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Fayard and Harold Nicholas

@ National Portrait Gallery

Unidentified Artist


Fayard Nicholas 1914–2006Born Mobile, AlabamaHarold Nicholas 1921–2000Born Winston-Salem, North CarolinaThe Nicholas Brothers have been called the greatest tap dancers of all time. They created a sensation at the Cotton Club when Harold was eleven and Fayard eighteen. In 1936 they debuted on Broadway in the Ziegfeld Follies, directed by Vincente Minnelli and choreographed by George Balanchine. The next year Balanchine worked with them in the Rodgers and Hart hit musical Babes in Arms.Their movies—including Kid Millions, The Big Broadcast, Down Argentine Way (shown in this photograph), Stormy Weather, and The Pirate—record their electrifying dance style. Sometimes called “flash-act acrobatic dancing,” their tap was a dazzling hybrid that fused African American vernacular dance with ballet, and jazz dance with improvised acrobatics. Fayard Nicholas explained, “My brother and I used our whole bodies, our hands, our personalities. We tried to make it classic.”
Gelatin Silver Print
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; acquired through the generosity of Daniel and Rebecca Okrent
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National Portrait Gallery

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Smithsonian Institution