Two of the world’s most famous choreographers and directors, Rob Marshall and Bob Fosse, have garnered widespread attention for their contributions to dance and films. Travis Wall, an up-and-coming choreographer, is following in their footsteps, and showcasing his talents with several upcoming television and film projects.
Wall is set to appear in the upcoming summer Oxygen docu-series ‘All The Right Moves,’ alongside his three friends and roommates, including Teddy Forance, a choreographer with Cirque du Soleil; Nic Lazzarini, the first season winner of the hit FOX reality competition ‘So You Think You Can Dance;’ and Kyle Robinson. The show chronicles the four as they launch a dance company, Shaping Sound.
Experienced in jazz, lyrical and contemporary dance, Wall also choreographed all of the contemporary dance numbers in this summer’s ‘Step Up: Revolution.’ Wall, who also appeared as a contestant on the second season of ‘So You Think You Can Dance,’ will be returning for the show’s upcoming ninth season, as a resident choreographer.
Wall, who has also choreographed for the 82nd Academy Awards and the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards (VMAs), took the time recently to talk with us over the phone about his upcoming projects. The choreographer discussed, among other things, why he decided to chronicle the launch of Shaping Sound on ‘All The Right Moves,’ what it was like working with the cast of ‘Step Up: Revolution’ and why he decided to return to ‘So You Think You Can Dance’ as a choreographer.
ShockYa (SY): You’re set to appear in Oxygen’s new docu-series ‘All The Right Moves,’ which follows you as launch your dance company, Shaping Sound. What was your motivation in chronicling the start of Shaping Sound on a television series?
Travis Wall (TW): It pretty much chronicles the lives of the four guys who live in the house. It’s me and my best friends, and we started a dance company together. It’s really about what it takes to put on a show, and what it takes to be a choreographer in the industry, especially since we’re young choreographers. I’m more established as a choreographer, but my friends are dancers who are branching out to become choreographers.
It also exposes our personal careers and our persona lives. It’s interesting, I didn’t know how much it was going to take to actually put into starting a dance company. I just wanted to dance with my best friends, but there was a lot of business stuff that I wasn’t prepared for. It’s been a huge journey.
SY: Why did you and your roommates decide to launch Shaping Sound? Did you all always have a desire to be a part of a dance company?
TW: Well, I always wanted a dance company, I just didn’t know know when it was actually going to happen. It kind of made sense, we were all kind of working together. I was getting hired for a lot of jobs, and because of all these things, we said, we should really start a dance company.
We wanted to create opportunities for our friends to dance. There aren’t many opportunities to dance in what we do, which is contemporary. We wanted to make it as commercial as possible, and open up the opportunity to perform in theaters and on stage and television.
SY: How did ‘All The Right Moves’ get started-did you approach Oxygen with the idea, or did the network approach you with the idea for the show?
TW: I had a producer come up to me and ask me if I wanted my own reality show. I thought it would be really cool to chronicle my life on ‘So You Think You Can Dance.’ But I said, I don’t know how entertaining I would be by myself, but you should definitely meet me and my best friends.
I said, we have an idea to start a dance company, and they said, that’s awesome. So we were picked up by a production company, and met with a bunch of networks. Oxygen was the network we finally chose to go with.
SY: You were nominated for an Emmy for “Best Choreographer” for your work on last season’s ‘So You Think You Can Dance.’ What was your reaction when you first heard you were nominated?
TW: I was just completely shocked and overwhelmed and excited. You know, when you choreograph this show, you’re never looking for premonition. I was just blowing off some steam and choreographing. To get recognized by the Academy that way is honoring, and it was such a big milestone in my life. I’ll never forget it. I have a lot to live up to. (laughs)
SY: Why did you decide to become a choreographer for ‘So You Think You Can Dance?’
TW: Well, I was a contestant on the show on Season 2, and I was first runner up. Then I started choreographing Season 5.
SY: One of your roommates, Nick Lazzarini, won the first season of ‘So You Think You Can Dance.’ Did you meet, and become friends, with him through the show?
TW: No, I’ve known Nick since I was nine-years-old. We used to compete against each other in dance competitions. Nick has been my best friend since I was 16.
SY: You’re set to return to ‘So You Think You Can Dance’ as a resident choreographer on the show’s upcoming ninth season, which premieres on FOX on May 24. Why did you decide to return to the series as a resident choreographer?
