Choreographer Travis Wall teamed up with Misha Gabriel, one of the stars of Step Up Revolution, to discuss this fourth film of the popular dance series. Wall and Gabriel both say this Step Up movie is different than two and three in that it concentrates on a love story and doesn’t feature any dance battles. Instead, Step Up Revolution is all about bringing some of the best dancers in the world together
to tell a story about uniting for a good cause.
Both Wall and Gabriel describe the dance scenes in Step Up Revolution as visually stunning, with the 3D drawing the audience into the story rather than being gimmicky. “The finale’s explosive and it’s a feel-good movie,” says Gabriel, adding that with the Step Up Revolution dance scenes, “You’re always trying to push the envelope.”
Hitting theaters on July 27, 2012, Step Up Revolution stars So You Think You Can Dance standout Kathryn McCormick and model/ex-MMA fighter Ryan Guzman who makes his feature film debut with this dance movie.
Exclusive Travis Wall and Misha Gabriel Step Up Revolution Interview
We love to watch you dance. Why did you turn your attention to choreographing other dancers?
Travis Wall: “You’ll see a lot of me dancing this summer. Not only is So You Think You Can Dance and Step Up Revolution coming out, I’ve got a TV show coming up where I dance a lot more.”
Have you always wanted to be a choreographer? Has that been a long term goal?
Travis Wall: “I’ve choreographed since I was two years old. My mom used to put me in a room and instead of hiring a babysitter, she would put tape A in and I’d have 30 minutes on tape A to come up with a Batman dance from the soundtrack. So, I was always choreographing.”
“I have a lot more confidence as a choreographer than I do as a dancer. I don’t really have insecurities as a choreographer, and I like having something I feel secure about. I’d rather people watch my work than have them watch me dance.”
How’d you get involved in Step Up Revolution?
Travis Wall: “Adam Shankman was actually the producer and he’s obviously a fan of my work on So You Think…. He hired me for the job. Jamal Sims was the supervising choreographer and actually brought Chris [Scott] and I in and actually gave us choreography credit and not associate choreography credit, which is like the nicest thing in show-business to ever do. He could have just taken full credit and had us as associates. It’s my first movie and I get full credit – I’m so happy about it.”
How many of the dances in the film are using your choreography?
Travis Wall: “I did one flash mob, and then everything that pretty much Kathryn [McCormick] does in the movie I do. And there’s a contemporary company that she’s auditioning for in the movie that I do as well.”
Did you know Kathryn before the film?
Travis Wall: “Oh yeah. She’s from So You Think… as well.”
I didn’t know if all of you SYTYCD people hung out.
Travis Wall: “Oh yeah. If you’re from So You Think…, we pretty much all know each other. And then I choreographed the last duet the two leads do at the very end.”
And Misha, you play the best friend of the male lead?
Misha Gabriel: “Yes, I play Eddie. It’s awesome. Eddie is very close to me: fiery, passionate, hothead, a quick to react character, loyal in a sense. He’s sort of the troublemaker who stirs up a little bit of the trouble in the movie.”
Are your dance moves more aggressive?
Misha Gabriel: [Laughing] “I’ll let you decide. One of them is. One of them really shows the storyline and sort of shows the arc that my character takes, the turn my character takes. It displays it in one of the flash mobs. It’s pretty aggressive and pretty intense.”
Why do you think these Step Up movies are still so popular?
Travis Wall: “I don’t know. I never thought it would actually go this far.”
Misha Gabriel: “I didn’t either. I think dance is actually bigger than it’s ever been, which is awesome. We’ve got So You Think… and Dancing With the Stars and all those other shows. And the movies have done well so it’s like, ‘Why not?’ They’ve done well internationally and a lot of international people love dance, so it’s a no-brainer to make a fourth one.”
Travis Wall: “I think the producers wouldn’t make a new one unless they had reason to. I felt like they came up with a new storyline for every one. I feel like this one, they really outdid themselves with it.”
How does Revolution set itself apart from the other Step Up films?
Misha Gabriel: “Completely different, completely unique than all the other ones. Obviously, two and three were very similar with the dance battle sort of thing. And then you had one which was about Channing Tatum and Jenna Dewan. I love the first one. This one completely is a completely unique storyline. I think what’s cool about this one is this movie could exist without the dancing, and it could have been just a movie. The dancing adds to it, so it’s got a really unique plot. That couldn’t have happened with the other ones. It’s not about these dancers doing this dance battle; it’s about these people. And it’s not a battle, it’s actually the opposite. It’s about unifying and coming together as a group. It’s pretty interesting. I think it’s a really good film.”
You start off with an idea for a dance number, but then after meeting the dancers do you change according to their strengths?
Travis Wall: “I definitely come up with an idea of what I want to do, but until I actually see the tools I have in my pocket, I can’t really create anything yet. I choreographed everything on the spot in the movie. I didn’t prepare anything besides the duet, kind of, but when I got there, we were dancing with this guy who’s the lead who has never taken a dance class in his life. I had 12 hours to teach him how to partner Kathryn, and he did an amazing job. Absolutely.”
