Manage the Moment: Conversations in Performance Psychology

Travis Payne - Award Winning Choreographer, Dancer, Producer, Director

January 14, 2020 Travis Payne Episode 11
Manage the Moment: Conversations in Performance Psychology
Travis Payne - Award Winning Choreographer, Dancer, Producer, Director
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Manage the Moment: Conversations in Performance Psychology
Travis Payne - Award Winning Choreographer, Dancer, Producer, Director
Jan 14, 2020 Episode 11
Travis Payne

You have probably heard the phrase "poetry in motion". Not only is that how today's guest moves on the dance stage, it's how he enables others to move as well. Emmy nominated and multiple award-winning choreographer, Travis Payne, has worked with artists: Lady Gaga, Beyoncé , Usher, Madonna, Prince, Jennifer Lopez, Jessica Simpson, Janet Jackson, Michael Jackson, Mariah Carey, and so may more! He has also choreographed multiple sporting event half-time shows, award shows, Dancing with the Stars, Cirque du Soleil, was a judge on the prime-time show Live to Dance, along with many, many other artistic contributions. Travis helps each and every one of his clients to move in ways that mesmerize, entertain, and even inspire. Travis is the recipient of three MTV awards, two Emmy nominations, two Bob Fosse American choreography awards, and more. Travis's art and work range from being an acclaimed dancer and award-winning choreographer, as well as an artistic director, producer, and apparel designer. For some of you, this conversation may feel like a masterclass. For others, it's will be an Easter egg-like feast of stories from Travis's acclaimed career.  I hope you will take the pleasure of enjoying this conversation with Travis Payne.


Learn more about Travis Payne at TravisPayne.com

Check out Travis Payne Apparel at TravisPayneApparel

Follow Travis on Twitter

Follow Travis on Instagram

Follow Travis on Facebook

Follow on Twitter @drshepp   

Follow on Instagram @drshepp

Learn more about Dr. Shepp  at SportandPerform.com

Podcast transcripts coming soon at: ManageTheMoment.net

#ManageTheMoment YouTube Channel

Music by Brad Buxer

Gap Swing Commercial Source

Fair Use Just Dance Source

Sound Effect Clip Demo ("Dangerous 25") Source

"Golden Ticket" Sound Clip Source

Show Notes Transcript

You have probably heard the phrase "poetry in motion". Not only is that how today's guest moves on the dance stage, it's how he enables others to move as well. Emmy nominated and multiple award-winning choreographer, Travis Payne, has worked with artists: Lady Gaga, Beyoncé , Usher, Madonna, Prince, Jennifer Lopez, Jessica Simpson, Janet Jackson, Michael Jackson, Mariah Carey, and so may more! He has also choreographed multiple sporting event half-time shows, award shows, Dancing with the Stars, Cirque du Soleil, was a judge on the prime-time show Live to Dance, along with many, many other artistic contributions. Travis helps each and every one of his clients to move in ways that mesmerize, entertain, and even inspire. Travis is the recipient of three MTV awards, two Emmy nominations, two Bob Fosse American choreography awards, and more. Travis's art and work range from being an acclaimed dancer and award-winning choreographer, as well as an artistic director, producer, and apparel designer. For some of you, this conversation may feel like a masterclass. For others, it's will be an Easter egg-like feast of stories from Travis's acclaimed career.  I hope you will take the pleasure of enjoying this conversation with Travis Payne.


Learn more about Travis Payne at TravisPayne.com

Check out Travis Payne Apparel at TravisPayneApparel

Follow Travis on Twitter

Follow Travis on Instagram

Follow Travis on Facebook

Follow on Twitter @drshepp   

Follow on Instagram @drshepp

Learn more about Dr. Shepp  at SportandPerform.com

Podcast transcripts coming soon at: ManageTheMoment.net

#ManageTheMoment YouTube Channel

Music by Brad Buxer

Gap Swing Commercial Source

Fair Use Just Dance Source

Sound Effect Clip Demo ("Dangerous 25") Source

"Golden Ticket" Sound Clip Source

DR. Shepp:

Thanks for tuning in to Manage the Moment: Conversations in performance psychology. I'm Dr. Sari Shepphird.

Travis Payne:

You get another chance if you take it, you know, it's really about how you recover. I think it's not about the failure cause they're going to be big ones. I mean, you know , got to take the big risks, big rewards and sometimes you fall short and you know, I think your character shows just in how you deal with and how you move on from it. You know, sometimes it's hard to not hold onto it. Um, but that invites fear and so I try just to remember there is no space for fear in the room. So just kind of go from it, grow from it , you're not the first or the last who'll fail . And I think that the greatness has to come from that. You know, you've got to fail in order to appreciate you know , the process and the journey .

Dr. Shepp:

You have probably heard the phrase poetry in motion. Not only is that how today's guest moves on the dance stage, it's how he enables others to move as well. Emmy nominated and multiple award winning choreographer. Travis Payne has worked with artists, Lady Gaga, Beyonce, Usher, Madonna, Prince, Jennifer Lopez, Jessica Simpson, Janet Jackson, Michael Jackson, Mariah Carey, as well as on multiple sport event half - time shows, award shows, Dancing with the Stars, Cirque du Soleil and many, many other artistic contributions; helping each and every one of his clients to move in ways that mesmerize, entertain, and even inspire. Travis is the recipient of three MTV awards, two Emmy nominations, two Bob Fosse, American choreography awards, and more . Travis's art and work ranges from being an acclaimed dancer and award-winning choreographer as well as an artistic director, producer, and apparel designer. For some of you, this conversation may feel like a masterclass for others. It's an Easter egg. Feast of stories from Travis is a claimed career for me. It was a distinct pleasure and I hope you will take the pleasure as well of enjoying this conversation with Travis Payne. Hey Travis, thanks so much for taking the time to be with me today.

Travis Payne:

My pleasure, Siri. Thank you for having me.

Dr. Shepp:

Absolutely. I'm really excited to talk to you because your background shares a love that I have, which is a love for dance. Um , I'm certainly not a professional dancer, nor do I have even a fraction of your talent, but I have a passion for it and, and have since I was young. So I'm really excited just to talk with you as someone who loves the art that you have devoted your life to. And also just to get a sense of how you've approached your work , um, over the course of time. But you started dancing, you were quite young. I think it was four or five years old.

Travis Payne:

[inaudible] first of all, you're very kind. I appreciate your kind words and it's my pleasure to talk to you. Yeah , dance has been a part of my life since I can first remember. But yeah, I started sort of, you know, wiggling around , uh , to music at about four years old.

Dr. Shepp:

And do you recall what it was about dance when you first began? I mean, of course when you're that little, you're just being dropped off and going through, going through the motions of, of , um , just learning how to move to music, but at some point or another , um , in your development as a dancer, you must've connected and found a passion for it. Do you recall what that was like as you were developing your own love for dance?

Travis Payne:

Yes, there were a few things. I mean, music has always been a big influence in my life. My father had a very extensive collection of, of , um, LPs and CDs, probably one of the biggest in Atlanta where I'm from at the time. And he had a lot of friends and they all enjoyed collecting musical equipment and albums. So I heard different types of music from an early age. And my mother also , um, was an instrumentalist. Her, her main instrument was the flute, but she was band director and you know, worked in the symphony orchestra , um, where she was from in new Orleans. And so it was just kinda there. And then I had a sister who was a cheerleader and you know, a lot of just influences around me and I just always remember moving and, and part of that was also my love of gymnastics or tumbling, you know, back flips and such . So where I was from , um, I went outside and we had this sort of sloped Hill front yard and I could get a lot of momentum and start tumbling. And so early on I just had a love for that, you know, tumbling, jumping, you know, flight and then you know, started to actually train very seriously at night.

Dr. Shepp:

And when you were nine years old and wanted to train more seriously, was it at that early age that you wanted to devote your life to dance or, or was it that you didn't really have a sense of a goal or where you would, where you would take it, you just wanted to be more involved with it?

Travis Payne:

Well, I think it was in my blood, but I also knew growing up as I'm the youngest of four kids, but there was an age gap. So it was like I was only child and my mother's only child. So I was always , um, having to find ways to sort of entertain myself and I wasn't very much into the team sports. Um, but I loved sort of the individual things like running and stuff like that. And when I would see, I believe it was ABC's wide world of sports and there was a combination of diving, ice skating and gymnastics that really sort of hooked me in, knew that individual movement was there and that's what I wanted to do. You, I got the opportunity when one of my father's former students , um, who was my very first dance instructor, normal bell Mitchell out of Atlanta, asked him to let me come to a dance classes and he said, no, of course, because men at that time, my mum , my dad was born in 1921 so for him, you know, a son that dances, let alone a career in dance was the furthest thing from his mind at the beginning. And so after my parents split and I returned back to Atlanta from about a year living in LA, I asked if I could go and he took me and it was great. And so I just fell in love. And of course shortly after that , um, we're probably around the same time, you know, I been introduced to the Jacksons . They had a Saturday morning cartoon, you know, they had huge hits, huge records. I think the first album I ever bought was the destiny album , um, by the Jacksons . And it was like a combination of all those things and especially Michael that just made me know that that is what I want to do. Didn't know how yet, but I knew it was there.

