to the Official Nicholas Brothers Website
The two greatest tap dancers that ever lived-certainly the most beloved dance team in the history of entertainment are Fayard (born 1914) and Harold (born 1921-2000), the famous Nicholas Brothers.
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 Black Vaudeville acts, particularly the dancers, including such notables of the time as Alice Whitman, Willie Bryant and Bill Robinson. He was completely fascinated by them and imitated their acrobatics and clowning for the kids in his neighborhood. Harold watched and imitated Fayard until he was able to dance too, then apparently, he worked his own ideas into mimicry.
It seems that the Nicholas Brothers were immediately successful. Word soon spread through the city about their ingenuity and unique dancing abilities, and they were first hired for a radio program, "The Horn", and "Hardart Kiddie Hour", and then by local theaters, like the Standard and the Pearl. While at the Pearl Theater, the manager of the famous New York Vaudeville Showcase, The Lafayette, saw them. Overwhelmed by what he saw, he immediately signed them up for his theater.
From the Lafayette, the Nicolas Brothers opened at the Cotton Club in 1932 and astonished their white audiences just as much as the residents of Harlem, slipping into their series of spins, twists, flips, and tap dancing to the jazz tempos of "Bugle Call Rag". It was as if Fayard and his still younger brother had gone dance-crazy and acrobatic. Sometimes, for encores Harold would sing another song, while Fayard, still dancing would mockingly conduct the orchestra in a comic pantomime that was beautifully exaggerated. They performed at the Cotton Club for two years, working with the orchestras of Lucky Millinder, Cab Calloway, Duke Ellington and Jimmy Lunceford. During this time they filmed their first movie short, "Pie Pie Blackbird" in 1932, with Hubie Blake and his orchestra.
After this, their career began to gain momentum from the Cotton Club. The Nicholas Brothers then journeyed to Hollywood in 1934 to appear in the films "Kid Millions", "The Big Broadcast" (1936), and "Black Network".
The Broadway debut of the Nicholas Brothers was in the Ziegfeld Follies of 1936, in which such stars as Fannie Brice, Bob Hope, Eve Arden and Josephine Baker appeared. The Nicholas Brothers act at the Follies, stopped the show so consistently that Fannie Brice, who followed in a skit with Judy Canova, was always forced to fall back regularly on a line at her first opportunity: "Do you think we can talk now?", which made the audience laugh, and then become quiet.
It was their tour of England with a production of "Blackbirds" that gave the Nicholas Brothers an opportunity to see and appreciate several of the great European Ballet companies. Thoroughly impressed, they absorbed much of the techniques, and tried to incorporate certain ballet movements into their jazz dance patterns. In a short film that they made in London during this period, "Calling All Stars", (1937), this interpretative style is quite noticeable and intriguing to observe.
The impression that the Nicholas Brothers made upon Balanchine, the choreographer, was so unforgettable that he invited them to appear in the Rogers and Hart Musical, "Babes in Arms", for the 1937 Broadway season. The considered this a high point in their career because Balanchine was a ballet master and they learned many new stunts. Because of their skill, many people assumed that the Nicholas Brothers were trained ballet dancers.
In1938, the Cotton Club beckoned again, and it was during this engagement that they competed with the Berry Brothers, a Black acrobatic dance trio, in a legendary conformation, a sort of dance-fight for supremacy. The event is a part of show business history. During the 1940's, a long and brilliant association with Hollywood began, notably in a succession of marvelous dance sequences in six 20th Century Fox musical films.
The nightclub and concert circuit took over their career, and there were long tours of South America, Africa and Europe. In 1948 they gave a royal command performance for the King of England at the London Palladium. Later, they danced for nine different presidents of the United States.
The Nicholas Brothers have headlined shows all over the world. They have appeared in every major television show, nightclub and theater in America and performed for the troops in Viet Nam in 1965. The Nicholas Brothers have received many tributes and awards, which include: A star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, The Kennedy Center Honors (presented by president george bush), and an honorary doctorate degree from Harvard University. They are also proud of the some of students they have taught tap. They include Debbie Allen, Janet Jackson, and Michael Jackson.
The Nicholas Brothers talents are enduring, and they involve themselves in shows at will. The magic is there in every movement, as it shall always be. They are the greatest tap dancers that ever stepped on a stage.
