Travis Wall is nominated for his 6th Emmy for Best Choreography.
So…you think you can dance? Travis Wall definitely did. He was the runner-up in season 2 of So You Think You Can Dance (or SYTYCD) but he’s taken it so much further than the average reality show contestant. Wall has become a staple in the SYTYCD community as a go-to contemporary choreographer for the show since season 5 and has wowed millions of viewers along the way.
Travis Wall is now up for his 6th Emmy for Best Choreography so we had to discuss his incredible history with SYTYCD as well as how he stays in incredible shape when he travels with his dance company and if he’s competitive with his new fianc‚àö¬© Dom, who just happens to be a world champion in gymnastics.
Q&A with Travis Wall
You are known as one of the most technically talented dancers in all of SYTYCD‘s history. When you choreograph others, do you focus more on technique or passion?
T: When I first started choreographing, I focused so intently on technique. I utilized facility mostly, but as I’ve grown and learned more, also with working with more experienced dancers, technique isn’t my go-to. I am definitely more of an execution type of guy.
In total, you’ve been nominated for six Emmys. Have you gotten to a point where you consider the fact that you might be up for an Emmy nom when you choreograph? Or would that only hinder your creativity?
T: No matter what I do, I always try to put my best foot forward. For me, it’s not about doing the work to get nominated. I attempt to improve on what I’ve put out previously and essentially try and outdo myself every time, to have new challenges and to let my work grow every time I choreograph.
SYTYCD has changed a lot over the years since you auditioned 10 years ago. In what ways has it changed for the better and in what ways do you think it could benefit from going back to the original show?
T: Overall, I think the talent that comes through the show is at such a higher caliber. The training we used to have when I was younger has really evolved since then. The exposure these kids are getting at such an early age is incredible. The internet has exploded with dance – it’s everywhere! There are online dance classes and combinations on YouTube always at their fingertips, it really prepares them for the show.
Every now and then you get the rare gem of a personality. The crazy part about the show back in the day, was the lack of expectation in regards to choreography or personality because there was nothing to compare it to yet. That’s when the stars really shined in those early seasons. Of course, the exposure and popularity of the show is great, but it puts it at a level that makes it hard not to compare to previous seasons or pieces. It’s remarkable to think about how Mia Michael’s bench piece from Season 2, for example, truly changed what kind of pieces they would do on the show. The first season wasn’t really like that, and our second season was more about side by side dancing until that piece came. From there, emotion in pieces really started emerging and affecting us.
We realized that we could be moved to tears after only a minute and a half dance, which gave way to the show’s version of “contemporary”.
Many up and coming dancers look at you and dream they can dance as well as you one day. Even at your level, is there still a technique you struggle with to this day?
T: Dancing has got to be one of my least favorite things, haha! It’s why I have truly transitioned into choreographing and directing. I’ve had multiple injuries, that have caused a lot of limitations.
I am trying to stay away from things that cause me pain every day. Anything involving my legs is extremely hard these days. Getting my leg above 45-90 degrees causes a lot of pain in my hips. Those are the things I still struggle with because there is a lot of trauma going on in my hips.
What advice do you have for up and coming performers who want to get into this industry?
T: Don’t do it! Haha, I’m just kidding! I think you just have to have a very strong desire. Be focused and driven. A lot of times you’re going to be the one driving the bus. Unless you’re surrounded by the best team in the game, you’ve got to make sure you are focused and able to be independent. I still wake up at times and have to tell myself “You’ve got this”, “You’ve got to keep going, you’ve got to keep going.”
I think that you should constantly keep finding things that inspire you outside of dance. So many life decisions have inspired movement and so many pieces have helped me dictate choices in my life. Never stop trying to find your voice, growing and learning. You never want to feel like you’re stagnant. Find time to be normal. I struggle with that a lot, where I have to remove myself from the situation because sometimes I can’t make out what reality even is anymore.
You recently got engaged to your long-time partner, Dom. As both of you are athletes, is your household competitive when it comes to athletics, especially dance?
T: HAHA! Dom has always been extremely physically fit; it’s insane what his body can look like. I’ve struggled with my weight all my life and have a very slow metabolism, but about three years ago I made a change. I went on a strict diet, I was always at the gym, had a trainer, and really focused on my fitness. It’s never really been competitive between the two of us simply because there is no comparison. That’s basically like saying a high school basketball player is in competition against LeBron James. We motivate each other. I can remember once I started looking and feeling really fit, it pushed him to get into even better shape than he was already in. He’s the guy who has always had the super fit, strong body and when I started getting fit, he put his foot on the gas to excel even further passed me.
How much additional fitness do you do on top of your dance classes or is dancing all you have time/need to do to stay in shape?
T: It’s different for many people. Some dancers can stay fit simply through dancing, but I have to go to the gym. I have to lift weights and I have to get on the treadmill. My body was not physically made to look the way many do; I definitely have to take care of it. I learned that in my late 20s. I kept thinking that one day it would come around, but I’m one of those people that has to work for it. I have friends who don’t do anything or workout at all and it’s all genetics, but that is not me.
You travel a lot with your dance company Shaping Sound. How do you manage to work out or stay in shape while you are on the road?
T: The greatest thing about Shaping Sound is that we are literally running five miles a night during the show. It’s intense! The biggest thing I have to do on tour is remember to eat. because I’m constantly burning so many calories. The show is a lot of partnering and lifting, so I’m able to skip the gym for the most part because I’m deadlifting sometimes as many as three dancers during performance. I barely have to go to the gym during show days. I have to rest my body, otherwise I won’t be able to perform. If I go to the gym, it’s on non-performance days. I sweat and eat the most on tour, just because my body can handle it.
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