"The Greatest Movie Musical Dance Sequence I Have Ever Seen"- Fred Astaire
The Nicholas Brothers were undoubtably the greatest dance team that ever stepped onto a stage.
In an exhilarating hybrid of tap, ballet and acrobatics, sometimes called "flash dancing", no individual group surpassed the effect that the Nicholas Brothers had on audiences and on other dancers.
Their most famous performance was the breathtaking staircase routine from the "Jumpin' Jive" dance finale in the 1943 movie "Stormy Weather" with The Cab Calloway Orchestra. In this spectacular routine the Nicholas Brothers perform a series of fearless leapfrogs and "no-hands" splits down a staircase that has to be seen to be believed. [the clip is on YouTube]
Ballet legend Mikhail Baryshnikov said they were the most amazing dancers he had ever seen in his life!
Fayard Nicholas was born October 20, 1914 in Alabama and his younger brother Harold was born on March 17, 1921 in North Carolina. The children of pit orchestra musicians, they grew up surrounded by black vaudeville acts and the up-tempo jazz music of Louis Armstrong and Fletcher Henderson.
At the age of three, Fayard was sitting in the front row while his parents worked and by the time he was ten he had seen most of the great vaudeville acts of the time. Backstage, between shows, Fayard and young Harold taught themselves to dance and were coached by the black performers on the same bill.
By 1932, when Fayard was 18 and Harold was 11 they became the feature act at Harlem's Cotton Club, working with orchestra leaders Cab Calloway and Duke Ellington.
Check out the "Lucky Number" dance routine on YouTube. One of the earliest clips of the Nicholas Brothers singing and dancing in impeccable style, a sequence from the 1936 movie, "Stairway to the Stars."
Fayard  and Harold  Nicholas
By 1940, they were in Hollywood contracted to 20th Century Fox and made six films there. In all, they made over 30 films including "Stormy Weather", their last appearance on film as a routine.
For several decades the Fayard and Harold alternated between movies, nightclubs, concerts, Broadway, television and extensive tours of Latin America, Africa and Europe.
The brothers then taught master classes in tap at Harvard University. Among their known students are Debbie Allen, Janet Jackson and Michael Jackson.
The Magic Is There In Every Movement.
"Chatanooga Choo Choo" 1941. From the "Sun Valley Serenade" movie with Glenn Miller's Band.
Harold died July 3, 2000 of a heart attack following minor surgery and Fayard died January 24, 2006, aged 91 of pneumonia after having a stroke.
The Great Nicholas Brothers - "We Sing and We Dance."