Fayard and Harold Nicholas, whose careers span more than six decades, make up one of the most beloved dance teams in the history of dance - the Nicholas Brothers. Legends in their own time and most recently portrayed in the award-winning made-for-television documentary, "We Sing and We Dance," they are best known for their unforgettable appearances in Hollywood musicals of the 1930s and 40s. Their artistry and choreographic brilliance, as manifested in their unique style - a smooth mix of tap, ballet, and acrobatic moves - have astonished and excited Vaudeville, theater, film, and television audiences all over the world. According to "Who's Who in Hollywood", the Nicholas Brothers are "...certainly the greatest dance team ever to work in the movies."
At a very young age, soon after their professional debut in their home town of Philadelphia, the brothers became international stars of stage and screen, and 60 years later, they were the recipients of prestigious Kennedy Center Honors for their extraordinary contribution to American culture. Their activities continue. In April 1995, the Nicholas Brothers received the "Dance Magazine" Award around the same time as the opening of Harold's latest film, "Funny Bones", and in April 1996 they completed a very successful residency at Harvard and Radcliff as Ruth Page Visiting Artists in Dance.
Born into a show business family, the Nicholas Brothers honed their natural talents early on. Their parents were musicians and led the orchestra at the Standard Theater in Philadelphia. In 1932, the same year they made their first film, "Pie, Pie, Blackbird", with Eubie Blake, they opened at the Cotton Club, and remained there for two years straight, working side by side with the likes of Duke Ellington, Cab Callaway, and Ethel Waters. Samuel Goldwyn saw them at the fashionable club and invited them to California for their first Hollywood movie, "Kid Millions" (1934). Harold, in addition to his dancing abilities, was a natural comedian, impersonator, and singer, and was often featured by himself. His personal screen debut was in "The Emperor Jones", (1933), with Paul Robeson. Just after their first Broadway show "Ziegfeld Follies", the brothers went abroad for the first time to star in Lew Leslie's "Blackbirds", in 1936 in the West End of London.
When the brothers were honored with a retrospective of their work in films on the Academy Awards television special in 1981, on could recall with pleasure some of their early appearances on the screen of "The Big Broadcast" of 1936; with Gracie Allen and George Burns; in "Sun Valley Serenade", (1941); with the Glenn Miller Orchestra, featuring Dorothy Dandridge dancing with the brothers in the "Chattanooga Choo-Choo" number; in "Orchestra Wives" (1942), where they performed one of their most beautiful routines to Glenn Miller's music of "I've Got a Gal in Kalamazoo"; and in "The Pirate" (1948), in a dance with Gene Kelly.
The Nicholas Brothers were contracted to the Twentieth Century Fox studio in 1940 and made six films there. In all, they have made over thirty films, of which they themselves consider "Stormy Weather" (1943), their personal favorite. It features their now-classic, breathtaking staircase routine, their last appearance on film as a routine. Their lst appearance on film as a team was on of the highlights of MGM's 1985 compilation, "That's Dancing!"
Fayard had a dramatic role in "The Liberation of L.B. Jones (1970), and Harold's solo appearances include "Carolina Blues" (1944), in the spectacular Mr. Beebe number; "The Reckless Age" (1944); "Uptown Saturday Night" (1944), as Little Seymour, with Sidney Poitier, Bill Cosby, and Harry Belafonte; "Tap" with Gregory Hines and Sammy Davis, Jr.; Robert Townsend's "The Five Heartbeats, (1991); and "Funny Bones:, (1995).
The Nicholas Brothers' Broadway debut was in the Vincent Minelli-directed and George Balanchine-choreographed "Ziegfeld Follies" of 1936, with Bob Hope, Eve Arden, Fanny Brice, and Josephine Baker. Balanchine was so taken by the youngsters that he put them into the original Rodgers and Hart's "Babes in Arms:, (1937). Later, they starred in "St. Louis Woman", (1946). Here, Harold played Little Augie, the jockey hand, and introduced the now classic "Come Rain or Come Shine" from the Johnny Mercer / Harold Arlen score. Recent theatrical awards have included a Bay Area Theater Critics Circle Award for Best Principal Performance to Harold for "Stompin' at the Savoy", and a Tony Award for Fayard for co-choreographing the Broadway hit "Black and Blue" (1989). Harold has enjoyed taking over the lead in Ellington's "Sophisticated Ladies", the role of Mr. Magix in "My One and Only", and the role of Daddy Bates in "The Tap Dance Kid". The year before last, he originated the role of Dr. Rhythm, in "If These Shoes Could Talk" at the Milwaukee Repertory Theater.
