For months, I was treated to Travis Wall's smiling face — and chiseled, tattooed biceps — each time I entered the subway, passed a bus stop, or, essentially, turned my head; posters for his new Oxygen show, All the Right Moves, covered New York City. A veteran of the dance competition circuit and avid watcher of Fox's So You Think You Can Dance, I've been a fan of Wall's for a long time, and the jumbo posters only helped pique my curiosity for his new project. After watching the first episode of All the Right Moves, I'm still struck by Wall's talent as a dancer and choreographer, but I don't feel like I know him any more as a person. As Wall seeks to build a new dance company, with the help of his roommates Nick Lazzarini, Teddy Forance, and Kyle Robinson, in front of the cameras, will he be able to let viewers see beyond his professional persona?
Whether he wants it to be or not, All the Right Moves is all about Travis Wall. For every instance of Wall insisting that his fledgling company, Shaping Sound, is as much Nick and Teddy's baby as his own, there's a rebuttal scene of an investor insisting that Wall slap a "Travis Wall's" on the front of his company's name. Building a dance company, like any business, requires time, effort, and — here's the big one — money. Thanks to SYTYCD and a couple Emmy nominations, Wall has made a name for himself that is instantly recognizable and, maybe more importantly, profitable. Because of this, Wall is pushed to center stage, both of ATRM and of Shaping Sound itself. With Nick and Teddy struggling to get out of the wings and into the spotlight, it remains unclear how much ground Wall is willing to give. I imagine we will continue to see Wall grapple with these questions of friendship vs. personal gain and loyalty vs. professional success as the series progresses. And, hopefully, in the process, we will see Wall open up a bit.
While ATRM shines light on the business considerations that need to be addressed before Shaping Sound can become a reality, what viewers — myself included — will really tune in to see is the dancing. We want to see gorgeous bodies moving through space, achieving unbelievable feats of athletic prowess and beauty. And we want to see the sweat, blood, and tears that the dancers go through to achieve such effortless grace. In the first episode, unfortunately, there's just not enough of this. With an audition and a grueling rehearsal, each filled with faces familiar to SYTYCD fans (oh hey Allison, Melanie, and Alexa!), there is ample opportunity to just let the cameras roll and treat viewers to a voyeuristic look at an actual rehearsal. But instead, we cut again and again to straight-to-the-camera narration by Wall and his boys, explaining what's going on. Stop talking, I want to see you move.
At the end of the episode we finally get a glimpse of Shaping Sound in action, and it's beautiful. But without the buildup, the fight to get it right that happens in the studio, the dance itself loses some of it's power. We've seen Wall's choreography before, so it's no surprise that the final result is stunning. I wanted to see the number gain form, substance, and momentum before it hits the stage, not just the applauding investors once it does.
Ultimately, it is the characters that draw a dedicated viewership to a show and keep them tuning in week after week. Wall's talent has gotten him this far, but now he needs to let loose. If Wall is able to drop his shield, and really connect to his company (they are, after all, his best friends) there might be something worth watching here. But first, and foremost — I'm talking to you, producers — let them dance!
[Photo Credit: Oxygen]