Travis Wall had a vision. He wanted to spend his days doing what he loves—creating movement—with his best friends. And rather than waiting for some director or choreographer to potentially make that happen for him, 24-year-old Travis took action.
Enter Shaping Sound, Travis' contemporary company. It's stacked with 26 talented dancers who include the leading man's roommates (Nick Lazzarini, Teddy Forance and Kyle Robinson), longtime muses (Jaimie Goodwin and Taja Riley), fellow “So You Think You Can Dance" alums (Allison Holker, Melanie Moore and Noelle Marsh) and favorite rising stars (former Dance Spirit Cover Model Search winners Kaitlynn Edgar and Alexa Anderson among them). Now, not only has the company put on two successful shows in L.A., but the dancers are also the stars of the Oxygen network's “All the Right Moves," a reality docu-series premiering with an eight-episode arc this summer. The show follows Travis, Nick, Kyle and Teddy as they launch the company and live together in Hollywood.
So where did the idea for a company come from, and how exactly is Travis making his lofty dance dreams come true? DS flew to L.A. this spring to sit down with the company's co-founders (Travis, Nick and Teddy), plus Kyle, Jaimie and Taja, to find out.
Dance Spirit: Let's start at the beginning. How do you all know each other?
Kyle Robinson: Teddy and I grew up competing with each other. I was older, so I would always hand down my title to him.
Nick Lazzarini: And I grew up competing with Travis.
Taja Riley: I've known Travis since I was 7. He's been my mentor since I walked into his mom's studio, and the rest is history.
Jaimie Goodwin: I started training at Denise Wall's Dance Energy [Travis' mom's studio] when I was 12. Travis and I were dance partners and we clicked immediately. Travis has always included me in his dreams. I've been there for it all.
Travis Wall: When I first started getting hired to choreograph, I always had the same group of dancers with me. I wanted to create a company where if you hired Travis Wall, you knew what you were getting—this group of dancers.
Jaimie: Travis has always dreamed about doing something like this. I've been hearing about it since I was little! He would be like, “We're always going to be dancing together. We'll have our own company someday."
Teddy Forance: I remember Travis saying, “I don't want to just be a dancer. I want to be choreographing and in control of what's happening onstage."
DS: What was the next step?
Travis: I held an audition in L.A. last fall to put the group together. Four hundred dancers showed up, and 40 came to the callback.
DS: Did everyone have to audition? Even your best friends?
Travis: Everyone auditioned. [Travis, Nick and Teddy were all judges.] My friends knew they'd be in the company, but I wanted to see everybody dance. Plus, there were lots of people I hadn't seen in a while, like Noelle Marsh. I wasn't planning on using her, but she danced her life out for me at the audition. I had to hire her!
DS: What were you looking for in Shaping Sound dancers?
Travis: If I put you onstage by yourself, could you hold an entire audience's attention? I was looking for great personalities—ultimately, it's a company of best friends. Of course, it's also important that my dancers be technically strong. I grew up dancing with Jaimie—I like girls with pretty feet, nice long legs and open hips.
DS: Is being in Shaping Sound a full-time job?
Travis: If we have a show coming up, we rehearse heavily for a month, but I still allow everybody to do side jobs. I understand dancers. They need to make money. And I want their faces on TV! I want them on “Glee"! That makes our company better known. Plus, on the weekends we're all away on conventions—most of us teach or assist.
DS: Who does the company's choreography?
Travis: I did most of it for our premiere show in December, but Teddy and Nick had some pieces, too. It's a combined effort. I want everyone to choreograph! Eventually, I also want to hire guest choreographers.
DS: Any choreographers you're dying to hire?
Travis: Crystal Pite!
DS: What are your goals for the group?
Travis: It would be amazing for an artist like Jason Mraz to hire our company to go on tour with him and create a visual show while he's performing. I want Shaping Sound to be a brand name, like The LXD or the Jabbawockeez. Our mission is to really push contemporary dance on TV and in movies as much as possible. There are no limits to what we can do.
