Interview: SYTYCD's Travis Wall On His 'Shaping Sound' Project
By Michelle Meywes Kopeny in Arts & Entertainment on May 24, 2013 7:20PM
Travis Wall is best known as a season two contestant turned Emmy-nominated choreographer on the FOX TV show So You Think You Can Dance but next week he comes through Chicago with his new company, Shaping Sound, on their first national tour. Wall, together with longtime friends and fellow choreographers Nick Lazzarini, Teddy Forance and Kyle Robinson, formed the contemporary dance company that promises “a visually stunning showcase of movement, speed, physical strength, and pure passion.” The team call themselves visual musicians (hence the name) and their journey was chronicled last year on the Oxygen reality TV show, All The Right Moves.
Between the four, they’ve got an impressive resume that includes SYTYCD, Dancing With The Stars, the MTV Video Music Awards, the Academy Awards, the American Music Awards and numerous tours with recording artists and feature films. We got a chance to talk with Wall about these accomplishments and more, including the challenge of creating a brand new dance company.
Chicagoist: What was it like going from contestant to choreographer for SYTYCD? Could you have ever guessed that you’d be nominated for an Emmy?
Travis Wall: It’s amazing. I’ve wanted to choreograph for the show since I was a contestant. So when I was given the opportunity I was humbled. I’m so grateful to have been nominated for an Emmy for SYTYD. It’s a great feeling to be recognized amongst all the choreographers that I admired when I was a contestant on the show. It’s a very cool thing to experience.
C: Are you still working with SYTYCD, what can we expect to see from you in season 10?
TW: I will be working with SYTYCD this season. People can expect to see a lot of risk. I’m telling some personal stories this year. I have a lot of venting to do and the best way to get it out is to create new pieces and express these emotions through dance. I’m also hoping to show an older, more mature side to my choreography. SYTYCD celebrates its tenth season, the first of its kind to emerge from a competitive dance show. We have been dubbed, “the dance company that TV built” .so many of our fans have followed our careers on television.
C: You’ve worked on Dancing With The Stars, MTV’s VMAs, the Academy Awards. Has your success on SYTYCD opened any other doors for you? Have you gotten to meet anyone you never thought possible, if so who?
TW: Absolutely. Most of the job opportunities that I get are from people who have seen the show. SYTYCD has allowed me to book choreography gigs to Broadway shows. I am forever grateful for the opportunities that have presented themselves. However, I still haven’t met Beyonce yet. That’s the end all, be all. When that happens, I’ll be very pleased.
C: All The Right Moves followed the formation of Shaping Sound. For those who aren’t familiar with the show, what goes into creating an entirely new company? What kind of bumps did you run into along the way? Any major roadblock?
TW: I wanted to dance with my best friends every day. However, when I set out to start a company, I didn’t realize I was starting a business. I never imagined owning a business at 25 years old, I’ve been working to make it a success and have an incredible production team. Shaping Sound has developed into an amazing collaboration of artists and a new, innovative take on a contemporary dance company. Though it’s more work than I could have imagined, I’ve realized this is my dream. Having your own work in a traveling show is amazing and being back onstage again makes me feel alive.
C: How did you come together with the other Shaping Sound founders Nick, Teddy and Kyle?
TW: I’ve known these guys for years. I respect them so much as artists and we wanted to come together to try new things that aren’t usually done before. While Shaping Sound is a professional company, we are each exploring our own personal careers. Dancers in the commercial industry have a certain level of freedom, which is why we can always come back together. For now, we are focused on our first tour and we challenged ourselves to create the best performance possible for audiences across the country. I hope Chicago is ready for us!
C: We saw that you are hosting workshops before the show in each city with members of the cast. What inspired you to offer this unique opportunity?
TW: We love teaching. We want to inspire and motivate new students. We teach choreography from the show so that the participants gets a chance to experience our movement firsthand before viewing it that night. We’re utilizing the specific technique we’ve developed within the company so that the dancers with have a better understanding of our movement concepts. We also want to keep an eye on the younger generation. Not only are we role models to up-and-coming dancers, but we want to find new emerging talent. At my workshops I’m always thinking “Who’s going to be 18 soon that I can hire for a job?” The workshops are open to advanced dancers ages 13 and up and you can register at www.shapingsoundco.com.
C: Will we see you and the other founders on stage with the cast? How is the choreography divided?
TW: Absolutely, we are all dancing the entire show. The choreography is not divided, it’s completely collaborative. You never know when one person’s vision ends and the next one begins. Shaping Sound is not a series of short, disconnected pieces. It is a 90-minute show with a narrative through-line set to an eclectic mixture of music and sound that shows our range as dancers. There’s musical theatre, electronic and contemporary music--you name it! We are a very music-driven company. Our musicality and choreography is what we’re best at. We create different movements and images based off of the music. There’s a whole range of music and, depending on the music, we move differently and that’s why we are called Shaping Sound.
See Shaping Sound this Tuesday, May 28 at Harris Theater, 205 E. Randolph. Show begins at 8 p.m. Tickets are $30-$85.