Travis Wall has become a dance celebrity without first starring in a ballet or modern company, or on Broadway. Wall, 29, has done it in front of the camera on reality TV — specifically, “So You Think You Can Dance” and “Dancing With the Stars.” He was just 18 when he was runner-up on the second season of “So You Think You Can Dance” in 2006, has been a resident choreographer since 2012 and won the Emmy for choreography in 2015. In the pop world, he choreographed the music video for Carrie Underwood’s “Something in the Water,” which won the CMT Video of the Year, and he worked on stage shows for Justin Bieber and Demi Lovato.
He and three fellow dancers even created their own company, Shaping Sound, by drumming up interest in their own reality television series, “All the Right Moves,” on Oxygen. The group comes to the Tilles Center on Oct. 20.
You are choreographing for Shaping Sound, but you’re not dancing. Is it frustrating not to dance after being center stage for so much of your life? So many star dancer-choreographers — Martha Graham, Twyla Tharp — had a very hard time making the transition to unseen choreographer.
No, not at all. I had to dance with the company to get it on its feet, but I always planned to run the company and get myself offstage. Dancing is not my favorite thing in the world. I much prefer choreography. I’ve learned so much more about who I am through it.
You studied from childhood with your mother, director of Denise Wall’s Dance Energy in Virginia Beach, Virginia; starred in a Dr Pepper commercial when you were 9 and played a resident of River City in the 2000 revival of “The Music Man.” But reality TV has been your unusual journey. How significant has it been in your life?
That is how I got my name out there as a choreographer. I always knew that’s what I wanted to do, to have full creative control over the songs, the costumes, the camerawork.
What’s the difference between choreographing for the camera and for the stage?
With the camera, you can show exactly what you want the audience to watch on stage. You can’t do that with just the naked human eye.
Do you use video in the dances to be performed at Tilles?
No, this particular show is completely a proscenium stage show. I’m working on a new show that might use camera.
The company name, Shaping Sound, reminds me of something George Balanchine said — that he wanted people to “hear the dance and see the music.”
I love that we take the sound and we shape it.
What was it like to work with Michelle Obama on her Let’s Move campaign and create the “GimmeFive” routine she performed on “Ellen”?
It was an incredible experience. She is the coolest woman I have ever met. Those were some of the coolest days and weeks of my life.
Congratulations on your engagement to Dom Palange, UCLA gymnastics coach, after five years together. When’s the wedding?
My schedule is out of control. He and I are trying to figure it out. . . . It may be a really long engagement.
Are there choreographers you especially admire?
Obviously, William Forsythe . . . Rob Marshall has been an inspiration . . . and Baz Luhrmann. Ones who think completely outside the box. Those things get my blood pumping.
It has often been said that dancers are wired differently from ordinary mortals. Do you agree?
Absolutely. I think creators are wired differently, the way we interpret everyday life. We’re just a different breed. With dancers, so much is personal, there is so much body contact with another human being. It opens us up to be completely different people. It’s very special. Besides, we spend every day looking at ourselves in the mirror, tearing ourselves apart and trying every day for perfection. To come up with new ideas, to reinvent yourself, even knowing you’re probably not going to be making a lot of money, it’s very hard. But it’s my goal.
WHAT Shaping Sound Dance Company
WHEN | WHERE Thursday, Oct. 20, at 7:30 p.m., Tilles Center, 720 Northern Blvd., Greenvale
INFO $35-$70; 877-250-2929, tillescenter.org