The Nicholas brothers rose to fame and stardom from their humble beginnings in Philadelphia by pioneering and redefining tap dance in the 1930s. On Sunday January 25, 2015 I attended a star-studded gala event that honored and paid tribute to Hollywood’s greatest tap-dance team, Fayard Nicholas and his brother Harold. The event took place at the historic 1,400-seat Alex Theatre in Glendale, California.
Emmy Award winner Stan Taffel hosted the event. In attendance were Nicholas family members and special guests including Nichelle Nichols (“Lieutenant Uhura” in the Star Trek television series); Gloria Hendry (“Rosie Carver” in the Roger Moore James Bond classic Live and Let Die); and band leader and tap dancer Chester Whitmore.
My interest in the Nicholas Brothers peaked when my daughter Michele Weaver was cast to play Dorothy Dandridge, who was married to Harold Nicholas for seven years. Tegan Summer, Prospect House Entertainment CEO, produced and directed the tribute, which thrilled attendees with film clips, live routines, and never-before-seen home movie footage.
The Nicholas Brothers never had formal dance training, but their incredible talent caught the attention of Hollywood producers, which led to them being cast in many films. Producer Samuel Goldwyn invited the brothers to be a part of Kid Millions, their first Hollywood film. By 1932, they were a featured act at the Cotton Club, working with the orchestras of Cab Calloway, Duke Ellington, and Jimmy Lunceford. Fayard and Harold Nicholas became legends who transcended race and time.
The film Stormy Weather, produced and released by 20th Century Fox in 1943, showcased the Nicholas Brothers as one of the top African-American performers in an era when African-Americans rarely appeared in lead roles in mainstream Hollywood.
Fred Astaire called the Nicholas Brothers’ performance in Stormy Weather “The greatest dance number ever filmed.” After watching the film clip, I definitely have to agree with Fred Astaire. The Nicholas Brothers were, in my opinion, pure genius.
I am so honored I had the chance to meet Fayard Nicholas’ son Tony Nicholas and his two granddaughters Nicole and Cathie Nicholas.
At the end of the tribute, the Nicholas family made an appeal to the audience with the following statement: “Our goal is to keep the legacy of Tap and the dance style of the Nicholas Brothers alive and well. If you share that vision, please stay in touch by email or mail to: The Fayard Nicholas Foundation, 10736 Jefferson Blvd, Suite 373, Culver City, CA 90230 or [email protected]”[amazon template=iframe image&asin=0815412150][amazon template=iframe image&asin=B000BOH922]