One often-overlooked relationship that exists in dance is the relationship between choreographer and muse. Recently two-time Emmy Award Winner Travis Wall opened up about his experience working with dancers he considers to be his muses.
"My muses in choreography have evolved over the years," says Wall. "When I'm creating on Shaping Sound, our company members, my friends, are my muses. But at this current stage of my career, I'm definitely inspired by new, fresh talent."
Wall adds, "I'm so inspired by this new generation of dancers. Their teachers have done such incredible jobs, and I've seen these kids grown up. For many of them, I've had a hand in their exposure to choreography."
But it's the movement of these young dancers that truly inspires Travis. "When I'm by myself making up a phrase, these are the people I envision executing the choreography," says Wall. "My body doesn't do what theirs can do."
When asked which specific young dancers he puts in the category of his muses, Travis praised Timmy Blankenship, Lex Ishimoto (SYTYCD Season 14 Winner), Lucy Vallely, Jake Tribus, Findlay McConnell, Megan Goldstein, Morgan Higgins and Tate McRae.
"These dancers, these artists are individuals," Wall says about his list of muses, "They take my structure and they completely exceed my expectations, which inspires me to go even further. Each piece would look different on each person in this group, and that's so inspiring to me because it elevates my work. It inspires me to be a better choreographer and creator in every possible way."
When Tate McRae and Timmy Blankenship were asked how it felt to be considered a muse by an award-winning choreographer like Wall, they were overcome with appreciation. "It's absolutely surreal," says McRae, "because Travis is one of my biggest role models and mentors. It's so exciting because he inspires me so much." Blankenship says, "As a young male dancer, I grew up watching Shaping Sound and Travis on 'So You Think You Can Dance'. He's the biggest reason I was inspired at such a young age, and ten years later, here I am with him as my inspiration. It's amazing to think that I'm also one of his."
When asked if either of them felt pressure knowing Travis considers them muses, both Tate and Timmy say that when they're in the moment of working with Travis, they don't feel any pressure at all. "I think with choreographers like Travis," says McRae, "the energy in the room is so inspiring, and motivation is bouncing back and forth between the dancer and choreographer. It becomes not about dance moves anymore, but you get lost in the story you're telling the audience." Blankenship adds, "Travis's work comes from a place of encouragement. He pushes me to be the best possible version of myself."
Further cultivating these relationships and sharing them with other dancers and choreographers is a driving goal of The Travis Wall Experience which is a new Intensive being offered at DancerPalooza in San Diego this year from July 24-29th.
"I think opening up the door to not only my creation process with dancers," says Wall, "but making it our creative process for everyone at the Intensive will be exciting for everyone. The Travis Wall Experience is about encouraging people to take the base and structure of choreography and then remove the feeling of what they think is possible and allow themselves to be pushed in different directions."
Of course, that's how Travis works with his muses and the unique aspect of this new Intensive. "I think there's going to be a lot of student choreography," says Wall, "a lot of opportunities for the students to create for themselves and put that together into one large performance."
Tate and Timmy will also be attending the Intensive and each of them has their own set of reasons for choosing The Travis Wall Experience. Timmy is intrigued by the title of the intensive. "I want an Experience," he says, "I am beginning to explore choreographing and I know this experience with Travis can open up a lot of doors for young dancers like me."
Tate is looking forward to not only working with Travis, but also several of the other choreographers on the faculty for The Travis Wall Experience. "So many of the choreographers that will be there are huge inspirations of mine," says McRae, "People like Jason Parsons, Lauren Adams, Al Blackstone and Mandy Moore. They're amazing people in the industry and it's super exciting that we're getting offered this Intensive."
For Travis, he hopes that during this week of performance and choreography work he can allow young dancers a more in-depth and detailed look into the process he uses as a creator. "For me it's about coming up with that idea, pushing the boundaries of it and following inspiration whenever it comes to create a story with only movement," says Wall, "And sometimes you might find, you are your own muse."