Dr. Shepp:

You've mentioned just a few things that I already want to pull apart. They're there because there's something that you connected to about what you saw others doing. Um , as you mentioned, you were, you were watching some of the moves of the Jacksons and , and you wanted to do that. Um , but something inside of you also thought that you could

Travis Payne:

Oh yeah. Oh yeah. Because I think that the, you know, and this is just reminds me of something that I mean I guess would have come much later, but part of the reasoning and psychology behind the movement that I got to create with Michael is that it needs to be easy enough for pupil to learn it, but innovative, innovative enough that they want to. So I think that that, you know, I guess worked on me really short films , smooth criminal and all of that, jumping ahead. But you know, all of that information definitely, you know, helped guide me, you know, in the path that I just was much more comfortable in than some of the others that, you know, for a boy in the arts in the South, you know , uh, there teasing and all that at first, you know, but then when I got to a performing arts high school that sort of celebrated, you know, the diversity and the arts and, you know, all that goes with it. You know, that was the community I started to thrive in.

Dr. Shepp:

I grew up in a, in a town where the diver, Greg Louganis went to high school. Um, and you mentioned diving and, yup . Yeah, yeah, absolutely. He's, he's an artist that I've always admired because he combined , um , the classical movement of dance with diving

Travis Payne:

and the athleticism necessary for that competition and nerves of steel. Yeah,

Dr. Shepp:

absolutely. Um, but was a thing of beauty to

Travis Payne:

be able to, to watch him dive. And it's interesting that you found some of your inspiration in some of those artistic sports. Oh, absolutely. I mean, speaking to mr Louganis, I got a chance to meet him at a USC school of medicine workshop a few years ago. Got him to sign a copy of his book and everything. I've been a fan since the beginning with him, you know , because certainly I could point them out, you know, and it got to meet Oksana Baiul who was, you know, a huge, huge figure skater at that time. You know, so a lot of these people who are my heroes in the sports world, you know, I got to meet when I came to Hollywood and likewise many of my dance heroes I got to meet as well. And it was , um, just , uh , it was heaven for me when I got to LA. I felt like I could really do it here. You know, of course, growing up in Atlanta, your goal is New York, you know, Alvin Ailey dance theater of Harlem , um, you know , um, Arthur Mitchell and all of that. Judith Jamison , you know, and um, it was just a , I suppose, destiny that I'd wind up in LA instead of New York. Um , because one of my dear friends that I grew up with dancing , um, with Laurie Warner from Atlanta. Um, she and I , I think we met when we were like teens and then wound up going to high school together, performing together. And she was the first to make the move to LA. And when she came back , um, after being here a year, it was my, I think, senior year in high school and I will never forget she got off the bus and she'd always been very, you know, flashy and just clearly a star in born for this, you know, from a young age. But when she came back there was a sense of accomplishment. And, you know, it wasn't cockiness, it was confidence and you could see that she was finding her moment and I looked at her and I was like, what , you know, who is this girl? She was like, listen, if you want to, you know , I know we've always imagined going in New York, but if you want to be in classes and if you want to do that and the theater and the be in the company, that's great. But if you want to, you know, actually make money and travel and you know, tour and have, you know , such exciting experiences, you should move to Hollywood. And so from that moment on, I was like, okay , yup . And I knew that's where Michael Jackson lived and I was like, it's done. So yeah , that was good . That was it . She helped me make the decision. Unfortunately, I had a , uh , uncle, my dear uncle Claude , um, uh, who lived here and I'd gotten a scholarship to go to Cal arts, which is up by magic mountain. Uh , I got out here and you know, went to Cal arts for a day. It was entirely too far, too far away. Working in addition for Paula Abdul and you know, my first audition, I was next to Jennifer Lopez and Adam Shankman and you know, and I was just able to see that, wow, everybody here is really different and everybody here really is sort of the best from their hometown . And so now you know, you really find out like how you measure and you know, how, how prepared you are, you know, in those first auditions. And I, and I was fortunate that I'd had the training , um, from Norman Mitchell and Dan after that. Gary Harrison that yeah, I could compete and you know, was able to book jobs but still was a , you know , college student. And so I would come out here on the weekends and audition and just take class and then be back at school , um, you know, Sunday night for Monday. And I did that like my whole senior year in high school and also in like the very beginning semester of college. And then at my second semester of college, I just made the move. And I think that February , um, Marguerite derricks hired me to do the super show in Atlanta. So fortunately first sort of paying job that I got, I was able to use that money to move from Atlanta to LA cause the job was in Atlanta. And so everything just sort of lined up and it was , um, it was really, it was really good. Uh , I loved my transition out here and I think that it was at the perfect time cause a lot of kids, you know, I think it's good to come early and see if it's for you, you know , um, you know, a lot of people, especially when I was growing up, it was necessary to do college and many of my friends did it and have that experience, but realize that they still wanted a career in the arts and so they got a little bit of a later start, you know, cause it's so competitive. So I'm really, I was on, I never was sort of fearful of it or unsure. I'm just happy that I think there was a little bit of naivete and just a lot of , uh, confidence and excitement that made me say, Hey, you know, in that moment I decided and did it and it was worth it.

Dr. Shepp:

And I'm hearing someone who sounds very confident , um, even from a young age. And , and did the confidence come because you, you mentioned you had to overcome some teasing and some of the things that might've chipped away a little bit, but did the confidence come because you just knew what you wanted to do and you were going to devote yourself to making it happen? Was it because you received feedback from your instructors that you had talent? What, where did that confidence come from?

Travis Payne:

I think that, I mean certainly my parents encouraged me to just be the best at whatever it was, you know, even while we were figuring that out, whether it be, you know, a career in the educational field or this entertainment thing that I didn't really know a lot about nor that day. But I think that my dancing became a, you know, sort of armor for me. You know, because I can enter the talent show, I could win it, I could be the mascot and tumble, you know, that adulation from my ability sometimes sort of shielded the teasing, if that makes sense. So it was a, an S in a defense mechanism and I just happened to be good at it and felt, you know, gratitude in those moments where I could perform like a really, really enjoyed it. And fortunately in my, in my, in my city, there was a performing arts school, a North side school of the arts that there was a bunch of kids who had a bunch of different talents and uh, RuPaul went there. Um, Jasmine guy went there. Um, we have opera singers , uh , that went there, actors, you know, dancers and you know, it was a great sort of home to nurture us who might've been on the fringe, you know, in other places because of the arts in our neighborhoods. And that did give me a certain amount of confidence, you know, once I got there. And in just seeing, you know, guys dancing on TV, you know, growing up when I started at nine and ballet and tap and jazz and African and modern, I was the only guy in the class. So I didn't see a lot of guys dancing. And it wasn't until I got to high school where my instructor, Gary, you know , um, really opened my eyes to what was possible. You know, I learned about Baryshnikov and about Farsi and you know, [inaudible] and you know, I got to , um, have classes and work with Michael Peters who was at the height of his thriller fame when I was in the ninth grade. And it was the Coca Cola Centennial celebration. It was happening in Atlanta. Our school was the rehearsal space and we had this, you know, performing arts class of, of students. And then new dancers came from New York and LA. And, you know, I got to meet Eartha who I'd always seen him fame, you know, and Robin and Edgar and you know, people that I would go on and still have great relationships with from back then. Um , like, so I think it was those early experiences that helped me, you know, make a decision and , and be very clear in what it needed to be and , um, and just be open, you know, to what it would take to get there. And just being prepared like I before, I think, and I say that to young people all the time when I speak, it's like, you know, if you stay ready, you don't have to get ready. And I try to, you know, sort of live by that. I think it's important.

Dr. Shepp:

That's great advice too, because you studied, you learned, you prepared for your eventual success and it , I can hear how, how dedicated you must have been to your preparation.

Travis Payne:

And it was, you know, I wasn't a football guy, I wasn't a baseball guy. I wouldn't have basketball guy. You know, I certainly wasn't a fighter, you know, but I could dance and you know, the girls liked me. So that meant the guys were, you know, wanting to be, you know what I mean? For me, you know, so, you know, I found my way and dancing certainly helped.

