Choreographed Careers

Dancers and UNLV alums Napoleon and Tabitha D’umo return home to direct JabbaWockeeZ

Millions have seen their work on television’s Dancing With the Stars, America’s Best Dance Crew and So You Think You Can Dance. They’ve worked as backup dancers, music video choreographers and creative directors for various tours. Their star-studded résumé includes work with Beyoncé, Christina Aguilera, Celine Dion and Kanye West. But no matter how far they may roam, loyal UNLV alums Napoleon and Tabitha D’umo always keep coming back to Las Vegas. This time, it’s to direct JabbaWockeeZ’s residency, which is for a minimum of six months, at the Monte Carlo.

“We knew JabbaWockeeZ before working with them on Dance Crew,” says Tabitha, 37. “That’s why we get along so well. We all have the same sense of entertainment.”

Known to legions of fans as Nappytabs, the married dancing duo met in Las Vegas. They first caught eyes in front of the UNLV Student Union. Napoleon was working toward a molecular biology degree while Tabitha was majoring in communications.

“We were both around the fitness community,” says Tabitha, who was on the dance team and cheered. “So we’d go to the gym together and they had these amazing hip-hop cardio classes that we started taking just for fun, then it became part of what we did.”

They started the Vegas chapter of the hip-hop dance crew Culture Shock, which still exists as a nonprofit organization working with kids. Tabitha used her marketing skills to create video promos of the Vegas dance crew, sending it to convention organizers who were looking for entertainment.

“We got about 90 percent of our work through events that would happen in this city. Granted they were trucker or ambulance conventions, but not a lot of cities had these things so we were at an advantage.”

At the time, no one was interested in paying money to see hip-hop dancers; they wanted acrobatics or the Vegas standard, topless dancers. In response, Nappytabs marketed their style as “movement of pop culture” instead of hip-hop so they wouldn’t lose out on jobs. By giving it a different name, it heightened clients’ interest, yet in actuality, Nappytabs were bringing hip-hop to the suit-and-tie world.

“We’re known for this ‘lyrical hip-hop’ genre now,” Napoleon, 42, says. “That definitely came straight from competing with the Vegas industry. We had to think about the audience and what they wanted. So that’s when we really started honing all our skills for storytelling because we had to make it entertaining.”

And they’ve succeeded. “Whatever project we’re on, we have so much fun,” Napoleon says. “I could be sitting doing research in a small lab right now. I prefer this dance thing.”