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How Travis Wall Dealt With Racism and Despair in ‘So You Think You Can Dance’ Routines (Video)

TheWrap Emmy magazine: Wall is one of four nominees from his show, which dominates the Outstanding Choreography category

Last Updated: August 17, 2018 @ 8:11 AM

A version of this story about Travis Wall and “So You Think You Can Dance” first appeared in the Down to the Wire issue of TheWrap’s Emmy magazine.

To say that “So You Think You Can Dance” has dominated the Emmys’ Outstanding Choreography category is an understatement. It has four of the five nominees this year, just as it had four in 2009, 2013 and 2014.

In the 12 years it has been on the air, it has landed 38 nominations, more than 60 percent of the category’s total of 63, and won eight times.

And to say that “SYTYCD” has changed Travis Wall’s life is another understatement. As a wide-eyed (and mohawked!) 18-year-old, Wall auditioned in Season 2, ending the season as runner-up. His journey was only beginning: He assisted choreographer Tyce Diorio in Season 3 and was choreographing his own pieces for the show by Season 5.

He’s been nominated every year since 2011, and won in 2015 and 2017. (His fellow “SYTYCD” nominees this year: Mandy Moore, Al Blackstone and Christopher Scott.)

His nominated routines this year, the duet “Change Is Everything” and the group routine “Strange Fruit,” both tackled difficult emotions. The first, he said, was “therapeutic.”

“I was in a really dark place — you know, as far as dark thoughts, not being able to pull myself out of a hole — and there was a specific person, and I had to almost dig inside and find that within myself to really pull me out of those things,” Wall said.

“And sometimes it can become a little bit of a self-infliction, and the dance was very dramatic, very emotional, like you know she’s falling off his shoulders to the floor, it’s just this idea of like falling off this pedestal that you think you’re in and you just fall into this deep ocean and you can’t find a way to swim to the top.”

“Strange Fruit,” on the other hand, was inspired by the deadly white supremacist rally last summer in Charlottesville, Va. “I felt so helpless, so angry that the world thought that it was OK that our president had said that there was wrongdoing on both sides,” he said.

“I want to say… put your hand in my hand, and that we all are here together,” he said of the piece. “There shouldn’t be this segregation and separation.”

He also credited his fellow dancers for helping to shape the piece in its finished form. “Was I listed as the choreographer? Yes. Was it my idea to do this? Yes. However, this was a collaborative effort of all of us wanting to speak on this issue,” he added. “That’s why I love the show.”

See the video interview with Travis Wall above. Read more from the Down to the Wire issue of TheWrap’s Emmy magazine.

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