Tony's Talks: Travis Wall On Love, Loss And Dancing With Men

On Tuesday, February 13, Travis Wall and his dance group “Shaping Sound” will bring their new performance piece “After The Curtain” to Miami’s Ziff Ballet Opera House of the Adrienne Arsht Performing Arts Center.

Travis Wall is one of America’s favorite choreographers via his Emmy Award winning work on “So You Think You Can Dance.” His new show is very personal. He says, “I really wanted to add a piece of myself and a piece of my soul into this show. That is why I created a love story between two men. I set the piece in the 1940s when it must have been almost impossible for someone to come out, and when so many gay men went to their graves with their secret. Life is much easier for me because of all the work done by gay activists who came before me. We are so lucky to be able to live without fear.”

Wall, who started choreographing at 16 and performing at 18, is now 30. He says he is feeling old in two ways; he often injures himself in the course of performing a piece that is physically demanding, and, he is often brought to tears during a piece that is an emotional outlet for his life experiences of love and loss. He was rejuvenated by creating “After The Curtain.”

“I consider myself an immersive storyteller, releasing my own aggression and angst in this piece. This is a love story between a man and a man. I wanted to share this with all ages, groups and people,” he said. “I invite everyone to come with an open mind and climb out of their own personal experience. Every single person can connect with at least one of the characters. Not all of them have a happy ending. It’s an emotional rollercoaster of a show. Also, something audiences may not be used to is the amount of acting in this dance production. Two hours of extreme story telling.”

Wall describes “Shaping Sound” as a very tight knit family. The intensity of the new piece demands an extremely committed team effort. Wall chooses his dancers not only on the basis of their talents and skills but on their ability to become close friends. His choreography is challenging with his dancers learning to go deeply inside their roles.

“My character is the narrator, a writer/director who is putting on one last show and feeling like his time is coming to an end, and that his inner self is getting the best of him. He reveals that the night his lover died is the night he lost his mind. Anger erupts within him,” Wall said. “Other characters deal with other gay issues, abuse issues, and substance abuse issues. Internal struggles become visible in a way that helps the audience understand what people endure in lives different from their own. Someone said to me, ‘After I saw the show I realized that I need to be a better friend. I may not have any idea what my friends are going through.’ I felt very glad about that reaction.”

“After the Curtain” will appeal to a wide audience in Miami where the hard won battles for equality have brought about gay visibility, greater acceptance and assimilation. The pain and anguish Wall depicts will not be news to anyone in the audience.

Wall, who says he draws inspiration from great story-telling directors like Baz Luhrman, didn’t intend to do a gay story.

“I wanted to do a story about men in general. Plus, I was tired of having to dance only with women,” he said. “I just wanted to dance with men. That is what I love to do more than anything.”