TW: I’m very excited, I have some ideas brewing in my head. So I definitely can’t wait to put them out on the stage.
SY: Besides ‘So You Think You Can Dance,’ you were also a fully credited choreographer on the upcoming film ‘Step Up: Revolution.’ How did you become involved in the movie?
TW: Adam Shankman was one of the producers, and he hired me as the choreographer. I’m so excited, I think I saw the final cut. I love the work that I did on it, and I’m very proud of it. I’m excited for the movie to come out.
It’s the first time there’s a love story that’s really contemporary, especially for the ‘Step Up’ series, it’s never been contemporary. I’m really excited to be a part of that.
SY: How familiar were you with the previous three installments in the series before you became involved in ‘Revolution?’
TW: I’ve definitely seen all three (previous) films, and know everybody who was involved with the movie. So I was excited to finally get to work on one. To be the choreographer was really amazing.
Kathryn McCormick, the lead, did an amazing job. I really choreographed everything she did. It was awesome having a lead who could dance, and not have to work with an actress (who couldn’t dance). That job would have been really difficult.
SY: What was your working relationship with Kathryn and the rest of the cast like? It was easier working with a cast who could dance in real life?
TW: Oh yes, definitely. The cast of ‘Step Up 4’ was so easy to work with. We had to get it done, and do every single number in two weeks. We had two weeks of rehearsal before we started shooting. If we wouldn’t have had that cast, none of that would have happened.
SY: You choreographed all contemporary dance numbers for the film with LXD’s Chris Scott and ‘Stomp the Yard’s Chuck Maldonado. What was your experience working with Chris and Chuck on the film like?
TW: The choreographers really had to work together, because of the time constraint. A lot of the numbers were co-choreographed. I had an awesome time working with them. Their work in the movie looks really great. Some of these numbers are mind-blowing, so we all really hit it out of the park.
SY: How is the process of choreographing a film like ‘Step Up: Revolution’ similar and different than choreographing a show like ‘So You Think You Can Dance?’
TW: It was my first movie, and I want to make movies for the rest of my life. I love playing with cameras, and I love point-of-views. I love shooting dance. My favorite thing to do is shoot dance.
With ‘So You Think You Can Dance,’ you get a minute-and-a-half. But with a movie, you really have the time to really tell the story, and paint the picture and set things up.
Working on ‘Step Up 4’ was one of my favorite jobs that I’ve ever done, because it was a movie. I definitely want to do a lot more. I’m really looking forward to my career in movies.
SY: Would you like to continue with just films in the future, or continue to do both movies and television?
TW: I eventually want to direct, so I really want to continue working in movies and on television. I want to take the next steps to learn everything that I need to learn.
By the time I’m 30, I want to move into directing. With all these movies, I’m watching the director, and learning everything they do. I’m constantly taking notes and mental pictures. So one day, when I’m ready, I can step up that way.
SY: You have also choreographed for such artists as Adele and Eminem. How did you become involved in choreographing for singers, and how closely do you work with them on their routines?
TW: Well, I choreographed for the (2010) VMAs, and I was hired by MTV. With Adele, I got hired by ‘Dancing with the Stars.’ A lot of jobs I got hired off of ‘So You Think You Can Dance.’ People will see a piece of mine, and call my agent, and say, how do we get Travis? I’m very, very lucky.
SY: You have also choreographed for such awards shows as the 82nd Academy Awards and the VMAs. What is the process like choreographing for these ceremonies?
TW: Well, like with the VMAs, so you’re highlighting an artist. With ‘So You Think You Can Dance’ and the movie, you kind of choreograph as you are. But what I had to learn for the VMAs or the Oscars, you really choreograph around an artist. The stages and camera angles are huge. So I learned a lot about staging through those processes.
SY: You’re also a supporter of several organizations, including ‘So You Think You Can Dance’s Dizzy Feet Foundation. The foundation was founded to help underprivileged young people realize their dream of becoming professional dancers and to increase access to dance education in the United States. Why do you feel it’s important to become involved in such foundations?
TW: Well, everyone has a voice. If someone’s going to listen to your voice, it’s more essential that you can speak on it. Dancing is still one of the most under-appreciated art forms in the industry. We’re trying to speak out and help people. Dance heals people, and to me, dance is so special. Anything I can get involved with to help anybody out, I’m more than welcome to.
Written by: Karen Benardello