In the mood for dancing: A chat with Teresa Mannion

Answering her phone for our pre-planned interview, Teresa finishes up a conversation with one of her co-stars on the show Dancing with the Stars; “Sorry I was just chatting to someone about my very funky dancing attire.”

Apparently her funky dancing attire had been a reason for concern earlier on in the day for the RTÉ reporter.

“As it turns out, I had a little fall this morning, my dress was too long but I suppose it was good for it to happen now, hopefully it won’t happen on the live thing!”

Aside from this little slip, Teresa seemed to be enjoying the preparations very much.

“Rehearsals are going great, I’ve been here since 8am in Bray just nailing routines for camera shots and trying on different costumes,” she said excitedly.

“There are ten cameras and each are looking at what shots to use for the all the different routines. Each routine has a theme.”

Her excitement was evident – you could almost envisage her beaming smile on the other side of the phone line – and she claimed that being on the show was “like being in a fairyland”.

However, behind the excitement, there were some nerves.

“Some days you have acute anxiety but once you know the routine, it’s just a matter of keeping the nerves under control so you can execute your dance.”

She didn’t want to eliminate those nervous feelings altogether though; “Nerves are good, pre-adrenaline is expected on the nights, it’s just very challenging having to perform a routine, considering I’ve never danced properly before. It’s scary going out live to the nation every Sunday but the confidence will build and build after every performance.”

Her day job as a reporter brings with it huge pressure but Teresa has found this type of pressure to be a little different.

“Breaking stories and news reporting is stimulating and complex at times but this is different because I am really out of my comfort zone.”

Breaking out of her comfort zone was not something that appealed to Teresa at first.

“When the production company approached me, I thought no way! But I just couldn’t close the email. I used to sit and watch Strictly Come Dancing and think how cool it would be to learn how to dance and to be taught by a professional. I just knew I had to grasp it, that the chance might not come around again.”

Mid-way through our call, music breaks out in the background from another couple practising their dance routine, demonstrating the fairyland that Teresa had mentioned earlier.

“It’s like being in a bubble, fabulous lightning, amazing set, I get my nails, hair and make-up done for me – it’s so far removed from my day job! It’s great to be a part of something quite professional and high end and, best of all, you’ll always have a few moves for the auld weddings,” she laughed.

She is partnered with ballroom champion, John Nolan, and her praise for him knows no end.

“We get on really well and have such a laugh and just hit it off from day one,” she said.

“He never loses his patience with me, he doesn’t mind going over and over the steps and fine tuning. Extra details like head and body movements are vital in making the dance better and impressing the judges.”

Teresa’s commitment seems to be immense as she finds herself analysing herself after every practice.

“You look back at the camera and think, I look rigid but it’s all in your head trying to remember the steps,” she said.

“It’s about leaving the head behind you and finding a natural flow which is hard and takes time.”

As for the self-analysis, Teresa has come to a logical decision about her progress so far; “Some days you feel like you nailed it and other days you feel like you’re going backwards. But sometimes you have to go backwards to go forwards. Sometimes you have to pull it all apart, bit by bit, just to perfect it and piece it all back together.”

It sounds like competing on its own is tough going, but trying to fit it in with your working life?

“I’ve been given flexible hours but John does come to Galway as well and we practice in a studio and that way I can work and still get a good practice in. It’s a nice distraction to have after switching off from work,” explained Teresa.

As a mother of two means that Teresa also has to throw her family life into the juggling act.

“Family stuff is a priority but I’m lucky that my kids are teenagers and are very self-sufficient,” she said.

She was also happy to know that her husband Dave O’ Connell, group editor of the Connacht Tribune and NUI Galway lecturer would be by her side at every performance.

“It’s great to have the support of your family, hopefully now I can get the support of the nation.”

The reporter has become renowned for her report in Salthill during Storm Desmond where she urged people not to make “unnecessary journeys”. Now, she is making a very unique journey of her own.

“It’s a journey, you don’t want to see someone who is outstanding from day one; you want to see their progress and their journey along the way.”

This journey is one that Teresa doesn’t want to end too soon and is hoping to have the support of the public on her side.

“It’ll be very strange when it does end, I’ll probably be out soon anyway,” she jokes, before truthfully admitting that she didn’t want to be the first one out.

“I really hope I stay in for a couple of weeks and entertain the people at home and that they get to see a different side to me.”

Her ten minute break may have been spent talking on the phone but Teresa Mannion was more than happy to return to her hard graft for Dancing with the Stars.

-By Darragh Berry

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