a ­Victoria's Secret model," says Tahyna.

Tahyna's acting career brought her to LA when she was 20, and she booked some great jobs, but ultimately decided that she wanted to write and direct. In the past two years she has broken through in those fields, and her last film, Oren, was shown at the Cannes Film Festival. She has three scripts ready to go, ­including a love story set in London called Lost in Sandra. In addition, she has a company that creates shareable branded content.

"I don't want to play the pretty girl next door any more, but maybe as I approach my mid 30s, the roles will get more interesting," she says of her acting career. "Moving into writing and directing has been better for me because I don't have to stay in Hollywood. I can do most things over my computer while watching Tristan sparkling away in a bunch of diamante outfits. I'm really proud seeing him dance, because it's such a nice feeling to think 'That's my husband up there'. He's humble, hard-working and honest, and also very funny, whether I am laughing with him or at him, which has always been a foundation of our relationship."

June Rodgers Strictly Christmas Show runs from November 27 to December 29 at the Red Cow Moran Hotel. Dinner and show from €55. Bookings 01 4593650 or online on www.redcowmoranhotel.com/tickets

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