So You Think You Can Dance mentor blog: Travis Wall on the show's competitive new format
It’s our 12th season of So You Think You Can Dance, and it’s going to be really exciting this summer with the new Stage vs. Street format. I think it has more of a competition vibe. It’s more of a battle of the styles, and we wanted to know America’s side—not only who’s your favorite dancer, but what’s your favorite style, and what team you gravitate more toward.
I’m super excited to be the mentor for the Stage Team this year. I’ve kind of already been acting as a mentor to the contestants off camera for the past few seasons, especially the last two or three, because I’ve been choreographing in almost every episode. The kids will ask me what they’re doing wrong, how they can get their personality across on camera, what I think of their dancing, what I think of their routine. And now I’m actually allowed to have these conversations with them and do everything I possibly can to help.
We still don’t know how the show is going to play out, but tell me what to do, and I’m ready for it. It kind of feels like season 1—it’s completely fresh, and they don’t really know if it’s going to be small groups or if it’s going to be duets, and for how long.
Up to this point, there’s been no partnering in the Vegas rounds. They’ve had to show what they’re great at with their solos, and then they’ve also done a couple of choreography rounds inside their own style. Since we don’t know what any of these kids can do outside their own styles, there’s more opportunity for train crashes, but there’s also more opportunity for them to make us say, “Oh my God, I did not know you had that in you.” There’s a lot of room for surprises. I think we’re still going to create the most amazing dances, and we picked the most amazing individuals who would probably never have been on the show before.
They’re really going to feel like they’re part of a team. The two teams haven’t even seen each other in Vegas. The moment we shoot the first top 20 show, which is in the first or second week in July—that is the first time they’ll all see each other. They don’t know what they’re up against, which is really cool. The Stage Team wants to win the show, and the Street Team wants to win the show. Coming from my perspective—stage dancers, we’ve given up everything. Thank God I grew up into a dance studio, because I would never be able to take dance if it wasn’t for that. We wouldn’t have any money to dance. These kids from the Stage Team are coming from people who sacrificed everything. We’ve all dedicated our lives to our craft, so I think we’re going have that sense of camaraderie.
I don’t think it’s going to be about one person now as much as it will be about supporting your team, because the energy that you bring together will prevail in every situation. And I know the Street Team’s going to feel the exact same way. Obviously, at the end of the day it’s all about respect, and it’s about love, but I think my team wants to win the show. tWitch and I got first runner-ups on our seasons, so I have a little bit of an edge to win the show too. It’ll be like I’m winning with the team—my second chance.
When they approached me about mentoring the Stage Team, they didn’t really know what it would mean as far as my choreography, but they felt I was the person most qualified. I can never choreograph someone on tWitch’s team, but I can choreograph my own team—say in an all-Stage number showcasing the top 10 or five Stage dancers. And possibly toward the finale, I might be able to choreograph an All-Star and a Stage performance, but strictly my team. I have stressed to them and stressed to everybody that I still want to choreograph. I took on this role as a mentor, and I’m going to kill it. I’m going to do the best job. But more than that, where my passion lives is to create work on this show, and I think they’re definitely going to make sure that still happens.
So get ready for the most eclectic group of dancers this summer. Now that we have so many more street dancers than we’ve ever had before, you’re going to get these incredible street numbers. And it’s the cream of the crop for stage, because we couldn’t pick 20 contemporary dancers. We could only pick 10. The group numbers this year are going to be out of control. I have no idea what’s going to happen when they get down to the duets, but when everyone’s in their own style, get ready for some amazing dancing.
Nigel Lythgoe, Mary Murphy, and the viewers at home crown America’s Favorite Dancer.