In addition to the Kennedy Center Honors, the Nicholas Brothers have received numerous awards, including the Ellie, the Gypsy, and the American Black Lifetime Achievement Award. They were inducted into the first class of the Apollo Theater's Hall of Fame and the Black Filmmaker's Hall of Fame and received their star on Hollywood Boulevard. There have been film tributes at the National Film Theater in London, sponsored by the British Institute; at the D.C. Filmfest in Washington, C.C.; and at the JVC Jazz Festival in New York, to name a few. Most recently, the Players presented an evening of Nicholas Brothers films. The Cinematheque de la Danse in France is planning a film retrospective to honor the brothers later this year.
The Nicholas Brothers are the recipients of the 1998 Samuel H. Scripps American Dance Festival Award for Lifetime Achievement in Modern Dance, to be presented in June, and they are the subject of "Brotherhood in Rhythm"; The Jazz Tap Dancing of the Nicholas Brothers", a 1998 Ph.D dissertation at New York University by Constance Valis Hill.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY FAYARD!
89 years young on October 20th
On October 27th, Fayard will be honored by Career Transitions for Dancers at the New York City Center
November 8th - Washington DC Show
"Evening at the Cotton Club"
Both Fayard and his wife Katheryn Hopkins Nicholas will be appearing at the Sequoia Restaurant
*Harold Nicholas solo
**Fayard Nicholas solo
Night at the Golden Eagle (2002)
Broadway: The Golden Age, by the Legends Who Were There(2002)
Night at the Golden Eagle (2001)
**A Night at the Golden Eagle; 2000, Independent. (Adam Rifkin, director, Fayard Nicholas)
*Funny Bones; 1995, Suntrust Films. (Jerry Lewis, Leslie Caron, Oliver Platt, Harold Nicholas)
A&E Special, The Nicholas Brothers: We Sing and We Dance 1992
*The Five Heartbeats; 1990. Twentieth Century Fox .... (Harold Nicholas as...Sarge, Robert Townsend, Diahann Carroll)
*Tap; 1989, Hoofer Films/Tri-Star. (Gregory Hines, Sammy Davis, Jr., Harold Nicholas, et al)
That's Dancing!; 1985, MGM/UA (All-Star cast)
*Disco 9000; 1974 (Harold Nicholas)
That's Entertainment! 1974, MGM. (Fred Astaire, Bing Crosby, Gene Kelly, Judy Garland, Nicholas Brothers, et al) (archive footage)
*Uptown Saturday Night; 1974, Warner Brothers. (Sidney Poitier, Bill Cosby, Harry Belafonte, Harold Nicholas as....Little Seymour)
**The Liberation of L.B. Jones; 1970, Columbia. (Lee J. Cobb, Roscoe Lee Browne, Lola Falana, Fayard Nicholas)
*L'Empire de la nuit; 1963, UFA-Comacio, French (Eddie Constantine, Harold Nicholas as...Sidekick)
Pathe News Reel; 1948
Botta e Riposta; 1951, Italian.(Louis Armstrong, Nicholas Brothers, Jack Teagarden, Earl Hines)
The Pirate; 1948, MGM. (Gene Kelly, Judy Garland, Nicholas Brothers)
Dixieland Jamboree; 1946, Vitaphone short subject. (Cab Calloway, Adelaide Hall, Nicholas Brothers)
*Carolina Blues; 1944, Columbia. (Ann Miller, Kay Kyser, Victor Moore, Harold Nicholas, Four Step Brothers.)
*The Reckless Age; 1944, Universal. (Gloria Jean, Henry Stephenson, Harold Nicholas, Delta Rhythm Boys.)
Take It or Leave It; 1944, Twentieth Century Fox. (Phil Baker, Phil Silvers, Buster Keaton, Nicholas Brothers.)
Stormy Weather; 1943
Orchestra Wives; 1942, Twentieth Century Fox. (George Montgomery, Glenn Miller, Jackie Gleason, Cesar Romero, Nicholas Brothers.)
Sun Valley Serenade; 1941, Twentieth Century Fox. Sonja Henie, John Payne, Glenn Miller, Milton Berle, Nicholas Brothers, Dorothy Dandridge, Nicholas Brothers.)
