Michael Tran/FilmMagic
Travis Wall
June 09, 2015 AT 12:00 PM EDT

Watching last night’s episode, tWitch and I were talking to each other, because right before the episode aired, we were brought in, and finally we found out who’s on the show out of Vegas. So we got to compare, and we both went home and watched the episode together. He was texting me, “You know, the hardest thing is watching this and finally seeing the backstories of the contestants.” It’s hard watching those backstories. I didn’t know these people went through this, and I wish I would have known, because in Vegas, we cut some of these contestants who had amazing journeys to get where they are.

Obviously it’s going to get harder and harder, because more auditions are coming up. Really, it doesn’t matter, obviously—producers want you to have your story. But from my perspective, I want the best team I can get to beat the other team, based on their dancing and who they are as people. Maybe your story got you to where you are in the competition, but from here on out, we’re looking for the best, regardless of the story. tWitch and I are just very sensitive. You forget what people go through and the things that happened to them and why they dance. So it made it really hard to watch last night going, “Oh God, I cut that person! I didn’t fight for that person!”

A lot of the street team auditions stood out to me last night, listening to why they weren’t able to take classes. There were also a lot of dancers on my team who had amazing auditions but got lost in Vegas. They went through the rounds and didn’t stand out, and I feel like I let go of some of the really great auditions that you guys in the audience have already seen. Now, as a spectator, you’re watching and you’re like, “Wow, this person nailed their first audition. What happened in Vegas?” And then you start to think, Was it me, or was it them? tWitch and I are going through the exact same thing. It’s very interesting to jump halfway into the competition as an adviser and now watch from the beginning.

tWitch and I were just saying last night that in Vegas, everyone’s so exhausted—I wish sometimes you could just walk away halfway through the competition and sleep on it for a couple of weeks, come back, and then have a fresh set of eyes. Because you’re so involved, and you’re right there with them, watching so much dancing, that if it doesn’t stand out to you—if it doesn’t feel different or if it’s not something you haven’t seen before—it becomes just like everyone else. And you forget about it.

What happened to Gaby Diaz is what happened to me, but the thing about Gaby is that she got to show her solo to the judges. I never even made it to the judges. I was cut in the cattle call by the executive producer/ my father figure, Jeff Thacker. He had one ticket in his hand, and he gave it to the dancer that didn’t know his right from his left foot. Obviously there was a lot of emotion there. I just had my mind set that I was doing the show that year. I had just turned 18, and I wanted to do season 2. So a week went by, I went to the last audition city, and Nigel was like, “It says here that you’ve auditioned before, but I’ve never seen you. Who cut you?” I pointed to the producer, who was Jeff Thacker, and he wrote the word “words” on a piece of paper and stuffed it in his mouth and was like, “I eat my words.”

With Gaby, it’s incredible—what she did was take criticism and take notes and apply them. She came back, and I’m so happy that she did, because she was a huge standout for us in Vegas, and I’m excited for you to see how she progresses in the show. It worked in her favor. It takes a lot of courage.  

Next week, in the L.A. auditions, we found some incredible talent, especially in ballet. There are a couple of contestants you’re just going to be floored by. One in particular—I’ll wait for you guys to figure out who, but I was actually at the audition in L.A. I was coming to look—I didn’t have to be there, but I wanted to see—and it was the third person I saw. I literally stood up, and I was just so excited that this person would possibly be on my team, because I thought it was one of the best auditions I’ve ever seen on the show. Ballet is represented very well this season. I think they had two ballerinas last year, but I don’t think they’ve seen a great male ballet dancer recently, beside Chehon Wespi-Tschopp. Really, before that it was my brother, in season 3. And Alex Wong in season 7. It’s those three guys, and that’s over 12 seasons.

People are saying, “Do I have to pick a side?” And no, you don’t have to pick a side. Just find your favorite dancer, whether they’re on Team Stage or Team Street. You can like whoever you want. It’s just more of a group effort now—it’s about having people who are behind you as you’re performing.

And now they’re turning us into “Super tWitch” and “Travman.” You never think the producers are going to make you a superhero—that’s kind of funny. I’ve got to figure out my backstory. I guess they compared me to Batman and tWitch to Superman, so he’s got superpowers, and I’ve got gadgets. I’m more self-made. I don’t think I was born with superpowers. I think I made my superpowers. I’d believe that. My brain is definitely my superpower, so I’ll take it. I’ll take it wherever I can get it.

As told to Kelly Connolly

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