Travis Payne is an Emmy-nominated choreographer, director, and producer who uses hip hop, ballet, modern, street dance and the latest emerging styles to keep one of the world’s greatest pop dance legacies alive.
Part of Payne’s dedication to the craft is his unique street dance, ballet, and Michael Jackson- influenced choreography. As Micheal Jackson’s choreographer and associate director of his final documentary This Is It, Payne solidified what pop culture critic Ronda Racha Penrice called “a masterpiece.” He crafted and shared a special dance language with the King of Pop and considered him an artistic mentor. One of Payne’s proudest achievements was his original choreography in Micheal Jackson’s short film Ghosts, a visual extension to the megahit Thriller.
Jackson discovered Payne when he was a dancer on his sister Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation World Tour. Michael Jackson hired Payne as a dancer first. But eventually, his kinesthetic collaborations with the King of Pop came full circle.
Payne won an MTV Video Music Award for Best Choreography for his choreography in the Scream music video, which featured Micheal Jackson’s duet with sister Janet Jackson in an unforgettable dance routine that combined ballet, street, hip hop, flexing, and modern dance styles.
Payne’s work as one of Michael Jackson’s closest collaborators is only one facet of his contributions to pop dance. He was also Lady Gaga’s director/choreographer on the Monster Ball Tour, as well as creating choreography for Mariah Carey, TLC, Madonna, Beyoncé, Usher, Jennifer Lopez, En Vogue, and Cirque du Soleil among others.
Payne’s talents are paired with philanthropy. In 2010, he traveled to the Philippines and where he taught 1,500 prison inmates to dance “The Drill,” for a video that went viral on YouTube, with more than 42 million views and counting.
Extending his talents toward the East, Payne has since done direction and choreography for Han Geng and Andy Lau. In 2012, he formed a group with Johnny’s Entertainment called Travis Japan that competed at the World Of Dance, the largest International Urban Dance Competition with focus on the art of street dancing. Payne also received an arts and humanitarian award for Danza de la Unidad, a flash mob style music video filmed in the Dominican Republic.
Originally from Atlanta, Payne began dancing when he was four years old. His formal dance training began with Norma B. Mitchell and Djana Bell when he was nine, focusing on modern dance styles. This didn’t keep him from incorporating urban dance, a fusion that eventually led him to where he is today.