The Great American Broadcast; 1941, Twentieth Century Fox. Alice Faye, John Payne, Jack Oakie, Nicholas Brothers, Ink Spots.)
Tin Pan Alley; 1940, Twentieth Century Fox. (Alice Faye, Betty Grable, Don Ameche, Carmen Miranda, Nicholas Brothers)
Down Argentine Way; 1940, Twentieth Century Fox. (Betty Grable, Don Ameche, Carmen Miranda, Nicholas Brothers.)
Calling All Stars; 1937, British Lion. (Larry Adler, Ambrose & His Orchestra, Elisabeth Welch, Buck & Bubbles, Nicholas Brothers.)
My American Wife; 1936 MGM. (Francis Lederer, Ann Sothern, Billie Burke, Nicholas Brothers.)
The Black Network; 1936, Vitaphone short subject. (Nina Mae McKinney, Nicholas Brothers, Amanda Randolph.)
Coronado; 1936, MGM. (Eddie Cuchin & His Orchestra, Jack Haley, Andy Devine, Leon Errol, Nicholas Brothers.)
The Big Broadcast of 1936; 1935, Paramount. (Bing Crosby, Burns & Allen, Cab Calloway, Jackie Oakie, Nicholas Brothers, et al.)
The All-Colored Vaudeville Show; 1935, Vitaphone short subject. (Adelaide Hall, Nicholas Brothers.)
Kid Millions; 1934, Samuel Goldwyn. (Eddie Cantor, George Murphy, Ann Sothern, Ethel Merman, Nicholas Brothers.)
*Syncopancy; 1933, Max Fleisher / Paramount short subject. (Stoopnagie & Bud, Harold Nicholas)
*The Emperor Jones; 1933, United Artists. (Paul Roberson, Fredi Washington, Dudley Digges, Harold Nicholas.)
Pie, Pie Blackbird; 1932, Vitaphone short subject. (Eubie Blake & his band, Nina May McKinney, Nicholas Brothers.)
The Nicholas Brothers Stage Credits:
*Harold Nicholas solo
**Fayard Nicholas solo
*If These Shoes Could Talk; 1993, Milwaukee, WI.
* My One and Only; 1992, Fayetteville, N.C.
*Sophisticated Ladies; 1992, Dallas, TX.
*Sophisticated Ladies; 1992, Houston, TX.
*Sweet 'n' Hot in Harlem, 1991, (choreography), Buffalo, N.Y.
*Sophisticated Ladies; 1991, Sacramento, CA.
*The Nutcracker; 1990, San Diego, CA.
*Sophisticated Ladies; 1989, Long Beach, CA.
*My One and Only; 1989, San Diego, CA.
*My One and Only; 1989, San Bernadino, CA.
**Black and Blue, 1989, (co-choreography), Broadway.
The Tap Dance Kid; 1985 & 1986, National Tour.
*Waltz of the Storch Boogie; 1984, Off-Broadway.
*Sophisticated Ladies; Las Vegas, NV.
*Stompin' at the Savoy; 1981, San Francisco, CA.
*Evolution of the Blues; 1978, San Francisco, CA.
Sammy on Broadway; 1974, Broadway.
*Free and Easy; 1960, Paris, France.
*Free and Easy; 1959, Amsterdam, Holland.
St. Louis Woman; 1946, Broadway.
Babe in Arms; 1937, Broadway.
Lew Leslie's Blackbirds; 1936, London, England.
Ziegfeld Follies; 1936, Broadway.
Nicholas Brothers Awards and Honors:
Dance Magazine Award; 1995
Gypsy Award presented by the Professional Dancers Society; 1994
Star on Hollywood's Walk of Fame; 1994
Flo-Bert Award; 1992
The National Black Media Coalition Lifetime Achievement Award; 1992
Kennedy Center Honors; 1991
Harbor Performing Arts Center Lifetime Achievement Award to Harold; 1991
Tony Award to Fayard for choreography of "Black and Blue"; 1989
DEA Award presented to Harold by the Dance Educators of America; 1988
"Ebony" Lifetime Achievement Award; 1987
Apollo Theater's Hall of Fame, First Class Inductees; 1986
Ellie Award presented by the National Film Society; 1984
Bay Area Theaters Critics Circle Award to Harold for Best Principal Performance in "Stompin' at the Savoy"; 1981
Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame; 1978
Fayard and Harold Nicholas
Fayard and Harold Nicholas whose careers span over six decades, make up one of the most beloved dance teams in the history of dance-The Nicholas Brothers. Legends in their own time, they are best known for their unforgettable appearances in more than 30 Hollywood musicals in the 1930s and '40s, Stormy Weather being their favorite. Their artistry, choreographic brilliance, and unique style, a smooth mix of tap, jazz, ballet and acrobatic moves, have excited and astonished vaudeville, theatre, film and television audiences all over the world.
