Nicholas Brothers

Nicholas Brothers, African-American tap dance team consisting of Fayard Antonio Nicholas, 1914–2006, b. Mobile, Ala., and Harold Lloyd Nicholas, 1921–2000, b. Winston-Walem, N.C. Performing on stage and in films, they combined dance genres—tap, jazz, and ballet—in polished routines that spotlighted their elegantly sophisticated style, fine timing, complex step patterns, and superb athleticism—particularly their spectacular mid-air splits. Sons of vaudeville musicians, they made their debut in 1928 on their parents' show circuit. Four years later they opened at Harlem's Cotton Club and appeared in their first film short. In 1934 they danced in Kid Millions, the first of their many Hollywood movies, which also include The Big Broadcast of 1936 (1935), Down Argentine Way (1940), Sun Valley Serenade (1941), Stormy Weather (1943, in which they performed their famous "Jumpin' Jive" routine), and The Pirate (1948, their last movie together). The brothers also appeared in many stage productions, including Broadway's Ziegfield Follies (1936) and Babes in Arms (1937), and on television. Late in their careers, both brothers did solo work as dancers and in dramatic roles.

See C. V. Hill, Brotherhood In Rhythm: The Jazz Tap Dancing of the Nicholas Brothers (2000).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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