Travis Wall (‘So You Think You Can Dance’ choreographer) on the ‘inner turmoil’ that inspired Emmy-nominated dances [EXCLUSIVE VIDEO INTERVIEW]

So You Think You Can Dance” choreographer Travis Wall felt like an “emotional wreck” last summer during season 15. “It was like the most vulnerable I’d ever been,” he admits, “and at the same time I’m creating from my inner turmoil, and it’s going out to millions of people. I was a bit of a broken glass, you’d say.” But that vulnerability led to his ninth Emmy nomination for Best Choreography. He’s now tied with Derek Hough as the second biggest nominee in the category (behind Debbie Allen with 11), and if he wins it’ll be his third prize, tying the record as the biggest winner of all time. Watch our exclusive video interview with Wall above.

Wall is nominated for two especially personal dance routines from the 2018 season: “It Takes a Lot to Know a Man” and “Glass Heart Concerto.” The first featured contestant Darius Hickman and “SYTYCD” all-star Taylor Sieve in an exploration of gender expression and self-acceptance. Wall, who is openly gay, had been “trying to do this piece for about four years,” he says. “It brought back my upbringing, how I was bullied, and how I felt like I had to act a certain way or be a certain person to be accepted in society.” It took a while for the piece to finally be performed on the “SYTYCD” stage, and now he hopes that for someone who watched, “it’s going to open up their life, and it’s going to give them an opportunity to be themself.”

“Glass Heart,” meanwhile, was inspired by the end of a relationship. That duet also featured Hickman, along with fellow season 15 contestant Magda Fialek, and it was created for the first live show of the season. “I was going through a major breakup in my life,” Wall explains. “This piece just felt like one of our last conversations before we split. The words are coming out. All of our truth is coming out this time.” So as soon as he first heard that remix of the Blondie classic “Heart of Glass,” he knew he had to create a dance for it.

Now that Wall is in the position to make Emmy history with a third win, “it’s really hard to put into words.” He says, “I never thought this was in the cards for me. I never thought I would be in this position.” But he’s grateful for everything “SYTYCD” has done for the dance world in general. “It has opened the doors for so many other dance shows on television … Dance should be everywhere. It’s infectious, and it’s passionate, and it’s inspiring, and it does bring a lot of beautiful things to this sometimes really crazy, absurd world.”

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