Dr. Shepp:

Right . So you mentioned Michael Peters and a number of your instructors. You're talking about the best of the best. I am sure that you learned from Debbie Allen,

Travis Payne:

Frank chair , you know, Lester Wilson, you know , um , there was so many, I said, Marguerite , you know, early on there was Jackie's slate slate. Um, and certainly , uh , claw Thompson and uh, Stanley's and Pacos , um, uh, Billy Dan's more from Atlanta. He was the creative director for my high school. And , um, we actually had a touring company and the first time I had gotten to go to Asia, I was in maybe the 10th grade. And you know, that started my love affair with Asia, but we had this company called Atlanta's Coke is it kids? And so we were sponsored by Coke American express. And at the time I think Sabena airlines and we got to go to, you know, Europe and Asia and perform in cathedrals and in the airports and you know, have all these experiences and really get sort of world-class exposure at , um, such a young age, you know, to be able to see what the culture was like. This was before the internet, you know, we were very much into encyclopedias and the library then. Um, and so to have points of reference that are like actually getting to go into, you know, the big Ben or these landmarks that many kids our age, you know, maybe still haven't seen as adults , um, I think was super, super valuable.

Dr. Shepp:

Sure. That, that , um , world experience, but also the experience of being in places where the critique was probably greater. I'm imagining. Um , and , and maybe the pressure.

Travis Payne:

Absolutely. And you know, Gary Harrison especially was very hard on all of us, you know, and we didn't know it at the time, but he's preparing us and giving us tough skin, you know, cause along with success comes even more rejection really. Um, so I thank him for that, you know, and he was able to have some success , um, you know, nationally and internationally too with his company. Um, Gary Harrison, Dan's company and a lot of great talents, you know, came through there, you know, and Fon chambers wound up being out here. And , um, she came from the company and you know, later was able to join me on tour with Michael Jackson for history. Um, as did Laurie Warner , you know, my dear friend who's the one that told me to move to LA, you know, to get to have that full circle moment with her , um, with Michael, you know, as , uh , with me as one of his choreographers , um, you know, was wonderful. And to be able to also get my hero, Desmond Richardson in the fold, you know, eventually was awesome. You know, and I, I, I look at those moments and think like, Whoa, it's very cool. And I have been, you know, reflecting and going through photos. It'll be 30 years that I've lived in Los Angeles this February. Oh my goodness. Yeah. So, you know, this, this , uh, opportunity and others coming to great time cause I, I do enjoy reflecting at this point and , um, you know, just in , in and making new goals. What are some of those new goals? Oh, film and TV direction. I've been , um, developing properties and content for streaming and television. And you know, my film directorial debut all of my own and you know, managing artists. I have a shoe line that I'm very excited about that's entering its fifth year. I was looking at it and where are the women's shoes, Travis? Because you got to understand is that I go from male four to 13 and they're yours and yeah, certain styles of unisex and the beauty is that they're customizable. So I've even done pink patent leather with, you know, silver piping. You know, I've done green suede with pink, you know, crocodile, you know, so that, that part of the story is to come. That's one of the things I'm working on a very passionate about because like other people, I haven't been able to convey the full sort of , um, the range of what the, what the shoe project is about yet. But that's my partnership with runic . They're out of Italy and I met them when creating custom shoes for this. Is it for Michael to perform it? Oh, how interesting. Yeah, I'm always checking those out again. You know, they have an Instagram, both of the Instagram and the website or Travis Payne apparel and you know, it's very exciting, some very exciting things coming up, been able to film , um, dancers in different parts of the world. And , um, you know, the new campaign will feature , um, uh, one more of those artists that I've found.

Dr. Shepp:

No. Great. Well, speaking of campaigns, I'm going to jump around a little bit, but your work has been, has been sprinkled into our lives whether we know it or not. Um, because I, I, I believe I'm accurate. When I mentioned the , the gap khakis, swing ad

Speaker 4:

looks like a spider jump , Java, Java, Java.

Dr. Shepp:

Um , yeah. And this, this is something that kind of revolutionized advertising and when it's in our, our minds and our, our footsteps for quite awhile when that commercial came out. But, but , um, you've been involved in so many different projects. Um , you've staged world tours, music, videos, film. How do the tasks differ in your mind? Do you approach the various tasks with , um , a great degree of similarity? Are , are there differences depending on the demand that stand out to you?

Travis Payne:

Well, to talk about gap for a moment that was with my dear friend, Matthew Ralston , world famous director and photographer who, you know, took me under his wing. You know, I think I was maybe 19 or 20. The first thing I ever choreographed as part of a team , um, was invoke my loving, you're never going to get it, which was the first of four MTV awards that I was able to win with my creative partners during those projects. And Matthew , um, we're still difference today and you know, I got to learn, you know , um, a lot of on the job training, you know, he would work in different situations. We, you know, one day it'd be with models, you know, like Cindy Crawford and Claudia Schiffer, you know , uh , the next day to be with Marilyn Manson on a video. The next day it's more the next day it's, you know, Lenny Kravitz, you know, and then the gap commercial. And I said, Matthew, you know, this is very, very, very cool, but this is like, I'm kind of old school dance. He was like, right. And you have about a week to learn it for research, you know, figure it out and you know, we'll go from there. So it wound up being, you know, one of the most popular commercials in that time. And I was very, very grateful, you know, to collaborate with Neesha folks on it and to go to the Derby and silver Lake , um, uh , Las villas during the, during that time and really immersed myself in the world and meet a lot of great, you know , performance Christian Perry . Um, and I had friends , uh, Gustavo Vargas and Ellison fuck, who were just great partner dancers and sort of helped Stacey and I mold vet stuff as well as , um, uh, who else was there? Karen Dyer was there at that time, I think. And I believe this was maybe before I even started working with Stacy Walker . Yeah. So it was, it was a while we, from that job and swing dance the next year or two, you know, we were booking all of these swing jobs and Stacy and I got to do many things like with Brian Setzer and with film and, and um, let's see, what was it, Stuart little and you know, nev Campbell and we just got to sort of work in that world. Um, but Christian Perry was really invaluable during that time. I just loved the way he mixed what looked like sort of like street dance with his swing dance and how competitive and how committed they all were. You know, the girls did a red lip all the time and they were always dressed to the nines and the guys, you know, were always in, you know, there's Zoot suits or the suspenders or the wingtip shoes, you know, their vehicles. They drove for vintage. So it's like, it was, it was the storytelling. Like they really lived, you know, their, their sort of their world. And I, and I respected that so much. But um, yeah, the world tours, getting to just do all those things. I mean, Kenny Ortega means so much to me and still does. I got to work with Joseph Khan and Chris Applebom and Mark romantic and you know, Randy Saint Nicholas and all of these great, you know, directors who, and Nigel Dick all had different approaches when I show him and being able to see, alright , this really works. That really works. I love how, you know, Nigel Dick will get in there and sort of carry equipment. I love how Matthew Austin is going gonna make the, you know, the set really aesthetically pleasing and it's going to be comfortable and efficient, you know, and just all those textures and things in it and let alone the artists that, you know, we got to collaborate on those projects with, you know, there's always some nugget, you know, of knowledge that I can get from, you know, any situation. It's just the list of people that you've mentioned and worked with and learn from. I , I imagine your education has been quite amazing. Um, was, was Janet Jackson's rhythm nation tour your first tour? Yes, it was my first big, you know, thing. And it was such a blessing. I remember being a , um , maybe 18 years old in Atlanta and dancing in Gary Harrison's dance company , uh, at the Fox theater and it was around this time for a Christmas show and a gentleman by the name of Frank Gatson came backstage and met me and was like, I think you are very talented. Um, I had also met Frank hatchet from New York and they knew each other and Frank was working with Lavelle Smith who was on the rhythm nation tour and in the rhythm nation videos as and as a dancer and one of the choreographers. So instantly I was very fascinated and got the opportunity to start coming to Los Angeles and meeting people and you know, being around and seeing Janet's tour. Cause I met Lavelle and so I'd gotten to see maybe 10 of her concerts and it became time for Anthony Thomas, who was the creator and creative director at that time with a Rene Elizondo for Janet Jackson. And it was time for Anthony to move on. He had spent several years with Janet in creation of the music and the visuals and the concept for the album. Um, you know, in and around Minneapolis with Jimmy jam and Terry Lewis and Janet and it was time he had the rhythm nation. It hit, it was a massive success. He was getting opportunities to choreograph other artists and projects and he decided it was time for him to leave and Lavelle told me that Anthony was leaving. The very next day we went to the , uh, uh, at that time you could go rent a video camera, like a, like a high end, you know, good quality camera . So we rented a camera, I went into the record ball court at the apartments we lived in and made a videotape of myself doing all of her numbers with my own version of the costumes and sent it to her. And within about a week I was going to Tokyo to join them. My first show was at the Tokyo dome. I had just been there as a high school student and was back there, you know, as a gen ed Jackson rhythm nation dancer. And so that was really my introduction onto the world stage, you know, as, as a feature, you know, and so I always credit Janet for that experience. And then I toured with her for awhile . And I think that, you know, working with her really, you know, taught me the, like the touring life and scheduling and traveling between cities and, you know, sort of tempering your energy on days off so you can, you know, get through the shows on show days and, you know, different foods and different languages. And it was just all so wonderful and, and , um, and really helped me to just sort of meet so many important people, you know. And I think that, you know, one of those people was Lavelle Smith jr who for many years , um , was a very close confidant and, and, and working partner, creative partner. And , um, you know, it was he who also introduced me to Michael. And that was , um, in 92. Yeah, 1992 and we did , uh , remember the time short film. And then right after that I was able to , um, join the dangerous tour, which was already in full swing. But again, one of the performers , uh, was leaving the tour, Randy layer , who owns , um , the edge performing arts center here in LA with bill prudish and yeah. And so I was able to , uh, you know, step in because I knew the information being such a big fan. I mean, the first tour I went to was the victory tour , um, ever, you know, as a, as a kid. And so it had just been like, you know, and Michael and I laughed about this, but my morning ritual was cereal frosted flakes. At what? Smooth criminal at watch, you know, Motown 25, I go school, I come home and I'd probably watch beat it then I'd have to watch, then I have to watch rhythm nation, you know. And so we would joke when something needed to be better, we would say in these more cereal, you know, it needs more time and attention. Um, and so it was like, yeah, I , I was, I was ready. It was, I F I really feel like, not even in a cocky way, just I feel so fortunate to have gotten the information early enough to be able to make the decision that that's what I want to do. You know , um, you know, Michael live at the Omni in Atlanta , uh , with his brothers and then again on the bad tour, you know, I was like, wow, they're like superheroes. Those are guys dancing. You know, it wasn't LA, but it was balletic, you know, it wasn't proper jazz, but it had the essence of it, you know, but it was rock and roll mixed all together. That's what got me excited.

