The Nicholas Brothers were a famous African-American team of dancing brothers, Fayard and Harold Nicholas. With their highly acrobatic technique, high level of artistry and daring innovations, they were considered by many the greatest tap dancers of their day. Growing up surrounded by Vaudeville acts as children, they became stars of the jazz circuit during the heyday of the Harlem Renaissance and went on to have successful careers performing on stage, film, and television well into the 1990s.
Fayard Antonio Nicholas was born October 20, 1914 in Mobile, Alabama. Harold Lloyd Nicholas was born March 17, 1921 in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.
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 African American Vaudeville acts, particularly the dancers, including such notables of the time as Alice Whitman, Willie Bryant and Bill Robinson. Neither Fayard nor Harold had any formal dance training.
They became the featured act at Harlem's Cotton Club in 1932, when Harold was 11 and Fayard was 18. They were the only entertainers in the African American cast allowed to mingle with white patrons.