@ouchmagazineny Interview: Rhonda McKnight
1. Travis how has 'So You Think You Can Dance' changed your life?
SYTYCD has not only changed my life but the lives of so many dancers and choreographers. I was on the show first as a contestant. It gave me the chance as a contemporary/lyrical dancer to do what I love on a professional level, which had never happened before. I knew I always wanted to choreograph so when I was given the opportunity through this show, I took it, ran with it and never looked back. Nigel Lythgoe has given a voice to dancers and choreographers that had never been heard before in this age in television. It has given choreographers like myself the chance to be household names.
2. At what age did you start to dance and did it come easy?
Easy?! Dance and easy never go in the same sentence! While I started actual dance class at age 3, I would have started earlier but that was the rule at my mom's dance studio. I was dancing since the time I could walk. I also started choreographing at a young age. I would create things and remember it so I could show it to my mom.
3. What is your specialty in dance? What comes naturally to you?
I think my specialty is my ability to tell a story. I use people's raw emotions to drive my movement. Musicality definitely comes most naturally to me. It’s how my ears hear the music and how I can paint that picture in my mind, making it come to life.
4. You have an amazing body. What advice can you give readers on breaking into dance? What kind of shape do they need to be in?
Well, thank you! I have struggled with weight my entire life. Ever since puberty, I could never keep weight off and was never able to build muscle. I didn’t have the typical body of a dancer, I have always had to work extra hard. It wasn't until recently (26) that I changed my lifestyle and my body really changed. Exercise is key, but I changed my diet and my way of life. I go to the gym regularly, life weights, watch what I eat and take care of myself. Dance is something you can start at any age, especially if you are doing it to lose weight. It’s cardio based so it’s a great work out. I sweat more in a dance class than I do running 5 miles! But everyone's body is different. As a male dancer, we are required to do a lot of lifting which really works out your entire body, especially your upper body. Dancing is a full body exercise, it requires every muscle. It's also about stamina. When I am on tour with my dance company, Shaping Sound, we do up to 6 shows a week and it's not easy. Your body gets used to it as you go, but it takes time and training.
5. Do you teach private classes or workshops? I have been traveling around the country teaching since I was 16. I teach at dance studios all across the US and Canada. I also teach on a dance convention, Nuvo, that tours for 30 weekends out of the year. I sometimes teach master classes in LA as well, if my schedule permits
6. At what age is a good time to start building to achieve a career like yours? It depends on the person. I know successful people who have started in college and others who didn’t start choreographing until they were 40. I started extremely young, but that’s not everyone. I was working professionally in a Broadway show at 9 years old and have never stopped. It’s all about work ethic. It’s never too late to start!
7. How will this season’s 'So You Think You Can Dance' change in format?
Well, it's completely new. It has familiar elements but this year tWitch and I are mentors. I am the mentor for Team Stage. Team Stage is the team with dancers that have extensive formal training. Team Street comprises of self-taught dancers from the street, mostly hip-hop. We are letting America pick what they like better, Street or Stage. As I mentor, I really want to nurture my team and guide them through the process that I have already been through. I want to help them make sense of the judges’ comments and be their support system. But of course, my goal is to have someone from Team Stage win!!
8. How much sleep do you get a day with your very busy schedule?
Haha! Well, because of my recent health-conscious change in lifestyle, I have been much more aware of the sleep my body actually needs. There are of course nights I only get 3-4 hours, but I try to make up for it with a nap here and there or by getting one 10 hour night in later in the week. Ideally, I would get 7-8 hours per night, but it’s not always possible.
9. Who is the ideal artist you would like to work with on their music video?
Beyoncé! I have said this for 5 years and I am going to keep putting it out there until it happens!
10. What type of music do you enjoy and who are your top artist? Beyoncé! My music taste is all over the place. Jason Mraz is a definitely a favorite, as well as Hozier and Prince. I also like to teach to a lot of instrumental music.
11.What inspires you? I love being inspired so I constantly take inspiration from everything around me. Anytime something strikes a chord with me, I run with it. It can be music, moves, real-life stories and situations, people around me, etc. The worst is hitting a creative wall, so when I find something that inspires me I get very worked up and emotional, it’s exciting!
12. What is a full day with you like?
I have never lived the same day twice. It’s so inconsistent, it’s actually hilarious. I'm always asking, “What job is this? What city am I in? What day of the week is it?” But an ideal day would be a day off in LA. I would wake up, walk my dog, go to the gym, spend some time in the sun and have dinner with my boyfriend.
13.What’s the hardest thing you had to do so far in your career?
Trying to please everyone around me. I am constantly trying to make producers, directors, dancers and myself happy. It's a very hard balance. I always strive to try new things, challenge myself, and keep learning.
14. Do you enjoy cooking? Are you a vegan or Vegetarian?
What is your favorite dish? I love cooking and wish I did it more often! I realized I am pretty damn good! I am not a vegan or vegetarian, I like my meat. I try to eat as organic as possible and not put chemicals or preservatives in my body. I love grilling. My favorite thing to make is a good protein, maybe balsamic glazed Brussel sprouts, truffle cauliflower and a sweet potato.
15. Are you single? What attracts you to a person? And what are the turn-offs?
I'm not single, I just recently celebrated my 4 year anniversary with my boyfriend. I am attracted to someone's energy, their likeability and their ability to make eye contact. Physically, I am a chest and butt guy (ha). I'm really turned off by dishonest and untrustworthy people. Another turn off is when people are overcome by their own insecurities. We all have them, it’s just a matter of fighting them off.
16. Do you have any Hollywood Crushes?
Ryan Gosling! And Jennifer Lawrence. I just want to be her best friend, I've never met her but she seems like a really cool person to hang out with. 17. I will say a few trendy styles and you tell me if it's a 'hit' or a 'miss'
a. Pink hair - hit b. Bell bottoms - never hit, always a mess c. Oversized hats - depends who's wearing it d. Men in heels - when appropriate e. Women with nose rings - miss d. The Walking Dead - heard it’s a hit but I don't watch it g. The Game of Throne -Absolute hit h. Hipster mustaches - miss
18. What projects can your fans look out for this year? A tour etc and if so where? So You Think You Can Dance airs June 1st and is on every Monday through the rest of the summer. My dance company, Shaping Sound, and I are heading out on our 3rd national tour very soon! We are getting ready to announce our dates within a few weeks. They will all be posted on www.shapingsoundco.com.
19. How can readers reach out to you on social media? I have read every single comment and mention on Instagram and Twitter since I opened my accounts. You can follow me @traviswall.
20. Any last comments? A favorite quote of mine, “If you don't put the work in you don't deserve it.”