Their natural talents were honed early on. Their parents were musicians and led the orchestra at the Standard Theatre in Philadelphia. In 1932, the same year they made their first film, Pie, Pie Blackbird with Eubie Blake, they opened at the Cotton Club working with the likes of Cab Calloway, Duke Ellington, Ethel Waters, The Step Brothers and The Berry Brothers to name a few. Samuel Goldwyn saw them at the fashionable club and invited them to California to do their first movie Kid Millions (1934). In 1940 they were contracted to 20th Century- Fox where they made six films. The Brothers went Abroad for the First time after their First Broadway show Ziegfeld Follies with Bob Hope, Eve Arden, Fanny Brice and Josephine Baker, to London to star in Lew Leslie's Blackbirds of 1936. Fayard and Harold went on to star in many Broadway, Off Broadway, and theatre productions throughout the US and Abroad.
In 1981 the Brothers were honored with a retrospective of their work in films on the Academy Awards television special. Fayard received a Tony Award for his choreography in the Tony Award winning Broadway show Black and Blue in 1989. Harold has received the Dea Award (Dance Educators of America), Bay Area Critics Circle Award (Best Principal Performance, Stompin' at the Savoy ) and Harbor Performing Arts Center Lifetime Achievement Award. Other awards and honors include Black Film makers Hall of Fame (1978), Ellie Award (1984), National Film Society, Apollo theaters Hall of Fame (1986), First Class Inductees, Ebony Lifetime Achievement Award (1987), Kennedy Center Honors (1991), The National Black Media Coalition Lifetime Achievement Award (1992), Flo-Bert Award (1992), New York's Tap Dance Committee, Gypsy Award (1994), Professional Dancer's Society, Dance Magazine Award of 1995 (1995). In 1994 the Brothers received their long overdue STAR on Hollywood's Walk of Fame. Their achievements and appearances are too numerous to mention here. According to Who's Who in Hollywood, The Nicholas Brothers are "...certainly the greatest dance team ever to work in the movies."
[Note: A documentary is often shown on PBS stations called "We Sing, We Dance: The Nicholas Brothers" which includes interviews and film clips of their performances. The Internet Movie Database provides a filmography of Harold Nicholas and Fayard Nicholas with links to each film.]
Amazing Feet: The Nicholas Brothers
by Caroline Palmer
From childhood performances alongside Cab Calloway to thrilling scenes in Hollywood musicals, the dancing Nicholas Brothers were always tapped for greatness
The best popular dancers of this century stand out for their signature styles. Fred Astaire brought effortless grace to every step, Cyd Charisse swept elegantly across the stage, and Gene Kelly radiated charm. When it comes to the Nicholas Brothers, a single scene from the 1940 film Down Argentine Way speaks for itself: They enter dressed in spotless eveningwear and start tapping at a clean clip, every part of their bodies engaged in motion. Before you know it, Harold and Fayard Nicholas are turning cartwheels and flips, landing in the splits, and moonwalking before Michael Jackson was ever the Thriller. They always return, then, to a perfect tempo, nary a thread out of place--a flawless marriage of flash and control. Such moments have led other master movers like Mikhail Baryshnikov to say, "They are probably the most amazing dancers I've seen. Those guys are perfect examples of pure genius."
Please fasten your seat belts for takeoff:
Fayard Nicholas and younger brother Harold
(airborne) in a publicity shot from Stormy Weather
Few people can say "Show business is my life" without sounding a bit cornball, but at 85 years old, Fayard Nicholas is simply stating a fact. As the elder half of the duo who tapped their way through Harlem's hottest nightclubs, Broadway, Hollywood, and the world, Fayard is the consummate entertainer.
Interviewed by telephone at the Motion Picture and Television Country House, a retirement home in Woodland Hills near Los Angeles, Nicholas shares the story of his life in the spotlight. And he jokes about how he and his brother have finally received some props over the past decade, in the form of a Kennedy Center Honor and a star on Hollywood's Walk of Fame; next year they'll receive a special Oscar.
