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Brotherhood in Rhythm: The Jazz Tap Dancing of the Nicholas Brothers by Constance Valis Hill

“The most amazing dancers I have ever seen in my life…ever.” So said Mikhail Baryshnikov, himself something of an authority on the subject, about Fayard and Harold Nicholas. With their “full-bodied dancing”-frenzied combinations of gravity-defying leaps into bone-breaking splits-the Nicholas Brothers amazed everyone who saw them onstage or in films. Equally astounding, they began their career in the late ’20s and were still dancing 60 years later. Since mother Viola played piano and father Ulysses played drums in pit orchestras of black vaudeville theaters, it would seem that rhythm and melody were ingrained in the boys from birth.

Inspired by the wild splits of dancer Jack Wiggins, teenaged Fayard went home and discovered he could go one better. Not only could he go all the way down, but he could come back up-without using his hands. Teaching the moves to Harold, seven years younger, the pair devised an act filled with feats of acrobatic impossibility.

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