Dr. Shepp:

Uh , Michael Jackson is also known as being a, a field answer. He wasn't somebody who, who counted out steps. Um, but, but let the music kind of dictate where he would go. So would you describe yourself as a dancer who is more of a field answer?

Travis Payne:

I think I had to do both. Okay . For example, in, remember the time , um , which was choreographed by FA Tema and the laptops for team a Robinson and a mop tops team. I'm from New York. And some members from LA and they were a completely feel group and it was a directed by the great John Singleton start, Eddie Murphy, mind magic Johnson. It was a dream job, but for Tema the mop tops her group, they were feel dancers. The LA dancers need accounts. Okay . So one of the things I got to do was learn their feel and then break it down into counts and help and assist her and the team in instructing the LA dancers. And so that became one of my strong suits that I could sort of kind of hover between both sides. You know, having the technical training and very aware of counts, but then getting in a situation where you need to feel the music because the interpretation of the music is oftentimes more important than the counts . You use the counts just to translate the information and then the music helps you mold the sort of feeling of the movement.

Dr. Shepp:

So

Speaker 5:

[inaudible]

Travis Payne:

and so that became , um, you know, something that was very good at doing. And , um, yeah, I think, I think sort of the best of both worlds is going to make any dancer stand out .

Dr. Shepp:

Now how do you translate that to just the variety of personalities that you've worked with? Because I imagine you know, someone like usher, Beyonce , um , maybe they've had some more background in dance. They , they could understand the idea of feel. My guess is that Marilyn Manson might not have as much connection to the fields as he might need more of the count, but how do you adapt to those different personalities as a choreographer? And obviously you want to encourage the connection to the music and the feel, but, but you still have to be able to adapt to different, different , um , personalities and different approaches.

Travis Payne:

[inaudible] well, going in order. So usher, I just spoke to last week actually, and we were talking about that very thing that this generation sometimes doesn't understand the nuance and the setup . Yes, they're going to have a great, you know, four counts of eight counts of eight combination, you know, or chunk. But how do you get into it and out of it, how do you share that on different people and what dynamics can you give it? You know, and if you think of it in terms of how the music is and it has different vocal arrangements and parts that fly through it, and how can you interpret that out of that one chunk of choreography. And sometimes people don't, you know, but coming from the Michael Jackson sort of era and you know, before him Fauci and Astaire and you know, those great Sammy Davis jr Jackie Wilson, James Brown, you know, it's in between stuff that's important. Yes. You know, not always the counts, it's what you're not doing. Sometimes the negative space helps. The moves look better. Um , and so that's one thing. And with us, you're having the skill set that he does and also a tumbler. Certainly when he first started it made it easier to communicate with him. Beyonce, just a natural, you know, she is still astounds me with how good she continues to be. Um , you know, but we have a lot of the same creative team in common. Lavelle Smith. Frank Gatson and then later on, you know, Chris grant Jaquelle night , you know, and we're all in there connected, you know, Jackwell is even from Atlanta as well, you know, and it's his moment now, you know, and he and Chris have been able to do amazing things with Beyonce, you know, and Chris was the first person we hired for this is it, and was also, you know, sort of introduced to LA by Frank. So there's a lot of sort of commonality between the song and I think that that's not a mistake. Um, and then Marilyn Manson for him, I just went into his world, you know, and that was another one with Matthew Ralston . Um, it was for the spawn soundtrack. The song is long, hard road out of Hill . So just getting into Brian as he insisted on being calling , being called personality started to inform me of how he should move. Okay . And all right, he's going to be wearing this eight foot gown and standing on, you know, this ladder and you know, be , you know, 10 feet tall. Okay , great. So that means that the things need to be sweeping. And he's gonna look like a huge statue. Okay . So he's going to be gender Bindy with nails and hair and, okay , well what if , what is the golf sort of like, you know, really when I saw my left scent , it reminded me of how I was thinking of Manson in that video. Does that make sense? It was just this sort of like called Darren and sort of witchy but really glamorous and you know, dark but fabulous and you know, so all of those things, like even with my creative process, it's about words or colors or shapes, you know. Um, and so that was how I applied it to Marilyn Manson. And I still love that video still. Um, but yeah, so at the end and each experience is different, but what is common is that the music is going to dictate it. The personality of the person, you know, once they're comfortable and are open to movement because not everyone is at first, you know, Halle Berry, it took a moment with her. She is gorgeous as she is, doesn't walk around flicking her hair and finding angles of her face and delivering lines in a , you know, beauty ad. But we were able to play on her strengths and things that she was comfortable with and key words that would make her think of a certain thing that you know, it , it was just, we create a shorthand all of that to say that we create a shorthand with, with whatever, whoever the client is, we create a shorthand so that we can refer to things. You know, Mariah Carey, it was for her. Once we can find the, for the shot, we find the right angle of her body. We get in that angle and then we just work around, you know, in that axis. And I might be on the other side of the camera, just sort of moving, offering her shape , suggestions, and then I'll hold the shape and then through her performance she'll get it to the shape and move through the shape. And then we just do the whole thing again. You know, so I call that movement styling . So I've got to have a large, you know, part of that in my career too . You know, especially with working with artists, like Lenny Kravitz who's , you're not going to get counts too , but you'll say, Hey, when you say you know, Jesus, you know, your arms are going to stretch out. Like you're taking a big hug and then you come in and you know, if we're saying you know the songs about his mother and he's looking at imagery of her and you know, how does that make you feel? You know, he says, it makes me melt. Okay, well melt down the wall. You know? So we've, we've associate , we've, we've identified a key word to associate with an action. So in the take I can just say melt and there he'll know what that means, you know? So a lot of those things are kind of shortcuts, especially when you don't have a lot of rehearsal time. You know, when the artist shows up and might not be necessarily open to learn in a bunch of dance moves. But there's always this sort of range, the spectrum of movement that we can do that's appropriate for the moment.

Dr. Shepp:

Yeah. A lot of those shortcuts we use in performance psychology to be able to find what connects , um , for the particular genre , um , and performer and then make those shortcuts performance. Well, I can hear it. I can hear that. That you , um, you're a psychologist too because you're connecting with , um , the folks that you're working with. You're drawing out what they would naturally gravitate to and in, in choreography and in direction. Um, it's such an asset if you can connect to who you're working with and then have it feel more natural for them. And I think that that translates into much better work.

Travis Payne:

I do too. I mean, it reminds me of working with kids too. You know, they're not going to always understand sort of the big words and nuance that come with it. You know. So you might have to create a series of, you know, patterns and then just put numbers to them or give them names like sugar cookie or you know, you know, rattlesnake or you know, and keywords . And then they'll know how to re react. Yeah , exactly .

