Tabitha D'umo: So You Think You Can Dance
Tabitha D’umo is probably best known for her and her husband Napoleon’s amazing choreography work on So You Think You Can Dance and America’s Best Dance Crew.
The dynamic duo have worked with artists such as Kanye West, Carrie Underwood and Missy Elliot and are currently working with Jennifer Lopez. Swiggtalk caught up with Tabitha in between rehearsals at a studio in LA to talk about her life and what it takes to pursue your dream.
Swiggtalk: Can you tell us how you got into your career as a dancer and choreographer?
Tabitha: Well I’ve been a dancer all my life. My mom threw me into any kind of activities she could just to see what I would gravitate towards naturally and I always came back to dance. So it’s always been a part of my life, but to be honest I never really saw it as a career choice until I realized what opportunities were out there. All through high school I would dance, and put together dances, and I never knew it was considered ‘choreographing’ or that it could be a job for me!
Swiggtalk: Was there a defining moment when you realized you could make dancing a career for yourself?
Tabitha: I was in college, and on the dance team, and it was paying for school, which was great. And then I started dancing when I met Napoleon (her husband and co-choreographer) and we would do these hip hop classes just for fun because he was a b-boy. It was just for fun, just to have a good time. Then we did an audition for a dance company called Culture Shock and so we became a part of that dance company. Little by little it kept building and building and we became artistic directors for the company, and with my degree (Communications) we put together a press reel to help us get more bookings. We did all sorts of shows, and it really opened our eyes to the different opportunities.
Swiggtalk: You and your husband both were going to school for different degrees than what you’re doing now, what advice would you give to teen girls to follow their passions even if it’s not what they first thought they’d be doing with their life?
Tabitha: I would say you have to follow your gut in life. You have to go in the direction that’s going to make you happy. I had always been a dancer, and I’m a very practical person, so when I laid it all out, dance, degree, fear, stability, it would have been very easy for me to talk myself out of my dreams because there is risk to get there. Napoleon was really great because he’s more of a free spirit than I am and he pushed me to take the jump with him.
Swiggtalk: You’ve worked with some very famous female artists, which ones would you say embody what it means to be a strong woman in the entertainment industry?
Tabitha: Early on when I first moved to LA I got the opportunity to work with Beyonce and she is amazing. She works so hard and she is so passionate about what she does. You have to keep your eye on the prize and stay focused and not get caught up in the business. Right now I’m currently working with Jennifer Lopez and she too is amazing.
Swiggtalk: What have you learned from these artists about being a strong woman in the entertainment industry?
Tabitha: This is what I have to tell young woman… it’s your work ethic that is going to get you far, no matter what you do. I think maybe what’s different between my generation and teen girls today is that today everything is so instant, kids can get online and see something in Brazil or Africa on the internet, and everything is instantaneous. And that can translate into people expecting to see instant results when they are working towards a goal, and that doesn’t always translate. You can’t just get life experience because you go onto YouTube for a second. People sometimes get discouraged if they don’t reach their goals right away, but my advice for teen girls is to stick with it and to keep working on whatever they want to accomplish. Enjoy the journey. Enjoy the journey, and the hard work and the sacrifices and opportunities it takes to get somewhere, because it will all make you better at what you do when you arrive.
Swiggtalk: What is your Strength Within?
Tabitha: My strength within is my own pride. I want to be proud of whatever it is I’m doing. If I’m choreographing for someone’s wedding and it’s a two-minute dance for someone that has no coordination, I want to do as good of a job of that as I would for a huge project with Jennifer Lopez. I think my driving force is that I always strive for the best that I can do regardless, and I’m very hard on myself if I don’t… I don’t like to disappoint people, my word is my word. Be proud of what it is that you’re doing and you’ll do a better job.
Tabitha’s SYTYCD Choreographed Dances Playlist:
No Air- Jordin Sparks & Chris Brown
Bleeding Love- Leona Lewis
Like You'll Never See Me Again- Alicia Keys
Can We Chill- Ne-Yo
American Boy- Estelle feat. Kanye West
Move (If You Wanna)- MIMS
Seven Nation Army- The White Stripes
Love Lockdown- Kanye West
Whatcha Say- Imogen Heap