Fame and public recognition is generally seen as a positive thing. But sometimes life in the spotlight can result in a neagative change to a person’s personality, leading them to appear brash, over-confident – perhaps even arrogant. But this is definitely not the case with Travers Ross…
When I had the pleasure of personally meeting Travers, it was refreshing to meet someone who has had the experience of being in the limelight – courtesy of his raw talent – yet is so down to earth and genuinely humble.
Travers grew up on the Coffs Coast, and many people here would either have met him, or at least heard his name. Born into entertainment, with his mother Julie Ross running her own dance school locally, Travers discovered at an early age that creativity was in his blood – and his desire to express himself through that creativity has not waned as he has grown. In fact, his passion for dance and the arts appears to get stronger with each passing day.
Travers is best known as a dancer. Many locals know him as the brains behind the Utopian Dream dance festival, which brings together some of the best professional choreographers, performers and pioneers of dance. Utopian Dream gets the public involved in dance through a variety of performances, workshops, competitions, seminars and parties.
Hosting an event such as Utopian Dream right here in Coffs Harbour is Travers’ way of giving back to the community where he grew up and encouraging passionate young dancers to pursue their dream, regardless of the fact that they live in a regional area.
In addition to Utopian Dream, Travers has used his talent and passion for dance to branch out and share his unique and quirky style with the rest of the country … nay, the world.
When auditioning as a contestant for the reality TV show So You Think You Can Dance, the judges spotted Travers’ raw talent and instead of having him compete as a dancer, they invited him to choreograph a bundle of routines for the contestants to perform.
“It was a really cool learning experience. The pressure is insane – but I didn’t really take it on, though. I just kind of rocked up and had a good time with it,” Travers explains. “I was 22 when they got me, so I’m probably the youngest choreographer to do the show. It was one of those things where I was young and learning. At first, I was so nervous, because I’m standing there with 30 year old and 40 year old choreographers, and here’s this little 22 year old dude! It was very nerve wracking at first but once I kind of got the gist, it was great. By the sixth piece they were giving me falling snow, and they weren’t giving other choreographers props!”
But Travers’ achievements don’t stop there!
His knowledge and sense for great choreography, along with his ‘abstract movements’ and different ideas have landed him some amazing gigs composing dance routines for celebrities and professional dancers. His routines have featured as part of performances by the Sydney Dance Company, as well as being featured in film clips for pop sensation Brian McFadden. Travers himself has performed alongside artists like The Black Eyed Peas and King Kahn, as well as at several major dance festivals and popular events throughout Australia.
Although Travers has walked amongst the stars, he is still extremely grounded and shows an overwhelming amount of compassion for others. His desire to help people, especially children, express and discover themselves through the freedom of dance is evident on his face when he talks about his special projects in rural communities.
For the past seven years, Travers has worked for a company called Beyond Empathy, which goes into rural communities and uses the arts to influence change. This work has taken Travers to outback Australia, where he has worked with young indigenous children and shared with them a new way of expressing themselves.
“We use dance, film and music to bring the kids out of their ruts and whatever is happening in the community. It opens them up to expressing themselves through that to get (the negativity) out of their system, so they can start focusing on what they truly want to do.”
As Travers talks about his work with Beyond Empathy, you get a sense that he really believes in the importance of community pride and pride in oneself. These values are evident in his love and respect for the Coffs Coast region. He calls this place home, and it is a community that he has, and will, always support – because it has always supported him.
And I suppose that’s why, after several years of running the rat race in Sydney, that Travers has returned to Coffs ‘to heal’.
This latest part of his journey has seen him rediscover an old passion and resurrect it … his passion for creating music. After years of ‘having his finger in too many pies’, Travers has dropped everything to concentrate on a new and rather unique project … his dance fusion band, Motion Poets Art (MPA).
MPA is a Hip Hop / Rock Funk act, which Travers describes as having a new generation performance format – where the same artists who are playing the instruments are also the dancers.
“MPA is where live dance and live music meet to make the perfect crowd pleaser,” he explains. “We want to be known as the festival act not to be missed, because the energy of our live shows is really where it’s at.”
As part of their performances, you’ll see the boys from MPA do some amazing things, like backflips while playing guitar and some of the toughest breakdancing moves you can imagine.
MPA originally formed last year for Locally M.A.D.E festival in Bellingen. Travers credits the festival for being a huge support and launch pad for the band.
MPA is “a solid family of entertainers that share the love for their own original music.” The band is made up of Travers and nationally renowned performers he has met in his travels, including Brad Harrison, aka Bboy Yogi from Skill@Will, and Hilton Denis, a former contestant of So You Think You Can Dance. Gus McKay, the bassist for MPA, is a friend of Travers’ from primary school and their newest member, Eddie Carbury, walked straight into the role of guitarist.
“We were rehearsing for Locally M.A.D.E, and (Eddie) walked into our jam session with a 12 string guitar. He’d finished his Year 12 assessment that day, so he stepped up and played this John Butler song better than John Butler!” Travers explains. “Everything just kind of fell into place from there.”
After Locally M.A.D.E. they were invited to play other festivals, including Open Arms and Sky High. Travers says they have had none stop offers for performances since then.
“This act is so original and new, that we are growing extremely fast,” he explains. “We’ve never really seen anyone mix music and dance in this way before.”
Motion Poets Art is really important to Travers, so he has put all his other projects on hold for the time being to get the band up and running. He also feels that it is really important to get the Coffs Coast community involved in the band and give the local people a sense of inclusion with MPA.
“We want to record some film clips here and get the public down to join in and be a part of the action. We’re also keen on doing a few local gigs, like the recent one at the Coffs Hotel. We rehearse and jam up here, and Hilton comes up from Sydney to work with us.”
Travers says that the Coffs Coast is the real home of Motion Poets Art.
With Travers’ history of success in entertainment and the arts, and the wealth of experience and expertise that MPA has to draw upon from its members, I’m sure we will be seeing bigger and brighter things from the band in the not too distant future.
To find out more about Travers and MPA, visit wwww.traversross.com.au
Story by Kim Gould.