Napoleon and Tabitha D'umo
Napoleon and Tabitha D'umo talk nabbing two Emmy nominations, working together and their biggest inspiration.
Husband-and-wife choreographers Napoleon and Tabitha D'umo have each won a Primetime Emmy for the show-stopping hip-hop numbers they've created for Fox's So You Think You Can Dance — and they're nominated again this year.
When they're not choreographing for TV or the stage, they're directing, designing their Nappytabs dancewear line or maybe teaching their latest moves to their one-year-old son, London.
The following is an extended version of their "Me and My Emmy" interview, the popular back-page feature of emmy magazine, which appears in Issue #7, 2013.
Primetime Emmy Tally: One each.
How They Got the Gold: Outstanding choreography, 2011, for the hip-hop numbers "Scars," "Fallin'" and "Outta Your Mind" on Fox's So You Think You Can Dance.
Now for the Noms: In 2009 for choreography of "Bleeding Love" and, this year, for "Call of the Wild (Circle of Life)," "Love Cats" and "Beautiful People," all on SYTYCD.
The First Time: "When we were first nominated in 2009," Napoleon recalls, "everyone asked as we walked up the red carpet, 'Are you expecting to win?' And I said, 'I'm just excited to be here.' It was true. We were tickled to be nominated. Then, when we did not win, I looked at Tabitha and said, "Okay, now I want to win."
That Magic Moment: "I felt like a teenager in love for the first time," Tabitha says of their 2011 Emmy win. "I was jumping around," says Napoleon. "I couldn't believe we did it. I kept kissing Tabitha. Everyone was laughing. I remember telling the audience that it was Tabitha's birthday and that it was the best gift ever."
Happy Together: "We met in college and we grew together, as dancers and then as choreographers," Napoleon says. "We do all of our work together. Whenever we're separated, I think each of us questions our work until the other one sees it. Everything is always collaborative."
Sparks Fly: "Generally [our process] starts with the music," Tabitha says. "We find a song that speaks to us. The movement comes last — I can't figure out how I want to move until I hear the tone of the song."
Adds Napoleon: "For us, movement is the voice. Often with dance, you're not allowed to have dialogue, so how to do you speak to people? Sometimes we have a story that's close to us, and that sparks the whole thing. And sometimes it's the contestants on the show who spark the story we want to tell."
An Art Apart: "Everyone has this impression of what hip-hop should be," Tabitha says. "Nap and I love classic rock, so we try to push the envelope as much as we can." Adds Napoleon: "It's an art form, not just a street dance anymore. It can be beautiful and still be rough."
Proud Parents: "We choreographed 'Call of the Wild (Circle of Life)' three weeks after Tabitha gave birth to our son, London," Napoleon says. "We didn't know if we could get back on our feet so soon, but we did — and the dance is our way of telling the world that London is our Simba, from The Lion King. It's so amazing that we got nominated for that!"
Place of Honor: "We keep one [Emmy] in our home office," Napoleon says, "and one inside our Nappytabs store in North Hollywood, where we sell a clothing line called Nappytabs."
Adds Tabitha: "When we started our line, we came up with name because people on the lot would call him Nappy and me, Tab. But when everyone began wearing our clothing on the show — and on Dancing with the Stars — somebody mentioned that there was a lot of Nappytabs clothing being seen. A sponsor didn't like it, so [SYTYCD executive producer and judge] Nigel [Lythgoe] said he was going to start calling us Nappytabs, so that whenever anyone Googled the name, our store site would come up. And it took off."
In Good Company: The D'umos have joined the ranks of legendary choreographers Bob Fosse and Hermes Pan, who were also Emmy winners. But, says Tabitha: "I still don't consider myself at that level."
Napoleon observes: "They both went to become amazing directors, and that's where we want to. But I wouldn't even put our name near those names. Hermes collaborated with one of greatest dancers and choreographers of all time [Fred Astaire], and we're not there yet — maybe twenty years down the line."