Dr. Shepp:

Well, you've hinted a few times at one of your most longstanding collaborations with Janet's brother Michael. Um , and you mentioned that you started in the dangerous tour, but I know that collaboration lasted until , um , the end of his life. And I imagine the twists and turns and the, and what you learned over that time is too much to put into words. But I know that you've mentioned before that with Michael Jackson, you were encouraged to go outside the box. Um , you've said with him there were no, no boundaries, no limits. You could think as big as an impressive and as impressive as you wanted to. So what would it, was it like going from , um, the background where everything of course needed to be learned in, in steps and , and with the basics to find yourself at a point in your career where you could think as as big as you want it to? Charlie and the chocolate factory, literally, literally first DVD I ever bought was Willy Wonka. [inaudible] . I got the golden ticket. I did, I did.

Travis Payne:

And later for the auditions for this is it, I would simulate it that experience again for this new group. You know, when we did a worldwide search and you know, the golden tickets where they're in their responses to their video submissions, inviting them to LA , um, for a weekend of auditions with Michael, 5,000 people showed up and you know, those that were chosen found out right there in the moment, just like, you know, the end of Charlie's movie. Um, and so to really kind of quantify my experience with Michael Jackson, it was very much like that, you know, everything's bigger and louder and more elaborate. And it was purposeful. That was what was cool about it. It wasn't just big for the sake of being big. It was big because it messed the idea in the moment. And because Michael insisted on us, thinking outside of the box, whoever it was, you know, from wardrobe to sound design, you know, to the dance, to even the surface of the floor, even the type of chords that are going into, you know, the amps for the sound department. It was, he cared about every detail and set the stage for excellence in the creative process. And sometimes the ideas were so great that the technology didn't exist before . Like ghosts for example. We started it with a totally different group of dancers, totally different choreography, totally different set of songs. And as we got into the process, realized that it wasn't looking like, you know, Michael had imagined along with the , um , uh, Stan Winston and , um, and, and Lavelle and I got to work very closely with he and Stan and also Barry Lazar and Courtney Miller , uh, and Richmond and Tony Tyler , Waco. Um, and we stopped that first set and then we started again years later when the, you know, CGI technology had caught up to the ideas. And, you know, that's why when you look at it now and then, Oh, and then after we completed it, it still didn't come out in America for like another decade, you know? Yeah. It was at least five years or six years. It was a while. It was a , it was quite awhile . I think we did it in 96 and um, yeah, we didn't see it until, I think at least sometime in the mid two thousands or early two thousands. You could check that for sure. But I know we waited and we never saw it. We saw it on screen in Japan cause we went there to launch. Um, but then nothing in America until , um, you know, years later. Uh, and it still lasted, you know, and , and holds us on, holds its own. Today. I got to go a couple of years ago , um, there was a Michael Jackson scream album and there was, I think it was Halloween before last maybe. And uh , ghosts was shown in the theaters there and that was like, wow, he would be so proud, you know, to see people now, you know, in whatever. I think it was maybe 2017 or 18, seeing it, you know, as it had been intended. Um, you know, in a theater on the big screen. Yeah . And to see it at Grumman's Chinese theater was just, you know, it was a special, special moment. I'm sure I watched the , the making of ghosts and I recall a time when you , pardon me, thank VH1. Did it. Oh, did they? Okay. Um , and I recall when Michael Jackson was asking you , um, is that the best you can do right. And , um, and I'm sure you brought your best every day and yet you were being asked to, to dig as deep as you as you could. Was that something that you, that you welcomed, that you loved and wanted to hear or did you feel like it was pressure? How did you respond to, to those kinds of asks? Oh, both. I mean, of course I wanted to hear it because that gave me, it's weird, some comfort in him having that much confidence to keep pushing cause he knows something's left. Right. So that's the one hand. But on the other hand, of course it was pressure in the moment, you know, but I trusted his instincts enough to know that. All right, I got to follow him. You know, I got to follow him through this and [inaudible] stay steadfast cause we always came out on the other side , um, with, with a great piece of memorable, you know, filmed art and you know, it would have been lovely to be able to do the same with this is it, you know, but unfortunately that wasn't , um, you know what? Go ahead and store

Speaker 6:

[inaudible]

Dr. Shepp:

to contrast that with when you would be on tour and you would be performing songs that had been performed on stage for decades and that, that fans were used to seeing at the same time you, you had to bring something fresh. It couldn't just feel like it was getting stale. How did you bring something fresh to the same pieces that had been danced for years?

Travis Payne:

Great question. And there was a balancing act that was, I think a lot of the performance psychology that I'm , I'm realizing was so apparent all the time. Um, certain parts you can't alter, you just better not touch pillaging gotta be what it is, you know. Um, and you better not touch thriller. Not too much cause people have got to see the famous choreography. You can dress it up different. You can serve a different sort of um, appetizer. I know , but the entree better be what people came to see and it needs to sound like it and look like it. And Michael would stress that and also say , um, you know, he certainly opened the change but if it's not going to be better then we can't change it. You know, he would often reference James Brown. He said when you go see James Brown, if he doesn't do the split and the, you know, the snaky leg and all of his dances, you're going to leave . They're disappointed. So why would we change, you know, if it's not going to be better. And I believe him, cause a lot of times before we would even present a piece, it was the best it could be in that moment. And if we were not going to advance it, he was fine with adding to it. But the change [inaudible] a lot of times it wouldn't. The new ideas wouldn't stand up to the original. So it was no, no need, you know. But we did get the opportunity to expand pieces. Like, you know, smooth criminal was a great piece he created with a Vince Patterson. But then Lavelle and I got to add to that idea with dangerous, you know, and then, you know, rich and tone got to add to that idea with you, rock my world, you know, the gangster sort of thing . So if you think about it, they're like on a Kestrel piece, you know, it's like orchestral piece with different movements. Um, but it's the same thing. Uh, and then to be able to come back years later and add, you know, things to dangerous, like good, bad and ugly, you know , um, samples from Janet's music , um, you know, her voice inside of the composition, you know, it gave it another twist. And for this is it, it had a new incarnation that I hate. People, you know, never got to see, hopefully one day that footage will be released. But we had yet another , um, interpretation of dangerous prepared. Yeah. In 2009 that we had worked on for the greater part of our time together. I mean dangerous, we kept going back to it, you know, whether we got to present those pieces or not, you know, it was always a work in progress. Well , he obviously trusted you , um, both because of what you described and how he wanted to pull out the best from you. But , um, I had spoken recently, recently with Brad boxer and he said that Michael talked to very few people when he was on tour. He would talk to Brad , he would talk to Karen Fe , he would talk to you and Lavelle Smith jr. So , um, but that was about it. And Michael Bush, of course, Michael Bush. And then of course, security, you know, at that time it was Wayne and Wayne Nagin and Yana Kalane among others. But yeah, there were, there was a, it was a tight circle and it was , um, you know, and that was just not because Michael didn't love everybody. It was just cause he was a shy and very, very private person. And a lot of times our conversations were about work. I mean, we, we talk about our families and you know, world events obviously, but it always comes back to the idea. And so I really, really valued those times with him. Yeah. Brett and I spent many, many hours for performances and I , I used to love those times because, you know, Michael trusted Brad with the music and trusted us along with Lavelle to reimagine it for , um, a live performance. And you know, those, those classic songs, I mean, to be able to even work inside the multitrack of , uh, of dangerous, you know , um, that Michael produced with Teddy Riley , um, just was for me as, as a fan, you know, anyway , uh, was just magical, you know, and hearing the stories behind the creation of the sound , you know, that one Bay sound that we love is maybe a combination of five different elements to make that one sound. And you know, how these things were, you know, works of art. They were crafted like da Vinci or something, but , um, just to be entrusted with those things or even participate in edits , um, you know, the of the film like ghosts and dance and you know, being able to have those opportunities and Michael would make them competitions. He'd have one room over here editing, he'd have another room over here, Lavelle and I with a different editor. And then he'd be in a room with an editor and whoever made the best chunks of each section, that's the section that got to go in the final piece, you know? And, and another, I guess psychological lesson that I got was, and I still do it to this day, it's like I don't, I just want to arrive at the best idea. It does not have to come from me. We just have to get it. We just have to find it, you know? And so that was the way Michael would talk to us a lot of times. So we welcomed the challenge because it was coming from a loving place and we knew that if we were able to reach that goal, we will have done something pretty awesome and hopefully, you know, lasting and enduring.

Dr. Shepp:

And it just makes the art better when you can allow yourself to get out of the way and, and, and let the best rise to the top regardless of how it gets there. Right?

