So You Think You Can Dance mentor blog: Travis Wall on why the judges 'floored' him this week
I was very upset backstage after the top 6 show. People have been tweeting me all season that the judges are pushing for Team Street, and I never really saw that — I thought it was a fair competition. But this week, I thought it was very obvious that they were judging Team Stage on a completely different standard than Team Street.
The judges really connect with contemporary pieces, and Team Street had the only contemporary numbers this week. For me, if they were standing up for emotional pieces, they should have stood up for the jazz numbers, because on a performance level, I thought they were on par. I was just so astounded by what the judges were saying to my contestants; they were being really critical and not praising when there needed to be praise. I disagreed a lot. Last night’s votes will be accumulated with next week’s to determine the winner, and I just felt they were pushing Team Street. Then again, you can’t make an excuse. I’m hoping that America is making its own opinions.
I was devastated this week when Jim was eliminated. Not because I didn’t want either of the two girls in the finale — I am so proud of Gaby and Hailee. They have had the best journey out of Team Stage. But from the moment I saw Jim’s audition, there was no doubt in my mind that he would be in the finale. I always saw him at the very end, and I just didn’t know who that extra spot would go to. So just watching his solo last night, and his package when he was crying, was really hard. I was doing fine — they announced Gaby and I was ecstatic, and then they announced Hailee, and I was so excited for her. And then I looked at Jim, and I saw him completely shatter. I saw the look on his face: He was looking up at the package, and the cameras were off of him, and he just lost it. And that’s when I lost it. I knew how badly he wanted this. His technique and his dancing are extraordinary. Jim is one of the best dancers we have ever had on this show, so for him to not make the finale — my mind was boggled.
Social media blew up afterwards with people saying, “I’m not watching this show anymore.” You can’t stop watching the show because somebody wasn’t voted in. It literally came down to America, and America didn’t put him there. I have no idea why they didn’t put him there. I think there are a lot of great dancers who watch the show, but I don’t think they’re necessarily the ones voting. I think people voting don’t necessarily know as much about great technique.
Gaby and Marko did an incredible job. I loved this high-energy number from Ray Leeper. There were so many technical elements, and I thought they had so much chemistry. It was fun and flirty, and it was fun to see that side of Gaby. I thought they opened the show extremely well. I disagreed with Jason when he said that Gaby didn’t have as much star quality — I love Marko, and I didn’t watch Marko once. I couldn’t take my eyes off of her. There wasn’t an emotional journey like the one she had last week, but that doesn’t take away from how amazing the dancing is.
Jim was outside his element with the samba, just like he was in hip-hop the week before. I felt extremely bad for him, because I just felt like he had the worst luck in the entire competition. He wasn’t getting the routines he needed to get the votes. But this is the challenge; these are the cards he’s dealt. And he worked so hard. He broke down some walls. I don’t know if I could’ve done it that well, especially with Jim’s background. He’s never done anything like that in his entire life. All season, the judges said, “Jim, let go of the technique,” and he let go of the technique, and then they were like, “Oh, what about the technique?” You could just tell in his performance that he’s completely changed. He’s just going for it. He’s entirely secure with himself, and his confidence has skyrocketed through the roof. I’m so proud of him.
I loved Hailee’s routine with Robert by Nick and RJ. I thought the costuming was incredible. Marina did such a great job with this. I thought their partnership was amazing; I thought that they killed it. Again, just because it doesn’t emotionally affect you, that doesn’t mean it isn’t up to par.
And then Jim and Gaby did their Broadway routine, and this is where I am floored by the judges’ comments. They were incredible together. I don’t believe that there was no chemistry. I don’t believe that this is “nightclub” choreography. When they said that about Josh Bergasse’s choreography, I was like, “Oh my god, I can’t believe they would say that about this Emmy award winner!” I thought Gaby and Jim did incredibly. The difficulty and the technique and all the tricks — why don’t we appreciate that anymore? I thought they did an amazing job. Gaby and Jim got off stage and just looked at me like, “What was that?” And I said, “I know! I can’t believe it.”
Then we had Hailee and Megz, and I thought Hailee was amazing. I thought she was incredible with Stacey’s choreography, and I thought we saw a different side of her. But it felt like the judges talked so much more about Megz. At that point, I just threw my hands up in the air, and I said, “I’m done.” It was really frustrating.
I thought my contestants were incredible, and at the end of the day, that’s all that really matters — the energy that we’ve shared with each other. It’s just heartbreaking when the judges come in and throw out those comments and lower the experience we had after they all worked so hard. It puts such a damper on the last note of the week, especially when they’re throwing out such amazing comments to the other side. But what are you going to do?
I thought Gaby’s solo was the best solo she’s done on this show yet. When I first saw it, I thought it was a little safe, and I wanted her to add more tap steps. She said, “That’s why I got cut in the beginning.” But I told her that at this point, the judges aren’t saying anything about the solos. America’s making up its own mind, and America wants to see you go off — and so do I. I thought that she did. And Hailee’s solo was great, with the energy she brings. The way she performs in her solos is really captivating.
And then Jim’s solo — are you kidding me? The first move on relevé? He brings up the leg, and it keeps going into arabesque, and you’re thinking, “How high is this thing really going to go?” He’s so strong, and his leaps are incredible. Everything I’ve said about his solos being stunning and perfect — it was just that. And then he got eliminated.
But again, I am so proud of Hailee and Gaby. They should be in the finale. They worked so hard, and they’ve never let a style down, so I’m extremely excited for them next week. I get to choreograph their duet together. I’m very excited to work with them in a duet setting. They’ve got four duets next week — they have to dance with each contestant, and then they get an All-Star routine.
The dancers need everyone’s help. Now it’s down to two contestants — you have to pick your 20 votes and put them all toward one person. This is when it comes down to who’s going to win this show. Who best represents So You Think You Can Dance in every style? Who’s a star? Who would you want to see come back as an All-Star to contribute to the history of the show? Hailee is a jazz dancer from Utah, and Gaby is a tapper from Miami. Go Team Stage. Team Stage for life. We’re going to take it home next week.
As told to Kelly Connolly