Nappytabs on being ‘Mobbed’
SYTYCD hasn’t started its season up yet, but Nappytabs fans can see the dance duo on Fox’s new limited series, “Mobbed,” tonight, 8 February 2012, 9 p.m. ET.
Fans of SYTYCD and even ABDC are familiar with Nappytabs and their lyrical hip hop style. For the uninitiated that’s the Emmy Award-winning choreographer husband and wife team of Tabitha and Napoleon D’umo. Last year, their one-off “Mobbed” TV special (30 March 2011) following “American Idol” was so successful, Fox ordered up eight more episodes.
Tonight’s episode promises drama. A 37-year-old Atlanta native Art has never met his father. Competing against some ringers, Art is auditioning for a chance to meet him, but he’s disqualified. Or is he? Host Howie Mandel and Nappytabs plan to give Art a big surprise for this dramatic reunion.
Other episodes have included a proposal (30 March 2011), a father who deserted his family and wants to re-enter his daughter’s life (23 November 2011), a pop-punk band member meeting his long-distance friend for the first time with the hopes of making their relationship more romantic (4 January 2012), a woman who has kept her marriage and child a secret (11 January 2012) telling her family and two brothers and band members attempting to patch up a feud (1 February 2012).
Los Angeles is quickly becoming the dance capital of the world, as the base for series like SYTYCD, ABDC, “Glee,” “Dancing with the Stars, ” the talent show “America’s Got Talent” and now “Mobbed.” Nappytabs are the supervising choreographers for ABDC, choreographing the group routines, designing the dance challenges and helping the crews fine tune their performances. They’ve also choreographed for Ellen Degeneres’s show and for Cirque du Soleil.
With Cirque du Soleil now making a firm hold of Las Vegas, the latter connection isn’t surprising. The couple met while studying at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Napoleon was born in Victorville, CA and has been a surgeon’s assistant in Germany while serving in the U.S. Army. He was majoring in molecular biology. Tabitha was a high-flying cheerleader, making All-American at the National Cheerleaders Association camp and performing at the Aloha Bowl in Hawaii while a student at Absegami High in New Jersey. At UNLV, she was majoring in communications when she met Napoleon.
Tabitha began taking hip hop classes at UNLV and was soon teaching them with Napoleon.
In a recent telephone interview, Tabitha commented that this all happened “really, really fast.” It’s hard to imagine germaphobic Mandel (remember Dan Sperry?), who is also an executive producer of the show, getting up close and real with sweaty dancers, but Napoleon says it truly is “a match made in heaven.”
Working with 500-1,000 people for a flash mob is very different from working with two aspiring and professional level dancers like on STYCD. Tabitha pointed out that on “Mobbed,” “Most of the dancers are non-professionals. Then there’s the time constraint. We have to do it all in one day.”
“We all go as a team and scout a location and discuss what would be a great performance and if this would work,” she related. Even Mandel has some ideas and that can make things more complicated.
Napoleon related, “Sometimes it is us trying to make it travel. We have to determine if it’s logistically possible to dance in a space. We may want this huge thing with 500 people, but they actually can’t fit into an area. We always want to do something bigger, bolder and crazier. It’s all about how you get there.”
And there is the goal of setting up some kind of situation between two people. Unlike just trying to get a reaction from an audience or the judges, here the team must think about the couple—the mark and the accomplice. He explained, “We’re doing the routine for the mark—a person who doesn’t know what’s going on. Sometimes it’s weird for me how they react. In the episode on last week, the mark freaked out and was about to leave the room.”
Tabitha added, “We have once chance to get it right. This is the most adrenaline we’ve every experienced on any project. We just hope the ruse goes well.”
That’s saying a lot when you consider Nappytabs were involved in one of the biggest televised events—the Super Bowl with Madonna. Although there were professional dancers on the main stage, “everybody on the field were all volunteers from the local Indiana area…the gladiators were just buff in shape guys who had never danced before. ‘Mobbed’ definitely prepared us for that.”