Travis Payne:

Yeah. Oh yeah. Don't care. As long as we find it, that's fine, you know, and memorialize it, you know, because if , if you, it's one thing to get the, get to have the ideas but quite another to be able to film it and memorialize it and have generations of performers appreciate it. You know, I giggle so hard when, when I get , um, you know , uh, messages , um, from people all over the world with showing, you know, different generations, whether they be really old people, which I just saw this Halloween or a really young person who can't even walk yet, who's just enjoying, you know, Michael's music or one of the videos that we did. And , and, and it's, and it's being filmed and you can see the reaction. Um, and I think that there is a psychology there, the visuals in the music and the combination of all of the images, you know, really, I think at a deep, sort of even physiological, sometimes even spiritual level connect with people. And you know, not many artists can do that with their art. Now , you know, temporary artists.

Dr. Shepp:

Yeah, certainly not to that degree. And one of the most viral videos ever viewed , uh , was something that you were involved in the Philippines at the CPRC with the dancing inmates who, who were, who recorded their interpretation of thriller. But that's , but that's another example of something that obviously not only , um, was translated by them but impacted a lot of people who watched and I'm sure for various reasons, but because , because there were many levels that that one would connect to, to see that that group of people dance and iconic , um, series of steps like that. But it's just interesting

Travis Payne:

as you mentioned, the psychology of things that we connected to that so deeply. Yup . And sort of Michael Jackson, in fact, while we were in creation for this is it, that's when I first learned of the dancing inmates of Subu and one of Michael's fans emailed me a link to their thriller, a performance, and I showed it to Michael and he laughed. Riotously he loved it. He ran around the room. He wanted to see it at every chance we got, you know, during breaks. We would oftentimes watch it over and over and over. You know, if he got tense or sad or distracted, I'd play it. You know, it helped me, you know, in our quest to, you know, sort of harness everyone's energy for this show. Cause it was a huge undertaking, no doubt. But those moments where we got to be with the prisoners on video were very, very special. So when Michael passed , um, one of the first things I suggested we do is go to that prison and actually teach them they don't care about us, which Michael originally filmed in a prison years before. Um, and let's go to this prison. He gave them so much joy in our creative process and they didn't even know it. They should. And so the universe just smiled on us. Turns out that Fritz Reed , uh , Fritz Friedman, who was the , um , president of home video for Sony, made a call to, he's Filipino. He made a call and knows the mayor who happened to be related to warden Byron Garcia from the CPD RC. And within a week or two, we were in that prison meeting. The prisoners took Daniel's celebrity with me as well as trace Reed from a tour. And we went there and spent a couple of days with them teaching the content that was meant to be for this is it. And we filmed it. And , um, I get to direct that with a local , um, uh , DP there and we brought it on back. Um , but it was a spiritual experience in that the, one of the days we were filming was Martin Luther King's birthday. It had been storming the whole day, you know, the whole time we were there, we went to film, you know, it was sunny and bright. Um, you know, you could feel there was a , I'd like to say Michael's energy there. You know, all of the prisoners were walking around, you know, saying Michael Michael kind of under their breaths. Like it was, it was, you could feel it. And so it was just so magical that we were just as, you know, transported as the prisoners were, you know, it meant as much, if not more to us. And it just wound up being, you know, I guess the beginning of some healing for the loss of anyway, and for it to be so well received online on YouTube , um, speaks volumes and, you know, S , you know, running into people and then making the connection and, you know, it's just, it just speaks to how music and dance not only heal, but you know, certainly change people's lives and connect people. And you know, that was right along with Michael Jackson's brand and you know, really sort of having a social consciousness to the messages, you know, and everything having a purpose and you know, that we had to repurpose our, this is it performance , um, for that experience. How great was it to be able to actually do, you know, the choreography on real people and not have to use CGI like we have to do in the movie or in the movies , um, in the, in the tours. Um , but to really be able to do it in real life and capture it , um, in the environment. And so I , I just felt it was a fitting tribute. I got to also do a similar situation in the Dominican Republic. I think that was in 2017 , um, with , um, you know, homeless and impoverished , um, dancers and kids and their families. And we did sort of a same kind of thing, a couple of days of flashmob rehearsals and then I found it and released it on Michael's birthday. Um, then , um, but it just, I don't know , just a lot of those and we wouldn't have been able to do that if the original pieces had not been so strong in their messages, in their convictions and, and , and what the meanings behind them were, you know. So with that information, it made it possible to go have those two experiences and others like them and , um , uh , continue to,

Dr. Shepp:

well , another spiritual experience for many people was the Michael Jackson Memorial service that you choreographed helped , helps to choreograph that took place at the staple center. And I was , I was there at the staple center and it was certainly, yes. Yeah. And it certainly was a spiritual experience for many people. Um, but, but also a chance to reflect at the impact of what some someone's art, one person's art and then of course, their collaborators, how that can affect the lives of, of people pretty deeply.

Travis Payne:

I agree. I mean, who knew we would be even doing that? Um, you know, but it was just like, seemed like from one day to the next, we were creating what was to be the biggest concert of all time. And then, you know, having immediately repurpose our efforts to this global, you know, sort of Memorial and farewell and then directly into editing of what would be, this is a documentary , um , which then got promoted and sold. And then, you know, almost immediately it was three years with Cirque for two Cirque de Solei Michael Jackson shows. So it was a lot of, you know, work in, even in the midst of everything we were going through. And, you know, it wasn't until after about five years did I even take the time to grieve, you know, because everything continued to go, you know, because we had to, you know, keep the promise as best we could and at least try to share what Michael was planning, you know, to the best of our ability with the footage that we had, you know, and , um , all of it, you know, all of it just sort of , um, I dunno , it was bittersweet. I mean, I w it was so painful, but I couldn't have imagined being anywhere else, you know, certainly. Um, at that time we all sort of bonded together and get through it. And it was so interesting that it was , uh , I was talking with my , uh, with Mariah Carey this past weekend. I get to see her Christmas concert and she brought up Michael's Memorial . Um, that was the first time we had gotten to, you know , um , work together. Um, but you know, it , it was, it was , uh , even though it was a super sad moment, it was still a very magical moment. And, you know , um, I will never forget it

Dr. Shepp:

and normal lie . Yeah. And just hearing the , the things that people had to say , um, Kobe Bryant, you know, speaking, I'm sure people were really surprised to hear when he said that people ask him who his greatest influence was and why he works so hard. And he said, you might think it was Michael Jordan. Um, you can name a lot of people who you would think it was, but it was Michael Jackson of course. And, and just, just the things that people were , were saying about his influence. Um , very, very moving, very impacting

Travis Payne:

really . I mean, and that's when we first heard from Paris, Jackson, and you know, it , it was just, I don't know, just so many things going on. I saw one of the images from that , um , Memorial a few weeks ago, and you know, in that moment it was Judith was singing and there was smokey Robinson and Barry Gordy and you know , Janet and all the brothers and you know, his children and just all of these sort of luminaries. And then there's me and then, you know, it was just like, Whoa. Even in that moment I didn't realize what it was. I think, you know, there was a certain amount of autopilot that we just sort of went into because it was crisis mode, you know, so, you know, looking back on those moments, I'm like, Whoa, okay. Wow. Okay. Yeah. Ms ms Liz was still with, this was with Taylor, you know, she was, she was there throughout, you know , um, I don't know . It was just, I dunno, it still is. So , uh , haunting that whole time. Sure.

Dr. Shepp:

Yeah. And it makes sense with so much to do that you were involved with in , in honoring him so many projects that you might not have had the chance to stop and grieve for quite some time.

Travis Payne:

Oh yeah. Oh yeah. [inaudible] that's, that's part of it. Yeah. [inaudible] and I think the fear of what that all means because everybody liked Michael himself had invested so much and this is it, and was really looking forward to, you know, executing. We were going to revolutionize touring, you know, to go and do residencies , you know, in these global facilities and be there for several weeks or months at a time, you know, it was going to be a totally different way of, you know, bringing the art there. It's like move into a city and just be there, you know , um, for as long as possible before moving to the next place. You know, he , we hadn't done it like that before, so I'm just really, you know , still sad that we didn't get to because it was so set to be the biggest, you know, that ever was. And I think the best because along those, in those years we were doing some pretty innovative stuff and again, working with the highest and technical ability , um, artists from all over the world to pull this together. And, you know, after we were, you know, unfortunately unable to, you could see some of the ideas that had been developed, you know, visible and other art, you know, so they get to live on, you know, even if people don't know their origins.

Dr. Shepp:

Hmm . Yeah, I suppose there's some satisfaction in that.

