photo: Polk Imaging
“This season of America’s Best Dance Crew coming up is going to blow people’s minds. It has some of the best dancing you’ll see. There are at least four routines on the first episode that I think should be nominated for an Emmy,” declares Napoleon D'umo, one half of the two-time Emmy-winning choreography team known as Nappytabs, about the comeback season of MTV’s much-loved dance competition.
Yes, after a three-year hiatus, America’s Best Dance Crew is back in an all-star format, starting Wednesday, July 29 — with past winners like Season 2’s Super Cr3w, Season 3’s Quest Crew, Season 4’s We Are Heroes, Season 6’s i.aM.mE, Season 7’s Elektrolytes, and Kinjaz, a crew featuring members of Kaba Modern, the LXD, and original ABDC champs Jabbawockeez. And Nappytabs, supervising choreographers for the first seven seasons ABDC, are back as the series’ executive producers.
To celebrate the return of ABDC, Napoleon and his partner in love and dance, wife Tabitha D'umo, got all nostalgic and chatted with Yahoo Music’s Reality Rocks about their favorite ABDC routines of all time. Here they are, in no particular order… plus a bonus pick of my own!
Beat Freaks, Illusion Challenge (Season 3)
TABITHA: Just the illusion that they created and how smart they were with it makes this a favorite. Every crew had to overcome how to incorporate a magic trick into their choreo, and Beat Freaks did it better anyone.
NAPOLEON: [I like this] mainly because I was involved in it, because I was controlling the ball! [laughs]
TABITHA: Napoleon and another gentleman were in the bleachers, tethered…
NAPOLEON: Hey, don’t blow the gag!
YAHOO MUSIC: Was the ball on wires? It really looks like it was floating, and operated via remote control…
NAPOLEON: Ha, we didn’t have the budget to have a remote-controlled ball! That would have been awesome! No, this had to be super-choreographed, with us doing the ball and them doing the choreography. The timing had to be exact.
TABITHA: If there was one little error, they would have tripped up. The timing was imperative!
Poreotix, Regional Finals (Season 5)
NAPOLEON: The reason this was one of my most memorable routines is behind the scenes, producer-wise, everybody thought it was going to be a bomb. They all fought it: “No, we can’t do country music, that’s corny; this is a hip-hop show, blah blah blah.” I said, “You guys have to take a chance!” They had to understand how talented these crews are and how the crews can dance to numerous things, all types of music. With this one, [producers] fought it, but when they saw it, it was amazing. Everybody loved it; they all went crazy. It also identified Poreotix not only as the visual poppers that they are, but showed they’re actually funny.
TABITHA: They didn’t want to do the typical “ABDC-ize” thing and overtrick it. They wanted to do the exact opposite. It was a risk for them to do not super-high-energy music, but it worked out.
Champions for Charity All-Star Opening Number (Season 5)
NAPOLEON: This was obviously a huge one for us. After five seasons, this was the first time everyone came back, so we treated the crews as royalty. This was just visually stunning. It reminds me of what’s going on this season, with the all-stars.
Illusion Challenge All-Star Opening Number (Season 5)
TABITHA: With this one, we got to utilize the stage in a different way. We took the crews, introduced them one at a time, traveling from backstage to the stage.
NAPOLEON: Lil’ Mama was in the routine; we had a crazy magic-trick dress change with her. And at the end, everybody disappeared and Mario Lopez appeared.
TABITHA: There was so much production involved, with the set pieces, the wardrobe, all tied together in one.
NAPOLEON: We submitted that one for an Emmy. Unfortunately, it didn’t make it. But it was one of those routines that we thought was that strong.
i.aM.mE, Rihanna Challenge (Season 6)
TABITHA: When Chachi [Gonzalez] skates across the dancers’ backs, it almost looks like they’re floating. It was just the most clever visual moment I’d seen in a long time.
NAPOLEON: Such smart movement.
TABITHA: I think Phillip Chbeeb and this crew brought something to ABDC that hadn’t been seen. They called it “brain-banging” — and it certainly banged my brain!
Quest Crew Finale Performance (Season 3)
NAPOLEON: They created their own music, played the piano live, and then D-Trix [Dominic Sandoval] jumped on the piano and did a headspin. It was their best performance ever.
Jabbawockeez, “Robot Remains” (Season 6)
NAPOLEON: We built a big, giant mask that actually still exists today in Jabbawockeez’ offices. The mask flew down, they came out from behind the mask, and it was pretty iconic.
Super Cr3w, Bring the Beat Challenge (Season 2)
NAPOLEON: Probably not a lot of people remember this one… but I remember it!
TABITHA: Oh! So good! I think you’ll be surprised if you go back and revisit it, because this one was definitely action-packed.
Reality Rocks’ Honorable Mention:
OK, so I couldn’t resist adding my own favorite routine to Nappytabs’ already impressive list: Fanny Pak’s savagely epic and literally bloody great “Get Ur Freak On,” from the Missy Elliott Challenge of Season 2. Fanny Pak were so robbed that season that MTV brought them back for Season 7 (when they were robbed again). Between those two seasons, this insanely creative crew delivered 18 eye-poppingly neon-bright performances — but “Get Ur Freak On” still stands out as the funkiest and freakiest of them all. Fanny Pak creator Matt Cady has gone on to become a much-sought-after choreographer, even working on Madonna’s 2012 MDNA tour.