Born and raised in Atlanta, the naturally gifted Payne began dancing at the age of 4, segued into serious dance training by age 9, and was a working professional dancer by age 16. In addition to studying ballet, tap, jazz, and modern dance, he instinctively gravitated toward individual sports as expressive outlets for his abundance of youthful energy and athleticism, and was a diver, gymnast, and swimmer as well. After graduating from Northside School of The Arts, he was accepted to Morehouse College and spent a busy year jetting between classes in Atlanta and auditions in Los Angeles. At age 19, Payne accepted a full scholarship to the California Institute of The Arts (CalArts) and made the pivotal decision to move to LA, where he also added hip-hop training to his extensive dance repertoire. His prodigious talent captured the attention of the West Coast creative community, and the opportunities he encountered to work with superstar artists and dancers in LA were so immediate and abundant that he segued into dancing professionally full-time shortly after his relocation.
Payne’s first major break as a dancer was Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation 1814 World Tour, a gig he landed after one of the original dancers left and Payne, a regular in the audience at Janet’s shows, sent in a video audition he created himself. His consummate professionalism and dedication to his craft coupled with an uncanny ability to deliver outstanding performances in an exceptional diversity of dance disciplines quickly made him one of the most sought-after dancers and choreographers in the country. The offers poured for Payne’s skill as a choreographer as well as a dancer. He danced for Michael Jackson, Prince, En Vogue, and Debbie Allen, and choreographed for Jackson and En Vogue as well as Madonna, Sting, Lenny Kravitz, Paula Abdul, Faith Hill, and Ricky Martin. He became the youngest inductee to the Gallery of Greats, a two-time recipient of the Music Video Producers Association Award for Outstanding Achievement in Choreography, and a four-time winner of the MTV Video Music Award for Best Choreography, including the award he received for Michael Jackson and Janet Jackson’s music video/short film “Scream”. Payne’s two Emmy nods came for his work with Michael Jackson on his groundbreaking, iconic MTV Awards opening segment in 1995, and in 2006 for his work on Disney’s “The Suite Life of Zack and Cody”. He also garnered an Obie award for his trailblazing choreography and imaging for The Gap’s “Khaki Swings” campaign, TV spots that generated $1 billion in revenue for the company and transcended advertising campaigns to become a pop culture touch-point that sparked a national resurgence of swing dancing.
One of Payne’s most influential recent projects was his work as Associate Director and choreographer for the much-anticipated Michael Jackson “This Is It” tour. After his untimely passing, Payne was a major contributor in creating and producing Jackson’s memorial service and was also the Associate Producer of the feature film “This Is It”, one of the most eloquent, respectfully intimate, moving tributes to artistic genius, generosity, and untiring love of craft ever created. His contributions to Jackson’s legacy has been acknowledged and honored in the Opus Book and by his sister Janet, who tapped him to help create and join her on stage for the Michael Jackson tribute performance at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards.
Payne’s stellar and still-growing list of global credits – 150+ household-name music artists, brands, live concert & stage shows, films, award shows, TV spots, and television shows – speaks not only to his powerful talent and excellent professional reputation, but also to his visionary ability to combine art, movement, music, visuals, branding, and business savvy into innovative alchemical blends. As a producer, music composer, and director as well as a choreographer and dancer, his artistic agility results in performances and properties that are truly elevated and evolved while still connecting and resonating powerfully with the public. While Payne’s extraordinary longevity and enduring status as an in-demand talent for high-profile projects is testament to his continuing evolution as a creative force, his strategic focus for the future promises an even broader application of his diverse talents. Travis Payne Productions, which he recently founded, offers the full scope of top-tier tools, services, strategies, and talent needed to take client projects from raw concept to solid success. Payne also has a dedicated personal interest in philanthropy, social consciousness, and talent development/mentoring. Inspired by Michael Jackson’s legacy to be more responsible residents of planet Earth coupled with his own clarity on the work that needs to be done for future generations, starting with Michael Jackson IMMORTAL by Cirque du Soleil as Principal Choreographer. Travis Payne is focused and moving forward toward an even more productive, pioneering, prolific future.