Travis Payne:

Yeah, a little bit. I mean, you know, cause it's art , it's, it's influence . That's the, that's the, that's the thing, you know, we, we humbly contribute, you know, many have come before us, there'll be others after us. It's just, you know, where did we get to do? And hopefully people can connect the dots and you know, opportunities like this to even talk about it helps with that.

Dr. Shepp:

I'm glad. Yeah, me too. Absolutely. One of the things you've said is that you've learned to let the artistry be first and keep your mind clear about what you want and how , how you , how to achieve it. Um, and you've also learned to be patient because it can take a long time to do things. Right. So I think what you've, what you've just talked about kind of summarizes it goes along with that summary, I suppose.

Travis Payne:

Yeah. But I mean to add to that, there is also, you know, a balancing act, you know, and , and having a vision, being very clear about what that should be, but then being open and flexible to getting there. You know, and how we get there and what the process is going to be. It's kinda hard to, you know, do it sort of , um, like a template. Um, so each experience is different. That's exciting, you know, but the challenge these days is that with the internet and digital as opposed to film, you know, production costs go down a lot, you know, so very few artists can afford the time and the expense to have a proper workshop and develop ideas and do tests. And absolutely, a lot of times, you know, sometimes the artists will show up and they have maybe a few hours and they've got something else to do and then maybe the soundcheck and then the show, you know, not many get to take, you know, and have a huge audition first of all. And then bring people from different parts of the world and have a workshop with them and teach them skills and you know, enhance what they do and build the team, you know, that can unify, you know, appropriately before they even start a rehearsal process that then goes on to, you know, a production that can sustain. And, you know , keep their interest and you know, and keep them engaged and safely and you know, be seen by, you know, thousands and thousands of people. You know, it's just rare these days. It really is. I mean, there's not many that invest the time. I mean, I , I still applaud Madonna and obviously Janet for doing so, Jennifer Lopez puts the time in . Clearly Beyonce does, you know, usher does, you know, I would imagine Justin Timberlake does Chris Brown , um, you know, but that's a few, you know, but still, you know, no one's gotten to the height of what Michael would do, you know, it's just not the time for it. You know, it's not, I dunno , it's just the, the turnover is so much faster too . I mean, there'd be years between Michael's projects so that there was this natural anticipation, you know, and , and , and that was part of the theater of the launch, you know, now some artists to stay relevant, they've got to put out a project, you know, you know, like clockwork to stay relevant and stay, you know, in the, in the, in the public sigh . And you know, get likes and views, which equates to sponsorships and endorsements. You know, it's all sort of different and more codependent now. Um, it's not bad, it's just different. So , um, that's what makes those, those experiences that much more cherished because they were really special.

Dr. Shepp:

Absolutely. And, and contributes to the long lasting impact for sure. Of course. Well I want to thank you for being so generous with your time, Travis. Um , I'm going to shift gears if it's okay and just to ask you some questions that I ask to everyone. Okay. So, Travis, what in life are you still curious about?

Travis Payne:

I'm still curious about additional contributions I can make to art as a whole. I'm still curious about what the next chapter of my career and my life will look like and feel like. And I'm still curious about, you know, who is next, who is the next, you know, artists to emerge out of, you know, being influenced by our work.

Dr. Shepp:

That's great cause you're, you're, you're still invested in , um, in, in what you're contributing to.

Travis Payne:

Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. I communicate with artists all over the world. I mean Salif from Paris, you know, Carlos from say shows a show from Japan. We're actually working on his first album. And , uh, you know, I've always wanted to be able to launch a Japanese artist in America. It's not been done before. Um, show is going to be going to be next and we're working very hard on that, you know, and just my love of music and dance and the arts, you know, just keeps me motivated. And like Michael used to say, find the diamonds in the rough, you know, and , and help Polish them and make them brilliant and you know, for everybody to, you know , see and enjoy. So I still love doing that. I really, really do.

Dr. Shepp:

Is more distracting to you Travis, as a, as a performer. Um, and as a choreographer, director, is it the praise or the criticism?

Travis Payne:

I think they can both be distracting, but I had to choose one. I'd probably say the praise because I'd learned something in Japan years ago. Um, and it made sense to me that in Japan you're not rewarded for doing your job. So when you do a good job in America, we're so busy congratulating each other in Japan, it's expected that you do a good job, you know, so a lot of times what we would reward, they don't necessarily, they just look for what could be better. And I think that that is , um, not only constructive, but it's humbling as well. Um, you know, because I think when we get caught up in our past achievements, we're missing out on, you know, current and future opportunities.

Dr. Shepp:

Absolutely. Yeah. It's so important to be in the moment. You can get stuck in the past for all the wrong reasons, not just because you , you stay focused on a mistake, but sometimes it's staying focused on an achievement. Correct. Yeah, correct. As a performer and an and a choreographer, you obviously prepare for every performance and yet the unexpected can happen. And what's something unexpected that has happened to you in your career?

Travis Payne:

In the history tour, I fell in Russia on stage in a performance and got municipal damage. So that was unexpected . Yeah. And then spent eight weeks hobbling around on crutches from the home, though I was not going to leave the road from a wheelchair or crutches and it was fine and I was fine with it. But I did get , um, acupuncture for the first time in Warsaw, Poland, which I, yeah. Which I still swear by. Um, but yeah, that was very unexpected. And then obviously, you know, Michael's untimely passing on June 25th, 2009 , um, was probably the most unexpected thing that's ever happened. Um , but along a lighter one , uh , working on the Academy awards with Debbie Allen , uh, the year was , um , beauty and the beast was nominated and I think a huge Jackman was opening the show. And we, it was the first time I'd ever descended , um, on a cable. And I remember in the rehearsals just being horrified and having a panic attack and, you know, we had to stop the run and everything, and Debbie comforted me, of course, as she would do. And , uh, you know, what was surprising that , uh, was in the actual performance after being terrified of my wits and staying up there for the whole opening thing and before , you know, and then coming down and just something sorta just happened and I just added all these extra moves and my cord was spinning and it wasn't supposed to. And it was just, I just sorta went there and lived in the moment and had such a great time there. And then we , we actually did the same gag and dangerous for MTV, you know? Yeah. And I , cause I remember having that experience that was like, ah, it's a piece of cake. You love it, you know, years before screaming my head off, you know, and embarrassing myself. But yeah, that was, that was definitely a surprising moment. And Debbie never let me live it down. Every time I see her, she brings it up. Oh, that's great. Oh , and surprising. First audition, Jennifer Lopez was to my right, you know, and then a Seper Ascension has been so just been , uh , marveled at it of Marvel and I continue to be just really in awe of what she's been able to accomplish. Ah , that's fantastic. Paula Abdul too . You know, Paula Abdul as well, you know, seeing her and okay now her dance has made her, you know, a pop star and a personality and a brand. You know, I look at that and Kenny Ortega and you know Bob Fossey with, you know, Tony Emmy , you know, and an Oscar, like those kinds of things. I love that stuff. You know, Guinness world record stuff, you know, that's, that excites me and that's great. And you want to Bob Fossey American choreography awards as well. So yes, one was for ghosts with Michael Jackson and the other, I believe was a , I think it was for free your mind with invoke , I believe. Okay. Yeah. Amazing how some of those things come come full circle. Oh , just to begin where you did and then to see some of the , the trajectory over time. Oh yeah. Oh yeah. It's still like, I can't believe it. It's , it's crazy. It's crazy. Um, you know, so in the time goes so fast, I mean, I never really believed that, but you know, if you're able to string together a number of years or decades in a career, you know, it does seem like, you know, yesterday the first audience, you know, the first big sort of, you know, 20 or 30,000 people or you know, you remember those moments, you know, remembering Israel and you know, 110,000 people in a failed , uh , for the history tour and you know, being able to perform and bring sort of peace to the , um, I think it's East and West or upper and lower bank, you know, they're in that territory for the time we were doing the concert. And then when we took off the civil unrest continued . But for that moment people were in, you know, sort of unity. You know, Michael Jackson would plot his tour to go to places that needed it, you know, whether it be financially, you know, cause the economy would be enriched by his show. Being in town, you know, people have jobs, you know, if not to build the stays to show, you know, to sell their sort of knockoff , you know , um , swag merchandise. And he was fine with all of that. You know, it's so interesting. Absolutely. You know, so many concerts. Um, the tickets were just sort of free to a certain amount of people just because it was like go into the community, make a difference, leave it better than you found it. You know, even if it's just to entertain the folks for free and not require them to pay. Um, and it was like those kinds of things I remember and they let me know that, you know, as you ascend in your career, you know, it's just kind of your responsibility to be nicer, you know, and inspire people. You know, that's the point of art. That's what got us here is fired by something that we saw or experienced before. Yeah. Yeah. I've heard, you've mentioned a few things today that that really drives home, that inspiration is part of your mindset clearly. Yeah, absolutely. Oh yeah. Travis, what is one comment that still stands out to you because of its impact that a comment that you've received during the course of your career that still stands out to you? The same people you see on the way up. You will see on the way down.