Jaimie: When you're watching your own life on TV, it forces you to learn a lot about yourself and see things from new perspectives. It's a huge gift to know we have the opportunity to share our talents with the world. Plus, being on a reality show with all of your friends—it's the greatest thing!
Teddy: I'm on cloud nine, just trying to soak it all up. I'm learning so much about who I am and where I want to go.
Taja: I never thought I'd be so exhausted from simply talking about my feelings! Every moment of my career is being eagle-watched through a lens and shown in peoples' homes. I've become more aware of the things I say and how I represent myself. I'm proud to be part of a change in the way people view art.
Travis: It's a lot of fun, but it's a roller coaster. I need to remember not to play to the cameras. They're supposed to be flies on the wall. They're on us all day—there are lights and cords all over our house. But there are no hidden cameras in the bathroom or anything!
DS: How real is your reality? Is anything scripted?
Travis: It's all real. And we don't need scripts—the four of us guys in one room is enough! We fight like brothers because we are like brothers. We also love each other like brothers. You're watching longtime relationships. We're not a bunch of strangers who were thrown in a house together.
Nick: It's hard work. You'll have an amazing conversation with someone and think you're ready to move on and a producer will come in and say, “That was great, now make that answer shorter and don't forget about where the cameras are." Now I know how the Kardashians feel!
ON SET WITH SHAPING SOUND
In the weeks leading up to the Shaping Sound cover shoot for Dance Spirit, it looked like the shoot day would be crazy. We were planning to pack L.A.'s Snow Studio with six dancers, two DS staffers, one hair and makeup guru, a photographer, his assistant and two dogs—plus an entire team of Oxygen channel producers, cameramen and sound guys. And on the morning of the shoot, Teddy and Kyle drove up in a U-Haul. They brought in their own props from Shaping Sound's December 2011 premiere, including a giant gold frame and a plush red velvet chair.
The shoot marked the first official day of filming for Oxygen's docu-series “All the Right Moves," so not only did Travis, Nick, Teddy, Kyle, Jaimie and Taja have to worry about getting their moves right for DS photographer Joe Toreno, they also had to do so while wearing microphone packs and staying in frame for the video cameras.
So was the day as crazy as we thought it would be? Not at all. That's what happens when you're working with a team of creative professionals—things just flow.
Travis carefully styled the dancers' looks for each shot and kept a close eye on every pose and shape, but everything worked because everyone rallied together to make it happen.
The dancers laughed—a lot—and supported each other throughout the day. When Taja curved her torso, showing off her unbelievably toned six-pack abs, Teddy hollered. When Jaimie—who is on the injured list recovering from knee surgery—threw her leg behind her into a perfect penchée, Travis went wild. Nick was the class clown, making jokes and demanding that everyone “smize more" (smiling with the eyes, à la Tyra Banks). Meanwhile, everyone bonded over crushes on Kyle, the quiet yet oh-so-dreamy one. (With his dark eyes and killer smile, we're happily on board the crush train, too.) There was no sense of competition, no asking to be “in the front."
By the end of the day, the concept of Shaping Sound made complete sense: Why would these dancers work individually when, together, they can create something truly magnificent? And that's exactly what they did that day.
Why “Shaping Sound"? Travis explains:
“I was on an airplane and I looked outside the window from the tarmac. There were these metal things on the edge of the runway, curving up. I wondered why it wasn't a flat wall, and then I realized there was a residential neighborhood on the other side of the wall. The walls were made that way to shape the sound from the planes upward rather than into the neighborhood. I thought that would be the coolest name for our dance company, since musicality is one of our biggest assets. So now we're Shaping Sound."
GET TO KNOW THE SHAPING SOUND DANCERS
His impressive background: Travis has been dancing “since birth" and grew up at his mom's studio (Denise Wall's Dance Energy). He competed, won numerous titles, moved to NYC at age 12 to do The Music Man on Broadway and was the “So You Think You Can Dance" Season 2 runner-up. He's been choreographing since he was 16, and he was the winner of the 2009 Capezio A.C.E. Award.
