MASTERCLASS LEGENDS: TRAVIS PAYNE [DS2DIO]


Uploaded by DS2DIO on 20.07.2012

Transcript:
GALEN HOOKS: For almost all dancers, Michael Jackson has been a major source of inspiration.
We are honored to have one of his long time collaborators here today, Travis Payne, winner
of four MTV Video Music Awards, three American Choreography Awards, two Emmy nominations
and countless other honors. He has created an incredible body of work for icons such
as Sting, Faith Hill, Paula Abdul, Beyonce and Lady Gaga. I am your host Galen Hooks.
Travis, thank you for being here. TRAVIS PAYNE: My pleasure. GALEN HOOKS: You seem to have
great pride in what you do. TRAVIS PAYNE: Oh yes. GALEN HOOKS: as a choreographer.
What do you love about being a choreographer? TRAVIS PAYNE: Let's see. There are so many things
I love about being a choreographer. You know its really the next evolution from being a dancer.
You know as a dancer you're interpreting another artist's ideas. You know as a choreographer
you not only do that but have the ideas and it's just really fulfilling, especially something
that gets filmed, because that's forever. And it's afforded me many things. It's
allowed um you know me to make a name for myself, you know, and be able to meet so many
great people and have awesome experiences and travel and you know and influence and
inspire the younger generations of performers, you know who ah many times tell me, "I'm gonna
be a choreographer" and I'm like, "Yes you are. That's awesome," you know. But um that's a
good feeling. GALEN HOOKS: So when you were growing up did you did you see this in your
future? TRAVIS PAYNE: Absolutely. I knew that I wanted to have a career in the arts and
from a early age I watched everything I could from Solid Gold to Wide World of Sports, anything
that was sort of physical and artistic. And then of course dancing was really always my
first love. And then really amplified when I first saw you know Michael and his brothers with
of course Janet and you know and Prince and you know all of those greats GALEN HOOKS: All
those guys. TRAVIS PAYNE: around that time, Madonna, you know. So I was very influenced,
you know like all of us, you know, um by those sort of dance icons. GALEN HOOKS: So legend
has it that you sent in a home made video tape for Janet. TRAVIS PAYNE: Like many
of us I was a super fan, you know. I slept outside for the tickets, went to the concerts,
you know just very into it. You know I would get up in the morning. I would have to watch
Rhythm Nation, Miss You Much and like Smooth Criminal before I go to school every day.
And then I'd do the same thing when I got home. And so I knew all of her material.
And my dear friend and colleague at the time, Lavelle Smith Jr., was on tour with Janet
already. And one of the dancers was leaving. So we went and rented a video camera and went
into the racquetball court of the apartments we were living in. We filmed me doing every
number and put together a VHS tape and you know hand written on it. And he gave
it to her for me. Maybe about a week or so later I was flying to Japan to meet the show
and join them. And I actually met her at after I did my first show. We got there, everything
was so quick. It was like, "Okay put this on, put that on, this is where you stand," you
know it was just really quick. So we got on stage and I remember she had some kind
of thing and it lowered her to the floor and then she arrived and I just remember we were
supposed to be frozen and I was just sort of watching and trying to see her. And
then you know we did that first show and then I met her. And Janet really sort of gave me
my sort of start on the world stage. GALEN HOOKS: What was the feeling like to know that
typically you were in the audience and then all of a sudden you were on stage? Did you
just pinch yourself every night or what? TRAVIS PAYNE: Oh yeah. But see for me and you know
going to see the Bad tour in Atlanta is when it clicked for me. It's like that's what I
wanna do, you know, exactly that. It was comforting for me um you know cause I realized
you know one of the dreams I've had. Um so it was it was great. And every experience
was wonderful, you know. But it was great, I mean I loved all those years. GALEN HOOKS:
So you know we've talked about Janet and we know how you got hooked up with Janet. How
did you get hooked up with Michael? TRAVIS PAYNE: Well, after going to the audition for
Dangerous and being cut, after that I went to another audition for Remember the Time.
John Singleton was directing and Fatima and her team were choreographing. And so I got
hired for that. I was able to work closely with her, you know kind of assist in a way
because she and her team you know really went by feeling, you know, and Michael was the
same way. So there weren't really consistent counts. And of course the dancers being mixed
up from different places, we sort of needed counts. So I was able to work with her and
help count it out. After having gone through that process, Michael asked me to join his
show. So really it was timing, because it happened just the way it was supposed to.
GALEN HOOKS: When did you start choreographing for him? TRAVIS PAYNE: The very next year.
The very next year. It was always Michael's way to tell you when it was time to do
something. He says, "Okay, it's now time to choreograph, you know, and we have a show
coming up." I was like, "Okay, well what is it?" And it wound up being the American Music Awards
in 1993, the first time we debuted Dangerous. So that was the beginning of that. And then
it came time, or he said, "It's time for you direct." So he helped me to realize a lot of
things. He would give me videos of Bob Fosse and videos of Ben Vereen and you know people
that he respected. You know this is inspiration, this is reference. And so we did a lot of
that, you know, a lot of sharing, you know. And he was really teaching me. GALEN HOOKS:
So you worked on Scream, which is the most expensive music video ever made. TRAVIS PAYNE: Right.
GALEN HOOKS: What was it like working on that? TRAVIS PAYNE: Awesome (LAUGHS). Awesome.
It was the first time I'd worked with Janet and Michael together and it was just great.
You know it was a full circle for my relationship with Janet, I was in the midst of my relationship
with Michael and it was just awesome. I mean that experience was great. I think we did it
on a Universal back lot and there were like three or four sets we didn't even get to.
