2012 was a very good year for Travis Wall. His career kept him busy with not only his own dance company, Shaping Sound (which was documented in the Oxygen reality series All The Right Moves), but he also was a regular fixure where we first met him – on Fox’s dance competition series So You Think You Can Dance. Add to that his Emmy nomination for choreography (along with Teddy Forance and Nick Lazzarini) on Dancing With The Stars and choreographing the Off-Broadway revival of Bare.
We grabbed some time with the always-gregarious Wall to find out more about Bare, All the Right Moves, his boyfriend Dom Palange and what else is on his dance card for 2013.
AfterElton: The Bare revival, were you involved from the beginning or did they come to you as things were already rolling to choreograph? What’s the story?
TW: The show first premiered in LA in 2000 and then in New York in 2004. It was a pop opera back back then and a-year-and-a-half ago I was invited to a reading. They said, ‘We want you to come see this musical we’re about to produce. We’re interested in your choreography. We want to see what you think.’ I had no idea what the show was or anything about it. I kind of just went in with a naked eye, just kind of sat down. I was just crying and crying and crying. It was so touching. It was just a reading too. It wasn’t even staged.
I was like ‘I have to tell this story.’ There were so many things in the show that I saw had happened in my life, as well. So, I had a lot of familiarity to it. I was like: this is my story to tell. We started rehearsals in September and we got it up really quickly. It was a very exciting experience.
Taylor Trensch and Jason Hite star in Bare, currently running on Off-Broadway.
AE: Would you say this was a different kind of project for you to approach or were there a lot of similarities?
TW: This was like a completely different project. I thought I would…obviously, I would have loved to do musicals and work in New York City and on Broadway. But figured it would have happened a lot later in life. This opportunity came up, and I was just kind of like ‘I have to take this.’ I doubted myself the entire time, and I was like ‘can I really do this?’
I’m really doing dance moves, I’m not working with dancers, this is a whole different ballgame. I didn’t know if I could do it. So, I just made sure I stayed true to my voice. By the end of it I was like ‘holy shit, I just did that!’ I was very excited once we opened because when I first got the job and I first started rehearsals I was just like ‘I have no idea what this is going to look like. I don’t even see it being possible.’
“I’m lucky to have had this opportunity,” says Travis Wall about his work in Bare.
AE: Why did you think this opportunity wouldn’t come along until later in your career? Why is that?
TW: Well, I started choreographing and I got very lucky because of So You Think You Can Dance. I got opportunities because of that. I don’t know, I just think everyone’s a little bit more serious in New York. You have to put your work in before you get jobs. I’ve done a lot of work in TV and film as well as musicals onstage in New York City. I did a Broadway show when I was 12, but I had no idea what you do on the creative side.
So, everybody was taking a huge chance bringing in someone who’s never had experience before and bringing in a new voice, somebody different. I think that’s why I was brought in. I don’t know. I just thought that you have to put in your work, you have to work under a certain person for a certain amount of years before you ever get the opportunity to have your own. I just felt that that was the rule in New York City. I’m very lucky to have had this opportunity.
AE: Before you started hearing reviews and what people were saying, were you on pins and needles or…?
TW: I had a very close friend of mine come to the show and tell me what they think, because I know the show way too well to actually have a real opinion about it. There were so many people who knew the show as it being a pop opera and somehow think they have personal rights to the musical even though they have nothing to do with it. They like the old way better, or they don’t like the changes and they don’t like the movement and whatever.
I don’t listen to reviews. There’s so many times when my favorite shows or my favorite choreographers come to New York City and they perform, and I was like ‘that’s the best show I’ve ever seen’ and then the reviews are like ‘that’s the worst thing I’ve ever seen.’ It just proves that those people sometimes don’t know what the hell they’re talking about. So, I just don’t look at that stuff. I had a very close friend of mine come to see it. They were just like I can’t believe you did that. The story, the music, they loved the show itself, not just the work I did. I have my own critics.
Bare is not just for gay audiences, Travis says. There’s something for everyone.
AE: That’s good. Do you think it’s selling the show short calling it a gay musical, or is that accurate?
TW: It is selling the show short. Yes, there are gay characters, but that doesn’t make it a gay show. Just because it has the subject title in it does not mean it’s all about that. It’s literally a show about these teenagers in high school and what they go through. It doesn’t just have to do with the two main characters. It has to do with everybody.
Everybody takes a role in this show and everybody accepts one another. So, it’s just about this boarding school. For it to be called a gay show makes it only seem like gay people should go watch it. I think everybody should go see this show. It hits right on the nose with what’s going on these days and what I went through in high school, what everybody goes through in high school. It hits it right on the nose. People should be educated about that.