Amazing Feet

From childhood performances alongside Cab Calloway to thrilling scenes in Hollywood musicals, the dancing Nicholas Brothers were always tapped for greatness

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."

Please fasten your seat belts for takeoff: Fayard Nicholas and his younger brother Harold (airborne) in a publicity shot from Stormy Weather
Please fasten your seat belts for takeoff: Fayard Nicholas and his younger brother Harold (airborne) in a publicity shot from Stormy Weather

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!"

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