It was the 13-year-old Fayard's idea to pull together an act with Harold (who was just 7 at the time), and in 1930 they stormed the stage in Philadelphia as the Nicholas Kids. "I always liked show business," recalls Nicholas, whose parents played in the Standard Theater Orchestra at the time (mom on piano, dad on drums) accompanying stars like Louis Armstrong, Buck and Bubbles, and Bill "Bojangles" Robinson. "Before I became a professional entertainer I always went to the theater where my parents played, and I liked what I saw onstage," Nicholas recalls. "I taught myself how to perform. Never had a lesson. Then I taught my brother." Over the years, however, Harold developed unique skills of his own. "He sings in five languages," brags Nicholas. "And he knows exactly what he's singing!"
It didn't take long for the youngsters to get noticed in New York's big venues, not to mention on Broadway, where they performed in The Ziegfeld Follies of 1936 and Babes in Arms among other shows. "First we were at the Lafayette Theater in Harlem, then the manager of the Cotton Club wanted us to be in a show," recounts Nicholas, adding that his parents gave up their orchestra gigs to oversee the boys' skyrocketing career. "Duke Ellington, Cab Calloway, Bill Robinson--they were all there. And Lena Horne was a chorus girl," he continues. "Nobody wanted to follow us. We were the showstopper. The audience just wanted more and more."
One evening, says Nicholas, Calloway called the brothers on to the stage after learning that Harold liked to imitate him. "He said, 'You do me,' to my brother. And my brother said, 'I'll do "Minnie the Moocher,"' and the microphone came down from the ceiling, but my brother could not reach it. So the waiter brought out a table and Cab lifted my brother up onto it. He started saying, 'Hi dee hi dee ho' and soon everyone was saying it. Cab was beaming. We had to do it every night after that."
The Nicholas Brothers' popularity grew, and they continued tapping with nearly impossible skill, performing numerous encores and generally wearing themselves out. "When we first started out in Philadelphia, we'd just dance and dance. Oh jeepers!" he exclaims. "The audience would finally let us go. But we said, 'Something has to be done! Let's talk to the people, let's do singing, let's play the drums.' So we opened up with a dance, not too strenuous, and then my brother would sing a song like 'Lady Be Good.' I would then direct the orchestra with my hand, my elbows, my teeth. The audience loved it. Then we'd close with a big dance. We were versatile, we could do so much."
Hollywood also welcomed the brothers, and the studios cast the hot-footed East Coast hoofers in numerous films. In the 1943 musical Stormy Weather, for example, the young men were reunited with fellow Cotton Club performers Lena Horne, Calloway, and Robinson (as well as Fats Waller and another dance icon, Katherine Dunham). It's a period Nicholas remembers fondly, and he is dismayed that the brothers' work was satirized by two characters called "Flash" and "Grin" in Savion Glover's Broadway hit Bring in 'Da Noise, Bring in 'Da Funk. "Don't try to bring the Nicholas Brothers or Hollywood down," says Nicholas, his jovial tone turning serious. "He was saying the studios used us. But we could do what we wanted to do. There was no dictator. Why bring us down? We are the ones who made it possible for them to be where they are today."
While Nicholas is quick to defend his experiences, he also recognizes that tap has evolved significantly over the course of his 70-year career. "It's a different type of dance today. When my brother and I were doing movies and stage, we would always wear nice tails and tuxedos, real sharp. We had class and personality. We practiced and rehearsed. The dancers today improvise. They just think about their feet. We used our bodies and our hands." He adds with a knowing chuckle, "When young dancers of today see these old films, they are amazed. 'Oh, Mr. Nicholas,' they say. 'I've never seen anything like that. How do you do that?'" He seems to shrug over the phone. "We were the pioneers."
Still, Nicholas sees hope for the next generation in the form of granddaughters Nicole and Cathy (ages 13 and 11) who perform as--what else?--the Nicholas Sisters. They will deliver a Nicholas Brothers routine on Sunday. And as for the original Nicholas Brother? "I'm a little under the weather, but I still have a sense of humor," he says, just two days before flying off to an engagement in Sweden. "I'm still rolling along. I'll do a little shim sham shimmy, but I can't do what I used to do. I'd be crazy if I tried to do a split now. My mind says I can do it, but my body says no way!"