Mannion’s in the mood for dancing

Staying In

RAIN AND SHINE Teresa Mannion’s tango with dance partner John Nolan went down a storm on Sunday.

Teresa is over the moon to be taking part in RTÉ’s Dancing with The Stars

Darragh Berry

In December 2015, flame-haired reporter Teresa Mannion became famous around the world for ‘that’ report from Salthill during Storm Desmond, during which she dramatically warned the public to take care during the bad weather as she was lashed by wind and rain. And in true tongue-in-cheek style, the 55 year old capitalised on that with her first Dancing with the Stars performance on Sunday night. Embracing the theme, the routine began with a sampling of her voice from the Salthill broadcast and incorporated an umbrella to great effect as she tangoed to ‘Here Comes the Rain Again’ by the Eurythmics.     
When we catch up on the phone, Teresa is just finishing off a conversation with one of her co-stars on ‘Dancing with The Stars’. “Sorry I was just chatting to someone about my very funky dancing attire,” she quips. Apparently, her funky dancing attire had been a reason for concern earlier on in the day for the Galway-based RTÉ reporter. “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!” she laughs.
Aside from this little blip of a slip, Teresa seems to be enjoying the preparations for the show 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 gushes. “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 is clear, and she readily states that being on the show is ‘like being in a fairyland’.
However, behind the excitement, there’s a layer of nerves. “Somedays 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.”
Teresa doesn’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.”

Different world
Her day job as a reporter brings with it huge pressure but Teresa as 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.”
But breaking out of her comfort zone was not something that appealed immediately. “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 the interview, music breaks out in the background as another couple starts practising their dance routine. “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 giggles.
Teresa’s praise for her dance partner, ballroom champion John Nolan, knows no end. “We get on really well and have such a laugh. We just hit it off from day one. 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 is immense and intense, and she finds herself analysing her performance 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. 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 embrace a guiding philosophy . “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”.

Staying power
Competing is tough enough, but imagine trying to fit it in conjunction with your working life. “I’ve been given flexible hours,” Teresa divulges, “but John does come to Galway as well, and we practise in a studio. That way I can work and still get a good practice in. It’s a nice distraction to have after switching off from work.”
The mother of two teens also has the support of her husband, Dave O’ Connell (group editor of the Connacht Tribune), who will 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!” she laughs.
Teresa became renowned for urging people not to make ‘unnecessary journeys’, and now she is making a very unique one of her own. “It’s a journey,” she says. “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 she is hoping to have the support of Mayo on her side. “It’ll be very strange when it does end, I’ll probably be out soon anyway,” she jokes, before confiding that she doesn’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,” she admits.
If Sunday night’s performance is anything to go by, Teresa’s wish is likely to come true. Just like it would in any good fairyland.