Travis Wall was a fan-favorite during season two (and that year's runner-up) of So You Think You Can Dance, but it wasn't until he began choreographing for the show that fans truly began to understand the depths of his talent. In the same instant that Jason caught Jeanine as she spiraled through the air, Travis snatched our hearts and hasn't stopped putting them through an emotional two-minute wringer for the last five seasons.
As a result of his groundbreaking work, Wall has earned three Emmy nominations for Outstanding Choreography, and this year, all the nominees in his category -- Derek Hough & Allison Holker, Warren Carlyle, Sonya Tayeh, Mandy Moore and Napoleon Dumo & Tabitha Dumo -- will combine their tremendous gifts to create a routine for the Emmy stage! I caught up with Wall to talk about his accomplishments on the current SYTYCD season and find out what it means to be an Emmy nominee!
ETonline: Congratulations on the Emmy nomination -- where we you when you heard?
Travis Wall: I was in bed and I got a phone call that I was nominated. It was crazy. I didn't want to know when the nominations were coming out this year because that can get in your head, so, I freaked out. The excitement [of being nominated] actually grows every time. Especially when it catches you off guard [laughs]. It's just such an honor.
ETonline: And you're, once again, in incredible company. With so many SYTYCD noms, will you be happy as long as someone from the show wins?
Wall: Not really, actually. Whether they're from So You Think or not, I believe the right person will win. Honestly, I feel like I already won because it's such a select group of people. I mean, I've taken classes from or known all of these people since I was 12-years-old. And I'm so excited we're working together on the opening number!
ETonline: That's right! What can you tease about the Emmy's big dance number?
Wall: We finally figured out the concept and it's going to be a routine that celebrates all the nominated shows, and TV in general.
ETonline: Emmy noms are for a choreographer, not a single piece of their work, so you've been nominated for three routines: Unchained Melody, Where the Light Gets In and Without You. Is there one you feel the most proud of?
Wall: I guess Unchained Melody. I think it's the most dynamic, the most exciting and the most powerful. The other two are tough, technically, and coming from a very technical background, it was cool to see some of those movements executed on TV.
ETonline: You recently danced, as an All-Star, to a piece you choreographed -- how was that experience?
Wall: It felt completely different than anything I'd ever done on the show and way more nerve-wracking because it's not just your choreography, it's also your dancing. I put a lot of pressure on myself, but it was so much fun.
ETonline: Do you feel a particular affinity for Amy after that?
Wall: Amy has been a favorite of mine since the beginning; I'm a fan of good dancing, so I was excited to work with her. But I think all the dancers are amazing this year. I'm excited to see what America really thinks.
ETonline: It's been 8 seasons since you were in the final two. Do you feel like the caliber of dancer that made your Top 20 would still make the finals alongside the dancers coming through the show today?
Wall: I think it's so different. Back then, dance was just doing side-by-side routines. Now, everyone has a huge concept. Before, it was about watching dancers, and now choreography is the biggest star of the show. In the past, you could have a contestant who wasn't good at every style but made it far. Now, everyone has amazing versatility, unbelievable extension and incredible legs. Really what you're seeing every season is the next wave of fresh-faced 18-year-olds. The people who were too young to audition in the previous season. It brings the show a young, fresh, powerful energy -- back in season two, there were way more people in their mid-20s. Granted, I was 18 when I was on the show, but there was only three or four of us, and we were the young ones. This year, the Top 20 was almost entirely 18-year-olds. That's a huge difference.
ETonine: In those eight years, how have you seen SYTYCD influence people's perception of dance?
Wall: The show is very clearly inspiring a lot of people. Dancers feel they have a platform through which they can be noticed now. When I was growing up, dance wasn't known , so a lot of people kept the fact they danced a big secret. I never did, but I knew plenty of people who did. And it was always this hidden thing, so now it's cool to be a dancer, and people think the ability to dance is amazing. I thank the producers every day because this completely launched my career!
ETonline: Through the years we've seen your literal siblings compete on the show. A few weeks ago, you choreographed a routine that was inspired by your brother Danny's struggles and fans grew very concerned for him. Is he OK now? Do you feel comfortable saying what happened?
Wall: It's been a tough path from earlier this year to now, but Danny is great. With the support of his family and friends, Danny is back on his feet again and healthy. I just wanted to say a little "I Love You" to my brother on national television and I don't want to get too deep about it, but it's what I was inspired by so I just let my art flow.
ETonline: Does choreographing feel like a form of therapy for you?
Wall: 100 percent. Absolutely. Because I take my life experiences and put them into the routines. Now, I can look back on a routine and remember where I was in my life. It's like a timeless diary that I will always be thankful for.