Jelani Hasan is a winner of the “Achieving Greatness Through Choices” Black History essay contest at the Charles M. Finley Recreation Center in East Mt. Airy/West Oak Lane. The contest concluded on the last Saturday in February, Black History Month. But since Black History is a critical part of American History, and so is important anytime, NewsWorks will run each winner’s piece here. Below is Jelani’s complete essay.
The Nicholas Brothers were a talented team of tap dancing brothers who were Fayard and his younger brother Harod.
The oldest brother Fayard Antonio Nicholas was born October 20, 1914 in Mobile Alabama. Harod Lloyd Nicholas was born March 17, 1921 in Winston Salem North Carolina.
The two brothers grew up in Philadelphia. They were the sons of musicians who played with their band at the old Standard Theater. Their mother played the piano and their father played the drums.
Fayard and Harod had no formal dance training. When Harod was 11 and Fayard was 18 they were the featured act at Harlem’s Cotton Club in 1932. They were the only African American entertainers there allowed to mingle with white patrons.
Their exhilarating hybrid of tap, ballet and acrobatic dancing, mostly called ‘flash dancing,’ meant no individual or group had the same affect on the audiences.
The brothers taught master classes in dance at Howard University and Radcliffe. Some of their students were Debbie Allen, Janet Jackson, Michael Jackson and more.
One of their signature moves was to dance down a huge flight of stairs leapfrogging over each other and landing in a full split on each step. They performed this move in the finale of the movie Stormy Weather. That performance is what inspired me to tap since I was small.
The official Nicholas Brothers Web site.
See the Nicholas Brothers and their signature move in action (3 minutes).
See the Nicholas Brothers dance with a young Michael Jackson (2min 30 sec).