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|Also Known As:||Harold Nicholas, Fayard Nicholas||Died:|
|Born:||Cause of Death:|
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Bayonne ( 2010-04-01 )
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The Nicholas Brothers were a famous African-American team of dancing brothers, Fayard (19142006) and Harold Nicholas (19212000). With their highly acrobatic technique ("flash dancing"), high level of artistry and daring innovations, they were considered by many the greatest tap dancers of their day. Growing up surrounded by Vaudeville acts as children, they became stars of the jazz circuit during the heyday of the Harlem Renaissance and went on to have successful careers performing on stage, film, and television well into the 1990's.
Fayard Antonio Nicholas was born October 20, 1914 in Mobile, Alabama. Harold Lloyd Nicholas was born March 27, 1921 in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.
The Nicholas Brothers grew up in Philadelphia, the sons of musicians who played in their own band at the old Standard Theater, their mother at the piano and father on drums. At the age of three, Fayard was always seated in the front row while his parents worked, and by the time he was ten, he had seen most of the great African American Vaudeville acts, particularly the dancers, including such notables of the time as Alice Whitman, Willie Bryant and Bill Robinson. Neither Fayard nor Harold had any formal dance training.
They became the featured act at Harlem's legendary Cotton Club in 1932, when Harold was 11 and Fayard was 18. They were the only entertainers in the African American cast allowed to mingle with white patrons.
In that exhilarating hybrid of tap dance, ballet and acrobatics sometimes called acrobatic dancing or "flash dancing," no individual or group surpassed the effect that the Nicholas Brothers had on audiences and on other dancers.
By 1940, they were in Hollywood and for several decades alternated between movies, nightclubs, concerts, Broadway, television, and extensive tours of Latin America, Africa, and Europe. One of their signature moves was to dance down a huge flight of broad stairs, leapfrogging over each other and landing in a complete split on each step. This move was performed in the finale of their most famous performance, the movie Stormy Weather.Fred Astaire once told the brothers that the "Jumpin' Jive" dance number in Stormy Weather was the greatest movie musical sequence he had ever seen. In that famous routine, the Nicholas Brothers fearlessly and exuberantly leap across the music stands of the orchestra and dance on the top of a grand piano in a "call and response" act with the pianist.
One of their signature moves was a "no-hands" split, where they went into the splits and returned to their feet without using their hands. Gregory Hines declared that if their biography were ever filmed, their dance numbers would have to be computer generated because no one could duplicate them. Ballet star Mikhail Baryshnikov once called them the most amazing dancers he had ever seen in his life.
The Nicholas Brothers taught master classes in tap dance as teachers-in-residence at Harvard University and Radcliffe as Ruth Page Visiting Artists. Among their known students are Debbie Allen, Janet Jackson, and Michael Jackson. Several of today's master tap dancers have performed with or been taught by the brothers: Dianne Walker, Sam Weber, Lane Alexander, Mark Mendonca, Terry Brock, Colburn Kids Tap/L.A, Channing Cook Holmes, Chris Baker, Artis Brienzo, Chester Whitmore, Tobius Tak, Carol Zee and Steve Zee.
Harold died July 3, 2000 of a heart attack following minor surgery. Fayard died January 24, 2006 of pneumonia (a complication from a stroke).
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