Take It From Travis

Growing up on the competition and convention circuit is great, but how do you transition from comp kid to working dancer? Travis Wall has been there—he competed with his mom’s studio, Denise Wall’s Dance Energy, then went on to become a Season 2 finalist and Emmy-nominated choreographer on “So You Think You Can Dance.” He’s choreographed for Adele and Florence and the Machine for performances at award shows and about “Dancing with the Stars.” Now he’s here to dish on what you need to know to make moves in the professional dance world.

1. Go to competitions and conventions to meet people.

I stopped competing when I was 16 to tour with conventions. I wanted to become more well-rounded, and as I traveled, I met other dancers and choreographers. I got my name out and made important connections. By breaking away from my studio and traveling on my own, I was able to meet people like Wade Robson, who I still work with today.

2. Be a familiar face.

When I’m teaching at a convention, I notice the dancers who come to city after city, year after year. I get to watch them improve over time and I start to care about their dancing. When I see these dancers taking class seriously, I take them seriously.

3. Make friends.

Next time you go to a competition or convention, look around at your fellow dancers. You’ll probably be working—or even living—with them consistently for the rest of your career. When I was younger, I toured with New York City Dance Alliance. The dancers I assisted with are still my best friends. If you decide to move to L.A. or NYC, you may not know anyone at first. But you’ll find people who are in the same boat as you, and they will become your friends for life.

4. Make smart decisions.

I can’t say whether you should go to college or move to a city after high school. Neither decision is for everyone. Be smart and make an informed choice. Form an opinion by talking with your parents, your teachers and directors, judges or choreographers you’ve met at competitions. Say, “You’ve seen my dancing, you know me—this is what I think I want to do, but what do you think is the best decision?” Take it all in and then decide. Whatever you want to do is fine—just be educated about it.

5. Don't be bland.

No matter how good your dancing is, people beyond the comp world will make assumptions about you based on your dance background. Know how to dress for auditions and have confidence. A few years ago Jordan Casanova (“SYTYCD” Season 8) auditioned for me for the MTV Video Music Awards. She came in wearing a crop top and booty shorts with her hair down in her face. She had great legs, but I cut her because she wasn’t interesting enough. I told her she was amazing, but she needed to stand out—and I suggested that she chop her hair off. The next time I saw her was at “SYTYCD” Vegas Week, with short hair—and she got on the show! I’m not saying everyone should go out and cut their hair, but you have to stand out and be exciting.

6. Never stop training.

If you move to L.A. to be a commercial dancer, keep taking contemporary classes. If you want to be on Broadway, stay in ballet class. Having solid technique will work to your advantage. Don’t just wait around for a job—stay in the studio.

7. Be money savvy.

So many dancers move to L.A., can’t get a job right away and then move back home because they don’t have money. Don’t set yourself up for that. Save up first, then suck it up if you have to and wait tables or work at Starbucks. If being a dancer is your dream, do what you have to do to make it happen. Swallowing your ego is the hardest part of moving to a city.

8. Be drama-free.

People want to work with the best dancers, but they also want to work with professionals. No one has time to baby you, worry about you or deal with your attitude problems. It’s important who you associate yourself with. If you hang out with someone who has a bad name in the industry, people will equate you with that person. I will only work with people I believe in. I care how artists treat dancers and I won’t work with choreographers who disrespect their dancers. Surround yourself with great people.

9. Have something extra.

Knowing how to tumble is practically a must today. Have a trick in your pocket that’s more impressive than a grand jeté. Be ready to show your wow moment.

10. Don’t sell yourself out.

Always stay true to who you are. Maintain your integrity in this industry, no matter what. Just be yourself.Want more Travis? He’s got a new reality show coming out with his friends (and roommates!) Nick Lazzarini and Teddy Forance.

Where's Travis now? He’s in Miami, working as a choreographer on his first movie: Step Up 4.

Latest Posts


Because there's never been a better time to binge-watch "Bunheads" (via Freeform)

5 of the Danciest TV Shows Streaming Right Now (and Where to Stream Them)

We're about two months into #SocialDisDancing, and let's be real—while we all wish we were spending every spare minute stretching, cross-training, or taking online classes, sometimes we just need to Netflix and chill.

We figure, if you're going to be watching TV anyways, why not make it dancy TV? After all, watching pros dance on-screen is basically dance class homework...or at least we'll say it is. Here are five of the danciest TV shows for you to watch—and where to find them.

Keep Reading SHOW LESS
Larry Saperstein on "High School Musical: The Musical: The Series" (Disney+/Fred Hayes)

Celebrate National Tap Dance Day with "HSM" Star Larry Saperstein

Happy National Tap Dance Day, friends! We're marking the occasion by catching up with one of our favorite talented young tappers: Larry Saperstein. The "High School Musical: The Musical: The Series" star began taking tap classes at 12 years old, studying at the American Tap Dance Foundation, where he quickly discovered his love for the art. These days, he's putting his skills to good use as Big Red on "HSMTMTS." (Who could forget that iconic moment at the end of season one where he broke out into a tap routine that shook us all!)

We chatted with Larry about why he loves tap so much, and why the art form needs more and better representation in the dance world (and the world world).

Keep Reading SHOW LESS

2020 Dance Grads: We Want to Put You on Our Cover!

Hello, all you members of the great Dance Class of 2020. With the world on lockdown, this hasn't been the graduation season you expected. You likely weren't able to go to prom; your commencement ceremonies have probably been delayed or canceled; and you might not have been able to take your planned-for final bow onstage.

Since you're missing out on so much, we'd like to give you a virtual ovation, to recognize all you've accomplished. And what's the highest honor we can bestow? The cover of Dance Spirit!

Here's the plan:

  • If you're a high school or college senior dancer, use this form to submit your information and dance portrait.
  • Each day during the month of May, we'll create a digital Dance Spirit cover starring one of you, chosen at random—31 covers in total.
  • At the end of the month, we'll create a "commencement video" featuring even more of your submitted dance photos.
  • 100 of you, selected by lottery, will also receive free one-year subscriptions to the print magazine.

Merde, 2020 graduates, as you dance your way into the future!

High School and College Senior Dancers: Submit Your Photo Here

Editors' Picks

contest
Enter the Cover Model Search