Travis Wall claims that he began dancing the day he was born. By the time he was 12 he was on Broadway and by 18 he was the first runner up on the second season of So You Think You Can Dance. By season five he was a resident choreographer for the show and he quickly earned himself an Emmy. Cannily he launched his dance company Shaping Sound with another reality television promotional experiment, All The Right Moves, but his heart is on the road with Shaping Sound's latest production, After the Curtain.
"Live theatre is my absolute favourite," says Wall. "It is the hardest, but I love it. With film or tv it is easy to direct what you want the audience to see and when, with live theatre, it is just you and the audience, you can only help direct their attention and their eye. There is also a deep connection with the audience in live theatre that isn't always there with film and tv. You feed off their energy every night, it's inspiring."
Shaping Sound has earned a reputation of being not only dynamic, exciting and physically appealing, but as artists with something to say. In response to the Charlottesville outrage, Wall choreographed a piece for So You Think You Can Dance set to Nina Simone's haunting rendition of "Strange Fruit." "That was a really powerful piece for me," says Wall. "I think the biggest thing is speaking the truth and from an honest place. I knew what message I wanted to convey and I trusted my gut and went with it. I spoke from my heart. I think when you put a lot of glitter on something, it blurs the subject and sometimes mutes the point. I am not afraid of pushing boundaries and being bold."
For After the Curtain, billed as "the story of a man fighting to find his creative voice after the death of his one true love," Wall dug even deeper. Though his professional and personal life (he is engaged to "the love of my life" Dom Palange a gymnastics coach at UCLA) couldn't be better, Wall created darkness to accentuate the glitter and razzmatazz of After the Curtain. "There is no such thing as a paradise or the ultimate happy place," he says. "I am happy, but we all have moments of unhappiness and it's those moments I pull from. There are highs and lows and both are equally important when telling a story."
Audiences are enthralled, wowed and mesmerized. "I hope that the audience allows themselves to escape the realities of the real world for the two hours they are in the theatre," says Wall the showman, but Wall the artist has more in mind. "What they walk away with, the most recurring theme, seems to be their own personal relationships and how they treat those closest to them in their own lives." And he can't help adding, "Hopefully it also encourages people to think how important dance can be when telling a story."
After the Curtain is a stylish crowdpleaser and Wall gets a triple dose of satisfaction from its impact. "As a dancer," he says. "That curtain call! When you have danced straight for two hours, it is incredible to take that moment with your cast and enjoy it. It feels so good. As a choreographer, it is talking to audience members after the show. I love hearing the moments that stood out the most, the moments they will always remember and even the moments they didn't like. As a gay man, being able to tell this beautiful love story on stage every night, all over the country is incredible. Its powerful in a way I can't even describe."
Travis Wall's Shaping Sound After the Curtain plays Thurs, Feb 1 and Fri, Feb 2 at the Living Arts Centre, 4141 Living Arts Drive, Mississauga. livingartscentre.ca