Speaker 7:

Hmm .

Travis Payne:

So it's necessary to, you know, be kind to everybody because you never know who you're meeting. I love that. Yeah. You don't never know. You never know. I was in a, I was in a nightclub in some crazy place, I want to say maybe UK, somewhere in Europe and we were at a , at a like restaurant bar type of thing. Some party and I wound up sitting next to a gentleman and , uh, we just talked all night and just, it was fun. And you know, I told them I was there with the concert and Michael Jackson and he said, so , um, okay, cool. You know, and , and I asked him what he was doing. He said, Oh, I'm playing with the all star team. And I was like, really? What's your name? He said, Charles Barkley.

Dr. Shepp:

Right. Oh that's great.

Travis Payne:

Austin told me, he said, the nicer you get to be nicer, the richer you are, the more successful you are, the nicer you get to be, you know, important to remember people's names, you know, and you know, folks appreciate that cause it means you were listening. And so I remember that, those kinds of things too. Um, but yeah. Oh like I say, every experience, there's something, there is some takeaway.

Dr. Shepp:

I I hear how much your philosophy impacts your work. Um, but you, you sound like you, you live it out on a daily basis, which is also fantastic. I try my best. I really do. Speaking of trying your best , um , my next question would be how do you move on from failure?

Travis Payne:

Understanding that you get another chance if you take it, you know, it's really about how you recover. I think it's not about the failure cause they're going to be big ones. I mean, you know, you've got to take big risks for big rewards and sometimes you fall short and you know, I think your character is judged on how you deal with it and how you move on from it. You know, sometimes it's hard to not hold onto it. Um, but that invites fear. And so I tried just to remember there is no space for fear in the room. So just kind of go from it, grow from it. You're not the first or , or the last who will fail at something, you know? And um, and , and I think that the greatness has to come from that. You know, you've got to fail in order to appreciate, you know, your , your process and your journey.

Dr. Shepp:

I love that. There's no space for failure in the room. That's a Michael Jackson quote. Okay. Yup . There's no place for fear in the room. There's no space for fear. Right? Correct. Yeah. Um , two more questions if it's okay. Sure. Have you ever had what you would say was a transformative moment in your work and if so, what was it?

Travis Payne:

The transformative moment I gotta to say. I mean, maybe the first thing I ever choreographed, which was a Tevin Campbell just asked me to , for the boys in the hood soundtrack. And that was the first thing I ever did. You know, all of my own , um, you know, I , I'd already done the invoke and like sounds of blackness , uh, which was Jimmy jam and Terry Lewis , his group. But Tevin was the first thing I did. And you know, that let me know, okay , okay, I have a full vision. I could make up the steps, I could decide how it looks, I could decide what we're wearing, I could decide, you know, who the dancers are. And it just really got me excited about now getting to participate in all of those other aspects of, you know, beyond just the dance. And so I think that was really transformative because it, let me see, all right . Dance for the camera's different from dance for the stage and dance and supportive of song. You know, it's different than dance in support of, you know , um , a ballet or any other genre. But you know, there was, there was power in the music video then and it was, you know, before our internet and our accessibility to all of that stuff, you know, it was getting to dance on camera and it play on MTV or B E T at the time. That was how we measured out of success. You know, seeing ourselves in those short movies that, you know, influenced so many. And I think that that was definitely a transformative moment for me, seeing myself on camera, you know, in those, in those, in those moments

Dr. Shepp:

and how that transformed all of our lives. Just that, that part of, of time and that impact of culture, the music video. Absolutely. Yeah,

Travis Payne:

I agree. Yeah . The video, the movies, you know, news AIDS was the first film I ever did with Kenny Ortega, you know, as a dancer. And you know, that was, that was great. I mean, seeing production on that scale, having, you know, gene Kelly come to rehearsal. I mean, that was , that was, that was mind blowing for me, you know? Um, yeah, I mean, I dunno, it's just there was a , there was a few of them. It's definitely a few of them, I would imagine . Overall. Yeah. Overall, most of them were with Michael though at some time. Yeah.

Dr. Shepp:

Well, in, in brief, what have you learned about yourself, Travis, from your work over time and in your career to date? What have you learned about yourself?

Travis Payne:

I have learned that I am a loyal person. I've learned that I am, you know, a very sensitive person. Um, but I've also learned to guard my feelings because, you know, if we are always searching for validation, that is, and can be very unhealthy. And I think that, you know, as I, you know, as I live longer, you know, I realized that, you know, it's just easier to be kind, you know, it's just easier to be kind. And I, and I know that I'm not a confrontational person. Um, I was asked once one time, what do I do when, you know, people I'm working with are students I'm teaching get out of hand. And I had to say, honestly, I've never had it because I don't welcome it. I don't encourage it, but I certainly don't, you know, go there and escalate with people. That's just never been my thing. That's why, you know, when those, when some of the dance shows were out, you know , um , and you'd go to castings for judges, you know, everybody wanted assignment, you know, and I would just start by saying, I'm not assignment. I'm Kmart . Paula , you know, that plate, you know, work on lifted dance with Paula Abdul as a judge, you know, and that's it. That I was like, you know, I know you have Paula, but I'm not, I'm not your assignment . I'm sorry. I'm just not , you know, but it was, it , it wound up working anyway, still get to do it for a season. And it was fun . Yeah. That was, that was cool. I really love that. Yeah . Yeah. It was cool. Yeah . But , uh , yeah, I did learn that. I , I learned that, you know, just remember the experiences. Be grateful for the experiences you gotta stay in gratitude, you know, or, or you won't continue to be blessed. I believe that.

Dr. Shepp:

Well, I have been blessed by being able to spend some time with you today, so thank you so much for, for sharing your time today and taking the time to chat with me. I really appreciate it, Travis.

Travis Payne:

Well, it goes both ways. Appreciate it. I've been my pleasure. Thank you so much. Yes. I hope your listeners get a lot out of it and we can do it again. I love that. Yup . Thanks, Travis. I want to launch some stuff with you . I'll keep you in the loop about my movie. Oh, I would love it. Yeah, I would love that. Yeah, absolutely. Yeah , we have some interesting stuff coming up. Hopefully you'll get to see some of it soon.

Dr. Shepp:

Well, it sounds like you have a number of things that are, that are percolating in there.

Travis Payne:

I do . I do. I do. I'm very interested in getting my studio or school's situation together. I want to have an educational facility, fantastic production facility. Maybe it lands at where I'm from. You know, I'm very, very passionate about my shoe line. You know, worked very closely with runic in Italy to develop dance performance wear that, you know , has a fashion aesthetic. I'm very excited about that, about my new artists show and our record label, Jairus entertainment . Um , you know, all of the TV and content I'm working on with my partner's agent and say she is in Kita , Randolph and Stacy Walker . Um, and you know, just the, the meetings and having the opportunities that are sort of presenting themselves that, you know, are going to help me , um, you know, sort of craft the next chapter of my career. I'm very excited about all of it. I'm so glad a lot of people that from my past, you know, I've reconnected with, you know , Jimmy locust and you know, Eartha Robinson and you know, folks that you know, were there and, and I share history with and um, you know, I just went to my 30 year class reunion, so the performing arts high school that, you know, first gave me international experience, you know, getting to go back there and you know, celebrate, you know, all of those years and all of our accomplishments , um, in , in my class , um, was very special. I got to do that in Atlanta a few weeks ago. So glad . That's great. Yup .

Dr. Shepp:

The things that you've mentioned , um , are going to be linked in the episode notes for the podcast and my website is Travis payne.com and I try to keep it pretty updated. And you know, Instagram is Travis Payne wine and my Twitter is, is Travis Payne. Great, perfect. And I will link all of those things too in the episode notes. Thank you.

Speaker 1:

This has been managed the moment with dr Shep.

Speaker 8:

Yeah ,

Speaker 1:

my physical action of moments. It's how you manage the moments that makes the difference. Special thanks to all of you who have taken the time to leave a review and to rate the podcast . I really appreciate it and it helps this podcast to reach more people and enables us to have more conversations that you'd be interested in listening to. So thanks. You can subscribe to the manage the moment podcasts for free just by clicking the subscribe button wherever you're listening to this podcast, and then you'll be sure to get the newest episodes as soon as they're uploaded. And for more information about manage the moment podcast, you can see the episode notes for this broadcast. You'll also find us on social media, and I'm on Twitter and Instagram at dr Shep. Thanks so much for listening and taking the time to share these moments with us. Until next time.