Thursday, November 27, 2014

The Nicholas Brothers were a Famous African-American team of Dancing Brothers

The Nicholas Brothers were a famous African-American team of dancing brothers, Fayard and Harold. 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 1990s.The Nicholas Brothers grew up in Philadelphia, the sons of college-educated musicians who played in their own band at the old Standard Theater, their mother at the piano and father on drums. By the time Fayard 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. Fayard often imitated their acrobatics and clowning for the kids in his neighborhood. Neither Fayard nor Harold had any formal dance training.  Fayard taught himself how to dance, sing, and perform by watching and imitating the professional entertainers on stage. Harold idolized his older brother and learned by copying his moves and distinct style. As word spread of their talents, the Nicholas Brothers became famous in the city. The manager of The Lafayette, a famous New York vaudeville showcase, saw them and immediately wanted them to perform for his theater. The Brothers moved to Philadelphia in 1926 and gave their first performance at the Standard a few years later. By 1932 they became the featured act at Harlem's Cotton Club, when Harold was 11 and Fayard was 18. They astonished their mainly white audiences dancing to the Jazz tempos of "Bugle Call Rag" and 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 In 1948, they gave a royal command performance for King George VI at the London Palladium. Later, they danced for nine different Presidents of the United States.                                                                    

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