They are so thrilling to watch. And I hurt myself every single time I watch Little Seymour handling Bill and Sidney rough in Let's Do It Again. I did a blog on them that I'll share here since we're on the subject.
Amazing Feet:The Nicholas Brothers
by Caroline Palmer 8/18/99
From childhood performances alongside Cab Calloway to thrilling scenes in Hollywood musicals, the dancing Nicholas Brothers were always tapped for greatness
The best popular dancers of this century stand out for their signature styles. Fred Astaire brought effortless grace to every step, Cyd Charisse swept elegantly across the stage, and Gene Kelly radiated charm. When it comes to the Nicholas Brothers, a single scene from the 1940 film Down Argentine Way speaks for itself: They enter dressed in spotless eveningwear and start tapping at a clean clip, every part of their bodies engaged in motion. Before you know it, Harold and Fayard Nicholas are turning cartwheels and flips, landing in the splits, and moonwalking before Michael Jackson was ever the Thriller. They always return, then, to a perfect tempo, nary a thread out of place--a flawless marriage of flash and control. Such moments have led other master movers like Mikhail Baryshnikov to say, "They are probably the most amazing dancers I've seen. Those guys are perfect examples of pure genius."
Please fasten your seat belts for takeoff: Fayard Nicholas (airborne) and younger brother Harold in a publicity shot from Stormy Weather
Few people can say "Show business is my life" without sounding a bit cornball, but at 85 years old, Fayard Nicholas is simply stating a fact. As the elder half of the duo who tapped their way through Harlem's hottest nightclubs, Broadway, Hollywood, and the world, Fayard is the consummate entertainer.
Interviewed by telephone at the Motion Picture and Television Country House, a retirement home in Woodland Hills near Los Angeles, Nicholas shares the story of his life in the spotlight. And he jokes about how he and his brother have finally received some props over the past decade, in the form of a Kennedy Center Honor and a star on Hollywood's Walk of Fame; next year they'll receive a special Oscar.
It was the 13-year-old Fayard's idea to pull together an act with Harold (who was just 7 at the time), and in 1930 they stormed the stage in Philadelphia as the Nicholas Kids. "I always liked show business," recalls Nicholas, whose parents played in the Standard Theater Orchestra at the time (mom on piano, dad on drums) accompanying stars like Louis Armstrong, Buck and Bubbles, and Bill "Bojangles" Robinson. "Before I became a professional entertainer I always went to the theater where my parents played, and I liked what I saw onstage," Nicholas recalls. "I taught myself how to perform. Never had a lesson. Then I taught my brother." Over the years, however, Harold developed unique skills of his own. "He sings in five languages," brags Nicholas. "And he knows exactly what he's singing!"
It didn't take long for the youngsters to get noticed in New York's big venues, not to mention on Broadway, where they performed in The Ziegfeld Follies of 1936 and Babes in Arms among other shows. "First we were at the Lafayette Theater in Harlem, then the manager of the Cotton Club wanted us to be in a show," recounts Nicholas, adding that his parents gave up their orchestra gigs to oversee the boys' skyrocketing career. "Duke Ellington, Cab Calloway, Bill Robinson--they were all there. And Lena Horne was a chorus girl," he continues. "Nobody wanted to follow us. We were the showstopper. The audience just wanted more and more."
One evening, says Nicholas, Calloway called the brothers on to the stage after learning that Harold liked to imitate him. "He said, 'You do me,' to my brother. And my brother said, 'I'll do "Minnie the Moocher,"' and the microphone came down from the ceiling, but my brother could not reach it. So the waiter brought out a table and Cab lifted my brother up onto it. He started saying, 'Hi dee hi dee ho' and soon everyone was saying it. Cab was beaming. We had to do it every night after that."
The Nicholas Brothers' popularity grew, and they continued tapping with nearly impossible skill, performing numerous encores and generally wearing themselves out. "When we first started out in Philadelphia, we'd just dance and dance. Oh jeepers!" he exclaims. "The audience would finally let us go. But we said, 'Something has to be done! Let's talk to the people, let's do singing, let's play the drums.' So we opened up with a dance, not too strenuous, and then my brother would sing a song like 'Lady Be Good.' I would then direct the orchestra with my hand, my elbows, my teeth. The audience loved it. Then we'd close with a big dance. We were versatile, we could do so much."
