We continue with these little pieces on the personalities that form a huge chunk of So You Think You Can Dance: the judges, the choreographers, and of course, the host. This time, it’s the show’s married specialists in a genre all their own, Tabitha and Napoleon.
While prepping for our pocket guide to Tabitha and Napoleon D’umo, I was looking on their personal website. They’re selling all these hoodies and shirts and accessories, but there isn’t really anything about these two. Shame, because it would’ve been good dance movie material–two different beings going together because of love. Yeah, I know, that sounds a bit cheesy.
But let’s make this a story of two people. There’s Nappy, part-Filipino, raised in California, good in popping and locking. There’s Tabs, part-Italian, raised in New Jersey, initially trained in jazz, but studied hip-hop through MTV. In theory these two weren’t supposed to meet, but they did anyway. He joined the military before taking up molecular biology. She moved west to study communication. They ended up in the University of Nevada-Las Vegas, and there, they met.
Well, not just yet. They met while both were members of the dance group Culture Shock. It was 1996 when they began their dance partnership, and began choreographing industrial musicals for casinos and companies in Las Vegas. They got married a couple of years later, shortly after graduating, and they tossed aside their plans–he was to enter medical school, she was to work in public relations–and decided to work as choreographers full-time.
They began choreographing bits for artists such as Celine Dion, Missy Elliot, Beyonce Knowles and Toni Braxton, among others. And then they found themselves doing dance routines for the Grammys, the film Legally Blonde, and the Nickelodeon series Zoey 101. And then came America’s Best Dance Crew, the MTV dance show looking for the best in hip-hop dance groups; there they served as talent scouts and supervising choreographers. Then came this little-known show called Rock the Reception, where they choreographed wedding dances. Really.
And then came So You Think You Can Dance, where they undeniably shone the brightest. It took a song from Leona Lewis, a performance by Chelsie and Mark, and (then) guest judge Adam Shankman before their own brand of dance was a given a name. “we’ve really explored a totally new thing which is lyrical hip-hop,” Shanks said, “and you nailed it. This show has shown that hip-hop is just a completely legitimate beautiful genre in and of its own and you can tell such beautiful and heart breaking stories.” Imagine hip-hop that feels a bit contemporary–and that’s a description from someone who isn’t really a technical dance expert. That routine was later nominated for an Emmy.
Apart from their choreography, they work as teachers in several dance schools in Los Angeles, and also direct routines for the SYTYCD tour, several concert tours, and performances from ABCD graduates. And, yes, their clothing line. And all because they can’t stay away from each other. “We enjoy our work so much and we enjoy each other’s company and depend on each other,” Nappy said in an interview with the website LAist.
“If we didn’t have each other, we are so busy we wouldn’t have time to date,” Tabs added.
Other pocket guides:
– Henrik Batallones, BuddyTV Staff Columnist
(Image courtesy of LAist)