How he describes his choreography in one word: “Inspired"
Who would play him in Shaping Sound: The Movie? Zac Efron
Dance crushes: Sarah Pippin, Jayci Kalb and Melanie Moore. “And Kyle!"
Career highlight: Being nominated for an Emmy Award for his work on “So You Think You Can Dance"
Dream job: Choreographing for Beyoncé
His best advice: “No matter how high you go or how far you travel, always bring your friends with you."
His impressive background: Nick grew up doing ballet, jazz, tap, acro, hip hop and lyrical. He competed and got his professional start early performing on the PBS kids show “Adventures with Kangaroddy." At 19, Nick moved to L.A., where he auditioned for “SYTYCD"—and won! He spent five years in NYC taking classes and auditioning for everything from Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet to Broadway. Eventually he moved back to L.A. to work professionally.
Who would play him in Shaping Sound: The Movie? Misha Gabriel
Dance crush: Kyle Robinson
Career highlight: Winning “SYTYCD" Season 1
His best advice: “Have a strong knowledge of the basics. If you don't have a solid jazz and ballet background, your contemporary is going to suffer."
Did You know? Nick Lazzarini is the first dancer to appear on three Dance Spirit covers! Congrats, Nick!
His impressive background: Teddy's family has owned a dance studio for 78 years, so he was “born into the bloodline." He competed throughout high school and spent his senior year dancing with Mia Michaels. He moved to Greece to work with the recording artist Anna Vissi, and then booked the Cirque du Soleil Delirium tour, under Michaels' direction. Since then, Teddy has worked with Janet Jackson, Kylie Minogue, Lady Gaga and Florence + the Machine.
How he describes his dancing in one word: “Instinctual"
Who would play him in Shaping Sound: The Movie? Orlando Bloom or Elijah Wood
Dance crushes: Cindy Salgado, Jillian Meyers, Dana Wilson and Mandy Moore
His best advice: “Dive headfirst with love and patience into any creative process."
His impressive background: Kyle started dancing at 11 at a competition studio. He worked with Aszure Barton & Artists and Hell's Kitchen Dance before graduating from The Juilliard School. He was recently on the first national tour of West Side Story.
Dance crush: Stacey Tookey
Who would play him in Shaping Sound: The Movie? Tom Hardy. “But I would be the dance double."
Career highlight: Going on as Riff in West Side Story at a tour stop in Arizona
His best advice: “Follow your passion."
Her impressive background: Jaimie grew up competing with Denise Wall's Dance Energy and says things “fell right into place" after graduation. She was spotted at a convention by Tyce Diorio, who hired her to do a McDonald's commercial. From there, she auditioned for “SYTYCD" Season 3, where she became a Top 10 finalist, and eventually an All-Star on Season 8. She was a dancer in High School Musical 3: Senior Year and toured Europe with the Bad Boys of Dance. She's done episodes of “Glee" and is a “groupie" in the Rock of Ages movie, out this June.
How she describes her dancing in one word: “Elegant"
Who would play her in Shaping Sound: The Movie? Rachel McAdams
Dance crush: Bryan Tanaka (her boyfriend!)
Her best advice: “The most valuable attribute a dancer can have is self-discipline. Stay determined and even the biggest speed bumps won't stop you."
Her impressive background: Taja started dancing when she was 7 at Denise Wall's Dance Energy, and began competing at age 10. She moved to L.A. at 16 to work with Brian Friedman, Mia Michaels and Wade Robson. By 17 she was dancing backup for Janet Jackson. She went on to work with Ne-Yo, Annie Lennox and Nicole Scherzinger. Taja has also performed on “Glee" and on the first season of “The X Factor" in the U.S.
How she describes her dancing in one word (or three): “Flows like water"
Who would play Her in Shaping Sound: The Movie? Stacey Dash
Dance crush: Hefa Tuita. “Always and forever."
Career highlight: Performing in Dublin, Ireland, with Nicole Scherzinger. “We finished the last number, but the crowd didn't know we were going to do an encore, so they started chanting ole, ole, ole, ole in unison. I cried. It was one of my proudest moments."