PLAYBILL BRIEF ENCOUNTER With "SYTYCD" Dancer and Choreographer Travis Wall, Shaping Sound Across the States

By Michael Gioia
15 Jun 2013

Where did you find your niche in dance? What styles did you gravitate towards as a child?
Travis Wall in Shaping Sound
TW: I liked gymnastics, and I liked tap dance. I was a really good tapper, but I was also a really good jazz dancer. I liked things that I could make lots of facial [expressions]! [Laughs.] I was a little showman! I did Broadway when I was 12 [and] moved into New York City. When I was 14, I injured myself pretty badly in The Music Man, and I had to start from scratch with my body. I was growing, and I [was developing a] brand-new body. It was really weird. I was overweight. I had ripped my hip, and I had to take eight months to heal my hip, and I lost all my flexibility. From that moment, I fell back in love with dance — because [in Music Man] I was singing, acting and dancing a lot, [and] it was more of a combined trio. I fell back in love with dancing when I was 14, and then I started choreographing when I was like 15, and I realized I really wanted to be a choreographer because of how painful [the injury was, and I was adjusting] to my body…

Tell me about being on the theatrical side and choreographing a show. How is that different from dancing? What do you appreciate about it?
TW: I love it. It's where I'm supposed to be. I feel like I'm at home. Eventually, I hope to keep moving up — to [be a] director and producer and entrepreneur. It's where I feel most comfortable. I feel like I should create, and it's been [a] great process with this dance company, [Shaping Sound]. It's a lot of collaborating, but I call the shots, which is awesome. I get to create the show and put it up. I get to tell the creative designer and the production designer and the lighting designer what I want.

Your choreography is very expressive. Is dance your outlet?
TW: What dance was for me was finding out who I am and answering questions I had about everyday life — personal experiences, your first relationships [where] you're learning, and you're so stupid in love and then something happens… It's all that stuff. That, to me, was my escape when I couldn't talk to anybody. There were so many times in my life where I hadn't been able to communicate very well verbally, and dance was my way of spewing out my diary. It's great for this show because I'm dancing again, and I haven't danced like this in a very long time. I've been more of the choreographer, and I've stepped back on stage to perform my own work. So many of my friends [and] so many people who saw me dance seven years ago on television, after the show, they say, "It's so good to see you dance again" and "Please don't leave the stage any time soon." That stuff makes me feel good because I was always very insecure about my dancing, but was very confident in my choreography.

Along with the show, you're teaching workshops in each city. It's inspiring that you're working with young dancers.
TW: …I like to keep a hand in the younger generation, not only to inspire, but to see who is up and coming — see who is turning 18 [years old who I could] hire for a job in L.A. — and to inspire those kids and train them and to lead them down the right path. We have a workshop four hours before each show in the cities. There are about 75 kids, and we teach them some rep from the show, and it's been great. It's been awesome to see some of the talent across the United States… I tell them to stay true to themselves, and if there is a "can't," make it a "can." If someone says you can't do something, tell them what you can do.

( staff writer Michael Gioia's work appears in the news, feature and video sections of Follow him on Twitter at @PlaybillMichael.)