From reality shows to music videos, modern dance seems to be retaking the world by storm. It’s quite a rebirth, after two decades of herky-jerky contortions executed by hip-hop singers and white-bread boy bands on TV and in film. With the surging popularity of televised competitions, rising stars like Travis Wall are keeping serious dance front and centre.
Wall was at the forefront of the modern dance craze, having achieved second place in the sophomore season of So You Think You Can Dance back in 2006. His powerful, flawless movement earned him a returning gig as the show’s choreographer, four Emmy nominations and the opportunity to create his own dance troupe, Shaping Sound.
“It really started as just an expressive way to perform my own work and hang out with my friends,” says Wall, who hails from Virginia Beach, Virginia, and now lives in California. “But my TV work has really helped out with the company’s exposure. We didn’t have to put in much work in finding backers, which is really one of the hardest things.”
Not that the gruelling travel and performance schedule is a piece of cake. It’s a long tour-bus ride across the continent for Wall, fellow SYTYCD alum Nick Lazzarini and three other hunky dancers, with five or six shows a week and very little rest.
“The show is very, very hard,” Wall says. “It is basically an hour-and-a-half cardio workout. You do one act and it’s like you just literally ran 10 miles. Then you have a 10-minute break and you run another 10 miles.”
While the troupe’s choreography is largely collaborative, Wall takes the driver’s seat when it comes directing and staging Shaping Sound’s productions. It’s a natural fit for a dancer whose aspirations lie beyond the stage.
“I would love to direct and choreograph a film,” Wall confesses. “Rob Marshall and Bob Fosse are such inspirations to me. Come 40 or 50, I really want to be those guys.”