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Hamill, MacManus focus on building relationship

Week one routine on Dancing with the Stars to be contemporary

Dorothy Hamill and Tristan MacManus will make their debut on <i>Dancing with the Stars</i> Monday night at 8 p.m. ET.
Dorothy Hamill and Tristan MacManus will make their debut on Dancing with the Stars Monday night at 8 p.m. ET. (ABC/Craig Sjodin)

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By Lois Elfman, special to icenetwork.com
(03/18/2013) - The new season of Dancing with the Stars (DWTS) premieres Monday night, and a skater will be in the ballroom.

It's been a hectic couple of weeks for 1976 Olympic champion Dorothy Hamill, since she was announced as one of the celebrities competing. She was already committed to performing with Stars on Ice, so she and professional partner Tristan MacManus did much of their initial practices on the road.

"We rehearsed in the mornings before Dorothy's call times, and when we get off the plane or before we went to the airport," MacManus said. "We had to be careful with our time.

"I couldn't be selfish enough to tire Dorothy out before she had to skate, plus fill her head with so much that, mentally, she is too tired to skate," he added. "She was being a trooper and putting in the ground work. When you are involved in something so intense, rest and recovery are key to prevent injury, so I have an eye on that."

MacManus researched Hamill when they were first paired up to get a sense of her performing style and skills. It gave him an idea of what might need work and what points he might be able to incorporate into their dance routines. He'd never seen an ice show before, so watching Stars on Ice was a real treat, and he said he took in Hamill's movement and elegance with the rest of the audience.

Known to DWTS fans as being a fairly mellow person, MacManus is letting his partnership with Hamill evolve naturally.

"I think the only important thing to build with a partner is a relationship. You can force a partnership, but you can't force a relationship in my eyes, so that's what we do -- we get to know each other, enjoy each other's company, and then the rest looks after itself," MacManus said.

"I think it's about being personable and letting your partner know that their experience is the most important thing, not winning or losing," he continued. "If your partner feels the same way, then you are onto a winner. Our partnership works because we both love what we do and we both appreciate working hard for what we want. We work to better ourselves, not be better than anyone else."

Hamill is doing well in training, especially since she and MacManus returned to Los Angeles and have been able to focus solely on dancing. Like most of the celebrities, she gets frustrated with herself, but MacManus said he sees daily improvement.

For their first routine, they're performing contemporary, a style introduced to DWTS last season. It is not traditional ballroom but rather a blend of ballet and modern.

"I have seen a lot of contemporary, and I love it, but it's not something I've spent much time learning," he said. "But I do know how to teach, and that's all I have to focus on. I don't have to know everything there is to know about contemporary and neither does Dorothy; we just need to know how to deliver a finished project that we are happy with for this particular performance, and that is where our focus is."

There is no elimination week one, but scores from week one do count toward the elimination in week two. The public can vote via telephone (numbers will be posted during the show), Internet (at ABC.com) and text messages.

"I think it's more difficult for the celebrities the first week for sure, as they have no idea what to expect," MacManus said. "You can keep reassuring and reassuring, but until the first show comes along, you just have to let it ride and see what happens.

"We are both positive, so we won't be harping on about the struggles and differences in what we do. We will be too busy working hard on improving and entertaining."