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9 Times Travis Wall Killed It on “So You Think You Can Dance”

If you know Travis Wall you are in awe of him and if you don’t know him, let’s get you up to speed!

The 25-year-old dancer/choreographer/genius was raised in his mother’s dance studio in Virginia. His childhood career was illustrious: A Dr. Pepper commercial, a run on Broadway, the Teen Outstanding Dancer of the Year Award.

But it wasn’t until 2007 when he competed on Season 2 of So You Think You Can Dance that America started to swoon. He finished in 2nd place. But on SYTYCD, everyone is a winner—especially if you finish in the top 10. Instead of kicking “losers” off the island, SYTYCD provides support and opportunities for talented young dancers. The producers and judges form a veritable Linked In of dance. Once you make it there, you can make it anywhere — if you’ve got the chops and you’re willing to work. Travis Wall qualifies in spades.

SYTYCD brought Travis back as a choreographer. His memorable dances are always fan favorites and he has earned Emmy nominations for his work on SYTYCD. For the 1st time ever, all the Emmy-nominated choreographers have teamed up to choreograph a number for the show. It should be pretty special.

SYTYCD has famously ignited renewed interest in dance. I’m not a dancer and my kids don’t take lessons. I watch it because I see works of art performed on the show every week. It moves me and I love it. So I was pretty starstruck when I got to speak with Travis Wall on the phone recently.  I didn’t even try to be a professional! I totally gushed fangirl on him. Here’s what he told me about the show.

Believe it or not, Travis choreographs to his dancers’ strengths spontaneously on-the-spot. He chooses a song and has a concept, but the actual steps come organically through rehearsals. I was all, “You don’t write anything down?” Nope.

As part of the dance concept, the choreographers do envision costumes for the dancers. Travis will send pictures or explain what he’s picturing to the costume designers (who are incredible) and they make it happen.

Travis Wall is known for choosing beautiful, accessible music to accompany his dances. (And whatever song he uses often sees a spike in downloads the next day.) People often suggest songs to him (I tried) but he’s got a list of 10 songs already that he wants to use next year. He bases his song choices more on the music than the words, which surprised me since the lyrics are often a key part in the stories he tells with his pieces.

What about chemistry? I asked him if “chemistry” happens when you just like someone you are dancing with. “Not necessarily,” he explained. He can have chemistry with anyone he dances with, whether he likes them or not. Conversely, some dancers can’t have chemistry with anyone. He described it as being in the moment, engaged, and connected with the person you are dancing with. Before his dance with Amy, for example, (which you can watch below) he took deep breaths with her, grabbed her face, and looked her in the eye right before they went on stage and said, “Let’s do this.” So there’s your chemistry lesson.

What does Travis Wall watch on TV? He just finished Game of Thrones and he loves Project Runway. But mostly he likes to laugh and relax when he watches TV, so no heavy dramas. SNL, Family Guy, and True Blood are some of his faves.

(I may have lectured him a little about how he needs to be watching Breaking Bad, off the record.)

Talking to Travis was a real treat. I think we all feel like proud parents as we watch him achieve success after success. He’s the real deal. Check out the following Travis Wall footage. It’s quintessential. It’s must-see. It might even change your life.

  • The Quintessential Travis Wall 1 of 10
    traviscropped

    Photo Credit: Bobby Quillard

  • Calling To You by Celine Dion 2 of 10
    Screen Shot 2013-09-05 at 10.12.14 PM

    As a contestant on the show, Travis and his partner Heidi wowed the audience with this contemporary number choreographed by Mia Michaels. Once you watch it you won't forget it. Take a look.

  • If It Kills Me by Jason Mraz 3 of 10
    Screen Shot 2013-09-06 at 10.47.19 AM

    This is Travis Wall's first routine as a choreographer on SYTYCD.  Watch it here to see just how proud he made the judges, including the incomparable Debbie Allen. Travis said that they are not really allowed to call in and vote for contestants on the show. But as a newbie he dialed in to cast his vote on this one for Jeanine and Jason.

  • Fix You by Coldplay 4 of 10
    Screen Shot 2013-09-05 at 11.03.41 PM

    Travis was inspired by his mother's battle with cancer for this dance. It was nominated for an Emmy in 2011 and it has over 2 million views on You Tube.

    Maybe the best dance ever? Watch it, here.

  • How It All Ends by DeVotchKa 5 of 10
    Screen Shot 2013-09-05 at 11.15.04 PM

    One of the finest pieces ever choreographed for two male dancers on SYTYCD, this routine was inspired by a real betrayal in Travis's life. He pretty much bares his soul through these dances. We love him for it.

    See how this story ends, here.

  • I Am the Best by 2Ne1 6 of 10
    Screen Shot 2013-09-05 at 11.22.52 PM

    I asked Travis Wall if he's ever jealous of other choreographers' routines — Like the really good ones. He insisted that he never feels jealous. He's just a sweetheart through and through. But Travis did mention this dance with Mark and Jenna as one that he really loved. I loved it too. You've not seen anything like it, I guarantee.

    Want to have your mind blown? Watch this.

  • Wicked Game by James Vincent McMorrow 7 of 10
    Screen Shot 2013-09-05 at 10.34.47 PM

    A couple weeks ago something historical happened on SYTYCD. The choreographers danced in their own routines. Travis Wall was nervous. He hadn't danced on the show for 7 years. His contemporary number with Amy was a huge moment for Travis, and for SYTYCD, and for lovers of the arts, and for all of humanity everywhere. Watch it.

    Be sure and watch the judges' feedback at the end. You'll witness what may have been the culminating point so far in Travis Wall's career. Nigel tells him, "I think you may be a genius." Chills!

  • Medicine by Daughter 8 of 10
    Screen Shot 2013-09-05 at 10.24.34 PM

    This duet performed by Robert and Tucker was one of Travis's most beautiful, moving, and memorable dances this year. Guest judge Jenna Elfman couldn't stop talking about it a week after she saw it. Watch it, here.

  • Wonderful by Annie Lennox 9 of 10
    Screen Shot 2013-09-05 at 9.47.05 PM

    I was dying to ask Travis Wall if the judges ever hurt his feelings. "Not really," he said. But then he quickly referenced this dance from Season 7 where he felt a little disappointed because the judges commented more on whether the piece was Jazz or Contemporary. It's a gorgeous dance. He just wanted to know if they liked it.

    Watch the dance and the judges' feedback here, it will totally harsh your bliss. Travis Wall is your bliss and he is not to be harshed with.

  • Travis Wall’s Emmy-Nominated Dances 2013 10 of 10
    Screen Shot 2013-09-05 at 9.55.33 PM

    This compilation shows all of Travis Wall's Emmy-nominated dances for 2013.

    For the first time ever, the Outstanding Choreography Award will be announced during the primetime Emmy broadcast, instead of a week earlier during the Creative Arts Emmys. Dance is becoming more popular and accessible because of shows like SYTYCD, with heroes like Travis Wall who we love to root for. It's fun to see dance taking its place center stage with American audiences!

     

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