How do you feel about a non-dancer taking on a role like that?
Travis Wall: “I’ve kind of worked with them before. I’ve worked with a lot of actors who’ve never danced before, and I have a very unique way of teaching dance. I pretty much relate everything to the bedroom. I try and use what they use in normal day life and try and describe it like that, in a pedestrian way, and make them realize I don’t want them to dance it. Because when they think they have to dance and they’re not a dancer, it will fail.”
Is it normally difficult for non-dancers to learn what you’re trying to teach them?
Travis Wall: “I think it’s harder with understanding music and keeping rhythm. I think it’s harder to teach rhythm than it is to teach movement and feel.”
Misha Gabriel: “I think we got lucky with Ryan Guzman who’s the lead. It could have gone either way – he could have been totally nervous about it…”
Travis Wall: “Or he could have shut down.”
Misha Gabriel: “He stepped up to the plate and came to play. There was nothing Travis gave him that he didn’t try.”
Travis Wall: “He tried. He went 100%. He could have gotten overwhelmed because not only was he working with me, he was working with Jamal and Chris. He had to learn all these routines in two weeks. I was pulling him out of rehearsal, ‘Can you just try this real quick?’ He would go in there and learn these hip-hop moves.”
Plus, he’s trying to lead a movie.
Travis Wall: “Yeah, he had to learn his lines at the same time. It was really interesting to watch, especially with Misha because I’ve known him for so long. To see him turn into this actor, too, was kind of cool.”
Travis, was it a surprise to be brought back in to choreograph on So You Think You Can Dance?
Travis Wall: “Nope. I told them the day I left the show as a contestant, I was like, ‘You guys will welcome me back as a choreographer someday.’ And I got in the studio and worked, worked, worked, and got my repertoire high enough. I got one opportunity and I hit it out of the park, and I keep getting asked back which is so cool. I’m so grateful for them. Because of the exposure I’ve had on that show, I’ve gotten every other opportunity that’s ever came to me. I’m so grateful to them, and I say thank you to them all the time. If it wasn’t for them, I don’t know where I would be in my career. I would still be here, but I wouldn’t be in the place I am right now.”
What’s the difference between choreographing for that and doing a dance number for a movie?
Travis Wall: “So You Think… actually taught me how to work so fast because you only have four and a half hours for the duets, and I think that’s so quick. I got on this movie and I was like, ‘Oh, we’re going to have all the time in the world for this.’ I got into the studio and they’re like, ‘You have two weeks to do all these things.’ And not only just two weeks, all the other choreographers only have two weeks too. Honestly, for the restaurant scene, we had 16 hours rehearsal total.”
How would you rate his work as a choreographer?
Misha Gabriel: “To me, the best. Truthfully, yeah. For me, I’m big on musicality and his musicality is always spot-on. It’s literally creating movement to the music. It shouldn’t feel like it’s working against it; it should feel like you’re watching what you’re hearing. That, to me, is when I can literally feel like I’m creating the music. That’s when I feel like I’m at my best, doing my best work, and that’s usually what he brings to the table.”
Have you ever had a choreographer who you just don’t connect with?
Misha Gabriel: “I’ve worked in LA for seven years so there are quite a few choreographers who I didn’t connect with. That’s one of the reasons why I personally am stepping away from the dance game and transitioning into the choreography world and into the acting world. I danced for Michael Jackson and that was sort of the pinnacle, and after that I just couldn’t do it anymore. I couldn’t bring myself to sit there in front of a choreographer who I didn’t trust their vision and respect their vision and say, ‘Okay, I will commit to this.'”
Travis Wall: “And go audition for Justin Bieber.”
Misha Gabriel: “And audition for Justin Bieber. Nothing wrong with Justin Bieber – I like him and I actually really like his new CD. But, it’s just not for me right now.”
Travis, you’ve also got the reality show All the Right Moves coming up on Oxygen. Why did you decide to get involved with that? That’s pretty time-consuming, isn’t it?
Travis Wall: “Yeah, it’s literally taking up every minute extra that I have. It comes on right after the movie. We’ve been filming since February so I’m excited to finish filming it, excited to have it coming up. It’s really cool. We have two dance numbers an episode so it’s entertaining and takes a look into our lives, my personal life, which is kind of cool to talk about.”
And you didn’t ever feel like you just wanted the film crew to get out of your face?
Travis Wall: [Laughing] “Oh, I feel like that all the time. But they know that especially when we’re tired when we’re dancing and they’re in our face, we can say we’re done. I am a producer on the show.”
Do you think this will go for more than one season?
Travis Wall: “To be honest, I really do, and it makes me nervous to think, ‘Oh god, I have to get myself in this again.’ But I think it’s going to be a pretty big surprise hit this summer.”