Nappytabs had a coordinator and “an army of people to put that production together” Tabitha explained. Videos were sent and studies were made. Isn’t that the beauty of the YouTube tuned in world? And, except for that one questionable hand gesture, went off well.
That’s similar to how they work for “Mobbed.” With the exception of 15 or so professional dancers, most of the people are recreational dancers or even non-dancers who “aren’t making a lot of money and they just want to be part of the show,” explained Tabitha. Nappytabs have learned a lot of patience. “It’s almost like being a cheerleader,” Tabitha commented. “You appreciate they are there and you can’t yell at them. You have to make it fun.”
So banish any memories you have of that strict , unsmiling dance teacher dripping in more sarcasm than sweat. That means all the yelling and screaming is within the team. Talk about stress! Tabitha commented, “On the day of the shoot, we’re the ones in the field making it happen, taking a risk.”
Tabitha said, “In the morning there is good energy, but by the afternoon, it is the toughest part of the day when we sink or swim. We feel that we’re only this far and have a couple of hours left.”
Napoleon chimed in, “There’s some serious tension going on between us, the director, the camera man and Howie. The producer calls and says something like this guy is going to blow the whole thing after all this work and then the mark doesn’t react the way you want them to react.”
After all, Tabitha noted, “We don’t know their personality. They can break down in another place where you wouldn’t have thought. There are always surprises when you’ve never met this person and don’t know much about them.”
Yet rough times brings people closer together. Consider one episode where Mandel was freaking out and would only let Tabitha pluck some errant nose hair—on camera. Tabitha has broken down that wall a bit, getting a few hugs from Mandel.
Yet what’s great is “Almost anything we dream up, we’re allowed to do,” Napoleon added. Nappytabs get to pitch creative ideas and themes and locations. They even got to do a synchronized swimming scene—and got the hair and makeup team on board for that.
What is surprising for them is “how much I cry at the end of every episode because everything feels so true, so real and so touching. When they leave, the professional dancers comment that they’ve never felt so good about something when they’re done. You’re doing something for someone else. You are really invested in it. That’s a cool emotion,” Tabitha explained.
Napoleon added, “A lot of these professional dancers have performed with people like Jennifer Lopez, Michael Jackson and Janet Jackson, but every single one of them tell us ‘this is the best job I’ve every had.’ It’s so amazing for them to say that. “
Through “Mobbed,” Napoleon commented, “We’ve become very good at using easy movements that look good on camera. There are only so many ways your bodies can step and move right to left.”
Tabitha added, “You can’t make big mob dances super complicated.”
That’s good advice for all of you future dance flash mob planners. If you’re planning a dance flash mob, Napoleon advises, “Think big and have fun.”
Tabitha quickly added, “Don’t get overly complicated. Use simple arm movements to stay in time and stay in rhythm.”
“Your big goal, remember, “ Napoleon advised, “is to get a reaction from your audience.”
Tabitha noted, “There are no rules to a flash mob. Create and tailor it to be what you feel you want it to be.”
You can get involved in “Mobbed” flash mobs by applying to Fox or following Nappytabs on Twitter or Facebook. They noted people from Germany, Canada, Thailand, Australia, Japan and England had participated in the show. Whole families come to participate.
Besides “Mobbed,” Nappytabs are slated to be part of SYTYCD during the summer and then, they’ll be involved in their own little production: their first child. With “American Idol” and SYTYCD, the couple are scheduled to be in Los Angeles which is a relief all things considered. The baby due date is a week after the SYTYCD finale. All this might make SYTYCD even more exciting.
For tonight, tune in and see how a flash mob is done by America’s most visible experts, Nabbytabs. “A Father Lost for 37 Years” episode of MOBBED, airing Wednesday, Feb. 8 (9:00-10:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX.
IF YOU’D LIKE TO BE IN THE FLASH MOB
Flash Mob participants needed!
The producers of MOBBED are looking for flash mob participants to take part in the FOX series during the months of September and October in the Los Angeles area.
If you are interested and are age 13 or older, please email us the following information at FlashMobShow@gmail.com: Name, Age, and Contact Information.