Hollywood also welcomed the brothers, and the studios cast the hot-footed East Coast hoofers in numerous films. In the 1943 musical Stormy Weather, for example, the young men were reunited with fellow Cotton Club performers Horne, Calloway, and Robinson (as well as Fats Waller and another dance icon, Katherine Dunham). It's a period Nicholas remembers fondly, and he is dismayed that the brothers' work was satirized by two characters called "Flash" and "Grin" in Savion Glover's Broadway hit Bring in 'Da Noise, Bring in 'Da Funk. "Don't try to bring the Nicholas Brothers or Hollywood down," says Nicholas, his jovial tone turning serious. "He was saying the studios used us. But we could do what we wanted to do. There was no dictator. Why bring us down? We are the ones who made it possible for them to be where they are today."
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."
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!"
The profound and fundamental changes currently being made to the internet are being done partly on the basis of hundreds of thousands of fake people, according to New York's attorney general. This week, the Federal Communications Commission announced that it would repeal Obama-era protections that guaranteed net neutrality. Campaigners say that the move would allow internet companies to force people to pay for access to specific websites, for instance, or charge a fee if they want to download things at any speed.
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The Royal Navy has deployed its elite submarine rescue team to join the search for a missing Argentine submarine, after failed satellite calls thought to be from the vessel raised hopes the crew were still alive. HMS Protector also began scouring the South Atlantic as part of the international hunt for the missing vessel, and HMS Clyde was being diverted from South Georgia. Argentine officials said naval bases had detected seven incomplete satellite calls over the weekend attributed to the sub and were now trying to use them to pinpoint its location. The communication attempts "indicate that the crew is trying to re-establish contact, so we are working to locate the source of the emissions," the Argentine Navy said on its Twitter account, adding that the calls lasted between four and 36 seconds. An international team of ships and aircraft were braving heavy seas and high winds to search for the German-built ARA San Juan which has been lost since last week. Argentine navy loses contact with submarine carrying 44 01:08 The Royal Navy said it was flying the Submarine Parachute Assistance Group (SPAG) to the region to join the hunt. The highly trained team of medics, engineers and escape specialists is continuously on six hours notice to go anywhere in the world. Team members are parachute trained so that they can leap into the water at the scene if needed, but in this case will embark on HMS Protector. They carry inflatable boats and life rafts, medical equipment and communications gear which allows them to talk to trapped crews. Arrived on task in the search area in the early hours of this morning and have commenced sonar and visual search for #ARASanJuan as part of the ongoing multinational operation. Conditions remain challenging given current weather. pic.twitter.com/Sxgi9MZGo5— HMS_Protector (@protector_hms) November 19, 2017 The San Juan and its 44 crew last made contact on Wednesday when she was 267 miles off the coast in the Gulf of San Jorge. The latest possible calls were a sign for “cautious enthusiasm”, naval experts said, showing the crew may be alive, afloat and at a shallow enough depth to attempt to communicate. HMS Protector has begun sonar scans to hunt for the submarine Credit: MOD Claudio Rodriguez, whose brother Hernan is aboard the submarine, told a local television channel: "They've got to be afloat. Thank God. That gives us hope, because we knew that if they were down below, they would be screwed.” HMS Protector, the Royal Navy’s 5,000 ton ice patrol and survey ship, was diverted to join the search from a routine mission in the area and can bring its high definition sonar to bear on the search. Search and rescue mission for Argentinian submarine The hunt also includes help from Brazil, Chile, Uruguay and the United States. America on Sunday said it was sending a second P-8 Poseidon submarine hunting navy patrol plane to join the search. The US Navy has also dispatched two submarine rescue chambers that can dock onto stricken boats and ferry crew to the surface from hundreds of feet underwater. ARA San Juan submarine Credit: Argentine defence ministry/AFP The San Juan is a TR-1700 class submarine which had been returning from a routine mission to Ushuaia, near the southernmost tip of South America, to its base at Mar del Plata, about 250 miles south of Buenos Aires. Timeline | Submarine accidents Among those on board is Argentina's first female submarine officer, 35-year-old weapons officer Eliana Krawczyk. Rescuers are focusing on an ocean patch about 190 miles in diameter located about 270 miles from the coast of the southern province of Chubut.