GALEN HOOKS: What? TRAVIS PAYNE: Yeah. We didn't even get to them
because we were so far over days and budgets and all that stuff, you know,
the things that make the suits crazy but we just love it. So it was crazy. And I remember
they were like twenty four hour shifts, um because Janet liked to shoot during the day,
Michael liked to shoot at night. And so we slept in trailers on the back lot, you know
so that we were always on set. You know so we would tag in and tag out, you know so we
could go to sleep or I'm gonna go take a quick shower and you know we have fifteen minutes,
but you know. So it was it was that crazy and it was awesome and it's still one of my
favorite pieces. GALEN HOOKS: So you had this twenty four hour shift operation happening.
How many days did you shoot? TRAVIS PAYNE: Ah let's see. I think we filmed at least seven,
maybe seven to ten days? GALEN HOOKS: What? TRAVIS PAYNE: Mhm, yeah. I think we filmed
over a week. But that was always the way with Michael. I mean you know he wouldn't rush.
Like he would take time. He knew the importance of the process. You know everything had to
be the top of the line everything so that every artist on set felt comfortable, like
you had exactly the monitor and cord you needed. He would make sure that that happened for
you so you could do the best work for him. GALEN HOOKS: What was it like working on Ghost?
That's another big thing. TRAVIS PAYNE: Ghost was one of the biggest undertakings of my
career. It took four years to complete. GALEN HOOKS: Wow. TRAVIS PAYNE: A major, it was a
movie. Oh, and another thing. Michael Jackson never made a video. GALEN HOOKS: Short films.
TRAVIS PAYNE: He would tell me, yeah. He's like, "I don't know why they say video, I never
made a video. Them things all film." GALEN HOOKS: Everything was literally shot on film?
TRAVIS PAYNE: Everything. And that was like okay, you know it's not about a video and
it's not about TV, it's about you know filmed art, you know for as many people to see it
and experience as possible. You know for instance, the This Is It concert series were
supposed to be fifty shows over nine months and that would've been however many people
got to see it in the venue. But you multiply that exponentially when you think in terms
of how many people have gotten to see the This Is It documentary, you know. So it's
no consolation but it certainly is a good thing that the messages and the music and
the ideas reached that many more people. GALEN HOOKS: And you also went to the Philippines
for for the Michael tribute there. What was that like? TRAVIS PAYNE: Yes. While we were
um creating This Is It, one of Michael's fans sent a link to the dancing inmates from Cebu.
Of course I loved it, showed it to him and of course he loved it and got such a kick
out of it. And so we'd watch it all the time, you know during rehearsal, just you know it
was a little distraction, you know a little comic relief. Once Michael passed and
we were thinking of opportunities to promote the film and sort of to get out there and
you know be with his fans and you know share time with them, um one of the ideas I had
was to go to that prison.
We went there and it was really life changing, you know having
gotten there and being welcomed by these like twenty three hundred inmates, you know who
were meant to be the dregs of their society, to get there and realize how important it
was and how we were just as inspired as they were. And it was literally you know um
camaraderie, you know that was unity. And so it was really so awesome, you know and the message
was there you know that the music and dance rehabilitate. And then of course for it to be so well received
on You Tube and you know um you know it's just a it's a gut moment. GALEN HOOKS:
So you worked with Michael Jackson, who was the creator and revolutionary artist of his
time and now there are people like Lady Gaga who you have worked with, who's also very
into her craft. What's it like working with her? TRAVIS PAYNE: We had just completed you
know the funeral services and memorial and all of that stuff for Michael and I was on
the way to Las Vegas. And I got a call and it was um one of Gaga's managers and was
like do you have a moment to talk to her? I was like of course I do. It turns out we
turned around and came right back to LA um and went into rehearsals with her. But before
that when we were putting together a short list of artists to invite to join Michael
on stage for This Is It, you know all the obvious choices were there, you know Janet
and Justin and Usher and Gladys Knight and Diana Ross and you know everybody and I was
like, "Is there anybody else? And he was like yeah, Lady Gaga." I was like, "Really?" Cause
it you know I'd only ever seen the one video with the thing, just dance, I didn't
know her yet. He's like, "She's cool, she's next." He said, "She's next." And I said, "Really?"
He said, "Yeah, she's cool. You gotta get into her." I was like, "Okay." So I started to you
know listen to her and it just so happened as fate would have it, that was the first
job we did after This Is It and it was really sort of really inspiring
and very cool. GALEN HOOKS: You've done these huge bodies of work, you've worked with, you taught people
in the industry. So what is it about dance that you love? TRAVIS PAYNE: Dance I think really has
been um you know my sort of comfort zone.
You know I just have always felt safest
there. I don't know if it's because you make a piece of choreography that's thought out,
you know it's kind of science. You know what the answers are. Or if it's that it's like
English, you know and it's kind of free flowing. I think it's kind of the best of both. And
I've always appreciated that, you know that I can sort of take a deep breath when we get
to the dance part. GALEN HOOKS: Well thank you so much, Travis. TRAVIS PAYNE: Thank you,
Galen. GALEN HOOKS: That was amazing. TRAVIS PAYNE: Thank you. GALEN HOOKS: It's so great getting
to know you. TRAVIS PAYNE: Yes, and getting to know you. GALEN HOOKS: Thank you guys for
watching. I'm sure you've got questions and comments. There was so much great information
there. You can comment on this video, you can post your questions on Facebook and Twitter
and we will be sure to get back to you and you can stay up to date with Travis and the
rest of our top choreographers we have here as well as all of us here at DS2DIO. Thank
you for watching. See you next time.