Recently, Black dance icons’ granddaughter Nicole Nicholas talked about the Nicholas Brothers.
“They are your favorite dancers’ favorite dancers,” Nicole said.
The Nicholas Brothers consist of the dynamic pair Fayard Nicholas and Harold Nicholas.
“Even if people do not know them, the people that they do know were admirers of them and their work,” she elaborated. “And if you see them and you see any of their films, you’ll never forget.”
The Nicholas Brothers rose to prominence in the jazz industry during the Harlem Renaissance. They eventually appeared in worldwide and Hollywood films. Their unparalleled acrobatic dance techniques and tapping styles made them famous.
Plus, people remembered them for their musical performance “Jumpin ‘Jive”, which ended Stormy Weather in 1943.
Stormy Weather is in the spotlight as it is featured in the Academy Museum exhibit in the Stars and Icons section. The exhibition Regeneration: Black Cinema 1878-1971 focuses on the contributions of early black cinema pioneers.
The portion of the musical in which the brothers do many splits along the stairs and jump over each other remains unprecedented.
“The Stormy Weather routine is the greatest dance routine ever put on film,” Tony, son of Fayard, said. “That’s just not me saying that, but Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly and Gregory Hines. They all agreed that this is without a doubt the greatest dance routine ever put on film.”
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Talent of Nicholas Brothers
Additionally, the mega savage the duo made without rehearsing. This is nothing new for the Nicholas Brothers, though.
“What Fayard would say was that even though they didn’t rehearse it, they could see it,” Nicole stated.
Tony calls the performance the Nicholas Brothers’ signature number. Notably, it received much appreciation and recognition for its use in promoting Regeneration.
The performance was a milestone of their unending trials to go beyond what they had already accomplished. This comes every time they perform on screen. Remarkably, defying physical possibility is what highlights the split-sequence.
Tony giggles, recalling the number of people jokingly doubted his identity as Fayard’s son.
“After seeing them do that routine and coming down those steps, I don’t believe the Nicholas Brothers could have children,” viewers often said.
Although the exhibit might highlight the Stormy Weather performance, Tony and Nicole look forward to Regeneration opening a door for Nicholas Brothers’ recognition.
“The Nicholas Brothers would say that they did everything in show business except opera,” Nicole added. “They did comedies. And they did impressions. They did Broadway. And they did movies. They did TV. And they did live theater. Harold spoke over five languages.”
She continued: “They were extremely versatile artists. Stormy Weather captures a bit of their genius in their artistry. But as artists, there were certainly much broader than that.”
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Regeneration on Museum
The family collaborated with the exhibit’s curators, Doris Berger and Rhea L. Combs. They decided on what to share from their collection. It brought the digitization of the Nicholas Brothers’ collection of home movies for posterity.
“The Nicholas Brothers always show up with class, style, and grace. After having to endure the racism of their peers, like Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly, did not have to endure,” Nicole contemplated.
Tony added: “Regeneration is opening up the whole idea of the Nicholas Brothers. They incorporated everything in their dance. And they did ballet, jazz, hip-hop, everything. I feel this from the bottom of my heart. They should be considered the greatest dancers that ever lived.”
Regeneration is currently open at Los Angeles’ Academy Museum through April 9, 2023.