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So You Think You Can Dance mentor blog: Travis Wall says dance is a small world

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Vince Bucci/Invision/AP

Last night was our last audition city, and about half of my team on Team Stage has not been shown yet—they’re showing a lot of talent that you’ll see in Vegas next week, and I think they’ve shown little clips of everybody on my team, but they haven’t shown about half of their real auditions, so I’m looking forward to next week in Vegas and to some of the other contestants having their moments on the show, so America can see how talented they are. 

I think what’s really interesting is how many dancers are a lot older this year. I’m so happy about that. I think So You Think You Can Dance is so used to the fresh face: Who’s 18? Who’s finally old enough to audition for the show? And we still have our share of that, but this year there are a lot of people as old as me26 or 27, and there are a couple of 30 year olds in Vegas too. It’s going to be a nice shift of energy this year with choreography, because you’ve got the 18 year olds who are so excited to be on the show, but then there’s something about the maturity of the seasoned, older dancers and what they bring to the performance of the pieces.

It was a really good night for Street and Stage last night. On the Street side, I think Virgil is incredible. What he can do with his body, and his timing, and his energy, and his personalityhe’s everything you’d want in a performer. And the tap dancer, Justin—I think in his original audition, he came in as Stage and switched to Street right before he went on. His audition was incredible last night. He’s definitely a trained tap dancer, but I guess his style is more Street, so it’s kind of a gray area. What makes you a Stage dancer, and what makes you a Street dancer? I wish he were on our team. I didn’t have a male tap dancer in Vegas like that, and I would have rooted for him all the way to the end because of how amazing his solo was. I’m very interested to see what happens to him in Vegas, because choreography for Team Street was three rounds of different styles of hip-hop. I have no idea how he’s going to last if he’s not a hip-hop dancer. But he was good, oh my gosh. His rhythm, how clean he was, the amount of energy he put into his stepsI see a lot of good tappers, and for his age, I think he’s extremely talented.

The judges had some opinions, but music choice isn’t everythingit’s all part of the bigger picture of whether you like what you see. And actually, half the time on the show, when people are like, “Oh, I didn’t like that music,” the dancer’s music probably wasn’t cleared, and what you’re hearing was dubbed over it. In my original audition for the show, I had a different song, and at the last minute my song wasn’t cleared, so they put my dance to another piece of music. What the judges say is one thing, but for the audience, if you don’t like the music, the dancer might not have picked it

I don’t want to talk bad, but Ianit was sad, because when he’s training, I think he’s getting false encouragement in a way. People are telling him how good he is. You see that a lot with people, where their ego is being boosted by the people training them and no one is truly being honest with them, which is what it takes to get them where they need to be in order to achieve what they really want. It’s not on him. It’s on his dance teachers and the people not being honest with him in the training process. 

It’s constructive criticism. You’re not there to break anyone’s spirit, but you have to figure out ways to be honest with people to inspire them to fix the problems that they have. Thank God I had my mom as my dance teacher because she literally taught me everything about constructive criticism: I’m being honest with you, but I’m going to help you get there. I think that’s what’s great about the judges last nightthey didn’t shut him down. They just said it’s not there yet. It’s not his fault that he has this confidencethere’s someone who’s not really telling him what he needs to be hearing as a dancer, because the real world of dance is a very harsh world, and you have to be honest with yourself or you’re not going to get where you need to be. So I thought the judges handled that very well. 

I think Alexia did really well last night. I think Nigel stood up for what he believed inI didn’t agree with what Paula was talking about with the nerves getting to her. Everyone’s nerves get to them, but it didn’t hurt her performance at all. I like when the judges have different opinions and stick up for what they believe in. That’s what the judges are supposed to do. They’re not supposed to agree at all times.

Funny thing about AlexiaI’ve known her since she was 10 years old. I’ve choreographed for her dance studio since I was about 16 years old, so I watched her grow up. The dance world is very tiny, and I’ve been teaching since I was 16, going across the country to choreograph people’s solos. One of my best friends is actually in Vegas this year, so it was funny to watch her audition, because I’ve known her forever. There was a guy last nighthis name’s Darrenthey showed a clip of him. I’ve known him for quite some time. It’s a small world out there. and I’m sure tWitch has known a lot of his team as well. Everybody knows everybody. And by halfway through the season, you know everyone really well, and then you know them forever. We’re a family, we really are. This showwhat it puts you through is an unspoken language, so we all feel for each other.

I’m really excited for Vegas because not only do tWitch and I get introduced, but the Stage dancers really do kill the choreography round. I’m really excited to see how well my Stage Team does. I think next week I’m doing a Twitter takeover on the So You Think You Can Dance Twitter, so I’m really excited to do that with tWitch. And there’s a Stage vs. Street bracket game on fox.com/dance. It’s my routine, “Fix You,” against Tabitha and Napoleon’s tWitch and Alex Wong routine, “Outta Your Mind,” so that’s my choreography vs. tWitch’s dancing. The poll closes next Tuesday, so go to fox.com/dance and vote for your favorite dance of the decade. And watch next week, because the battle between Stage and Street actually starts. 

As told to Kelly Connolly