By Jeff Maisey
Emmy Award-nominated choreographer Travis Wall returns to his hometown for a rare performance with his dynamic Shaping Sound dance company featuring contemporary performers from “Dancing with the Stars” and “So You Think You Can Dance.” The October 30 performance at Ferguson Center is one of 36 cities across America for the tour, and, as it turns out, will be a homecoming for Travis Wall.
Wall was raised in Virginia Beach. He was trained by his mother, Denise Wall, whose namesake dance studio recently celebrated its 20th anniversary.
In advance of the tour I called Travis to learn more about the tour.
Is your upcoming performance at Ferguson Center the first time you’ve danced professionally before a hometown live audience?
Yeah. I mean I come home all the time to my mom’s dance studio on Bonny Road (Virginia Beach) and teach for the kids. My mom’s 20th anniversary for her studio was this past year. We did an alumni number, which was fun, but this is the first time I’ve come back to the area to perform besides when our So You Think You Can Dance Tour came to Norfolk.
When our first tour came around we didn’t have any cities within a six-hour drive of my mom’s studio. Now that we’re in Newport News it’s nice that my grandmother and everybody from Richmond and friends in Virginia Beach can come to the show.
What was it like for you growing up with a mother so involved in dance? What she a big influence on your life?
Yeah, the biggest influence of all time. I was born into the dance studio and I was always around it. The girls in my mom’s studio would babysit me.
My mom’s business partner one day just up and sold the studio and left my mom high and dry. I was five years old at the time. She looked and saw how talented I was. My mom could have never paid for classes. I would never had had the dance training if my mom had to pay for it. She decided to open up a studio so she’d have a place to train her son. She has really sculpted the careers and lives of all the students who have come through her studio. So, yeah, she’s the biggest influence in the world.
What is your opinion of the dance culture in Hampton Roads? Is it a healthy, positive environment for young and upcoming dancers?
I’d honestly have to say that if I was of the mind to become a professional dancer I definitely would have to get out of the area if I really wanted to make some dreams come true. There is a lot of dance in the area which is amazing. I do not feel, though, that Virginia Beach really supports the arts all that much. I think there are so many steps and directions they could go to really support the arts. I think it’s great the Governor’s School is still there and we have amazing arts programs around the area, but as far as people really wanting to go to see the productions, people aren’t very aware of the arts in Virginia Beach. I wish they were. I’m hoping our show sells well here, you know? Even though we’re coming to my hometown, a lot of cities are selling out quickly but Newport News is not one of them. Hopefully we will get the audience in Newport News.
What was your experience as a contestant on So You Think You Can Dance and Dancing with the Stars?
It was very early. Obviously t was the second season. There weren’t that many reality shows out, especially dance shows. I was 18 years old and had just gotten to LA. I was excited to be on television. I had no expectation as to what to take from the show. I wanted exposure. That was number one why I went on the show. We didn’t know there would be a tour. We didn’t know there would be millions of viewers that summer. I went in with no expectation and came out with this opportunity. I knew I wanted to be a choreographer. I then wanted to be a choreographer on the show. I said I’m going to work my butt off and prove to everybody and all the producers that I can do it. But it was eight years ago that I was a contestant and I truly don’t remember who I was or the clothes that I was wearing.
Tell us about your new touring production, Shaping Sound: Dance Re-imagined. Can you describe what the audience will experience?
We are a dance company, but at the same time we have produced a dance show. We have taken everything we have been trained in and pretty much meshed and mashed it all together to create what Shaping Sound is. At the end of the day we are very driven by the music. We definitely shape the sound that you hear. There’s a 1920s theme that’s more jazzy; then there’s electronic music and classical, contemporary. The music drives us and moves us in every way possible.
I think you’re going to be blown away. Not only is the cast extraordinary I believe there is a full storyline. You can invest in one of the characters and go on her journey. I think you’re going to be wowed with spectacular dancing and hear great music. Hopefully you’ll get on your feet, cheer and dance.
Does the music and movement of the dancers set the mood and theme of each segment?
Yeah, absolutely. Music is connected all the way through with a storyline.
Shaping Sound: Dance Re-imagined