Fayard and Harold Nicholas, whose tap dancing made them international stars, are perhaps not well remembered today. However, with class, talent and incredible athleticism they opened doors that had previously been closed to African Americans.
The Nicholas Brothers, Imogen Smith of the Dance Heritage Coalition wrote, “…were the quintessential hard act to follow. Over the course of careers spanning more than six decades……they astounded audiences with their unique and virtuosic blend of tap, acrobatics, and jazz dance, developing a signature style that was simultaneously explosive and elegant. Starting out as child performers in vaudeville and nightclubs, they went on to star in Broadway musicals and Hollywood movies, where they were among the first African American performers to be featured in integrated films. Their exceptional talent, delightfully engaging personalities, and impeccable professionalism brought them success and popularity despite the entrenched racism and segregation of the entertainment business, which prevented them from achieving the level of recognition and opportunity that they deserved. While no one has been able to match their staggering feats—many of which, though captured on film, look humanly impossible—the style they pioneered has influenced generations of dancers with its rhythmic intricacy and full-bodied expressiveness….”
But you can judge for yourself why they were considered among the greatest tap dancers that ever lived. In this YouTube video, excerpted from the film “Stormy Weather”, the Nicholas brothers dance to Cab Calloway’s Jumpin Jive.