As the ball drops Thursday night in Times Square and Jennifer Lopez performs her hits on "Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve with Ryan Seacrest 2010," Galloway native Tabitha D'Umo is behind the scenes, supervising and choreographing the superstar's routine with her husband, Napoleon D'Umo.
Working on Thursday night's production for millions of people is nothing new for D'Umo, whose mother, Cynthia Cortopassi, lives in Egg Harbor Township. The Absegami High School graduate and Los Angeles resident can be seen on Fox's "So You Think You Can Dance," where she and her husband earned an Emmy nomination this year for outstanding choreography on the show and choreographed a number for the Emmys that was performed live.
The D'Umos also serve as supervising choreographers for MTV's "America's Best Dance Crew," choreographed Lopez's highly buzzed-about routine on this year's "American Music Awards," worked on a video for Carrie Underwood's recent Christmas album, and performed with and choreographed major tours for artists that include Celine Dion, Christina Aguilera and Ricky Martin.
D'Umo and her husband have been credited with inventing lyrical hip-hop, and they even have their own hip-hop clothing line, Nappytabs, a conglomeration of their names.
The new year may prove to be even brighter for the duo as they will appear in the dance documentary "Move" and are assisting with choreography on "Viva Elvis," the new Cirque du Soleil show at the Aria Resort & Casino at CityCenter in Las Vegas.
"It's all kind of crazy," Tabitha D'umo said. "My mom sent me to dance classes, singing lessons, acting lessons, piano lessons, everything under the sun in hopes that I would gravitate to something, and it was always dance. I didn't even think of it as a career choice - I was a communications major at UNLV - because in the era I grew up, dance was not as popular as it is now. But when I met Napoleon, who was in pre-med, I loved what we shared in common. We started doing it together, worked in Vegas and realized that this could be our big job. Before we started ‘So You Think You Can Dance,' I never even thought of something like an Emmy nomination. But it was totally thrilling, unexpected and appreciated. To be nominated with all of the other great choreographers from all the dance shows out there was amazing. It was a great year."
‘Milk N Kookies' pay off
A Web site where adults role play as virtual children may be a foreign concept to some. But for a local church, there was nothing virtual about $3,000 worth of food and toys being delivered Dec. 23 to help needy families for the holidays.
Ocean City's George Stebbins, 29, and Shaun Burtchaell, 26, are Koffeekid Smalls and Yuki Eliot on "The Milk N Kookies Show," a live weekly broadcast that airs in a virtual world called Second Life, where more than 1,000 people listen weekly.
Last year, they used the radio show to raise about $1,200 to purchase more than 400 pounds of food, clothes and toys for the Community FoodBank of New Jersey, Southern Branch.
This year, they raised more than $3,000 and are adopting 50 children and 20 adults at Northfield's Church of God of Prophecy, which is also a food bank that feeds more than 800 families a month.
"The money came from people all over the world ... Germany, France, Spain. ..." said Stebbins, who was motivated by his own childhood memories of not having much around the holidays. "I knew there would be no Christmas presents, no big meal, and I certainly wasn't getting the Game Boy I wanted. We could barely afford to eat at all, and deep down my parents were far more hurt by the lack of toys than we were. So it's an incredible experience to do this. We went around and bought all these gifts and wrapped them. We're pretty exhausted. It was more than we ever expected."
The engine that could
Pleasantville's Gene Washington's 2008 Nissan Versa needed a new engine. But Washington, who worked for the city's school board for 35 years before retiring, simply didn't have the $3,000.
The car sat in the lot of Fred's Complete Auto Repair on North Main Street in Pleasantville since July while Washington was trying to save money to fix it.
Then Egg Harbor Township's Burt Wright, the garage's service manager, had an idea. He saw some Philadelphia businesses actually giving away cars for charitable purposes. So he thought, "Why not help this nice lady out?"
Using his contacts, he got other area businesses involved in getting Washington's car back on the road. Pleasantville's Advance Auto Parts and East Coast Wholesale Tires, along with Egg Harbor City's East Side Quality Used Auto Parts and Galloway's Al's Online Auto Parts got involved by donating parts. American Tang Soo Karate Academy in Pleasantville donated some money, as did Dan Mohr, a Brigantine resident and customer at Fred's, and Jim Dutton, a distributor for Snap-On tools.
They presented the car, which also received new brakes, to a surprised Washington on Christmas Eve morning.
"She had no idea," said Wright, who also presented the woman with a year's worth of oil changes and some other auto-related goodies. "We were just hoping she didn't have a heart attack. This is something we never did before, but of all the people we deal with, she just seemed the most deserving. She is just a nice lady. It feels good to do something like this."
Harrah's Entertainment collected 900 toys for the U.S. Marine Corps' Toys for Tots drive from its five local properties - Harrah's Resort, Bally's Atlantic City, Caesars Atlantic City, Showboat Casino Hotel and the Atlantic City Country Club in Northfield, where employees were asked to donate new, unwrapped toys. ... Harrah's Entertainment also provided Christmas dinners for more than 30 needy families Dec. 23. Families received a turkey, stuffing, potatoes, vegetables, cranberry sauce and homemade gingerbread cookies prepared by Harrah's Executive Chef Ed Batten and his culinary team. The meals were prepared and packaged so they could be reheated on the holiday. Vice President of Public Affairs Alyce Parker and "her elves" delivered the meals throughout the city with assistance from the security department. ... Students from the Academy of Health Sciences and Medicine and from the Medical Assistant and Introduction to Health Careers classes of the Atlantic County Institute of Technology visited area nursing homes Dec. 15 and 22 to spread some holiday cheer. Students from ACIT also collected more than 1,500 nonperishable items for the Community FoodBank. ... Atlantic County Alternative High School students donated clothes, toys and books to the Atlantic City Rescue Mission on Dec. 17 as part of a month-long service learning project. Along with donated items, they used proceeds from a fundraiser to purchase a Sony Wii for Gilda's Club's Noogieland to benefit children and adult cancer patients.
Regional Bureau Chief W.F. Keough contributed to this column.
Everyone Has a Story appears Sundays and Wednesdays. To share your story, call Scott Cronick at 609-272-7017 or e-mail him at email@example.com.