The Unbelievable Fact About The Nicholas Brothers' Stormy Weather Dance Routine

The Nicholas Brothers — Fayard Antonio Nicholas and Harold Lloyd Nicholas — was a duo that performed a unique style of tap dancing that combined elements of ballet, jazz, and acrobatics. The brothers' interest in entertainment began at a young age, as they often watched Vaudeville acts. The boys' mother was a pianist and their father was a drummer, and the couple supported their children's love of dancing and entertaining (via Britannica).

The brothers performed at theaters and slowly made a name for themselves. In 1932, the Nicholas Brothers got their big break when they were given the feature spot at the Cotton Club in Harlem, New York. According to Medium, film producer Samuel Goldwyn saw the brothers' performance and was impressed, which resulted in an offer for them to dance in an upcoming film. Fayard and Harold starred in a number of films, but, arguably, the most memorable performance the duo did was a routine from the movie "Stormy Weather," which was released in 1943.

Stormy Weather dance routine

"Stormy Weather" is a musical released by 20th Century Fox in 1943 and tells the story of the relationship between a tap dancer and a singer (per Turner Classic Movies). The leading roles were played by Bill "Bojangles" Robinson and Lena Horne. The film also featured some of the most popular African American entertainers of that time, including Cab Calloway, Fats Waller, and the Nicholas Brothers.

The Nicholas Brothers' dance routine featured in the film was one of the most impressive performances by Fayard and Harold. In fact, as The Guardian noted, actor and choreographer Fred Astaire once said that the sequence was the "greatest dance and music" he'd ever seen in the cinema. The brothers were also praised by classical dancer and choreographer Mikhail Baryshnikov who said that Fayard and Harold were the most "amazing dancers" that he had ever seen perform. Indeed, the Nicholas Brothers have a unique gift that not every dancer has. They make tap dancing look effortless, something that's difficult to achieve with the stamina needed to perform the impressive stunts the brothers do. What's more remarkable is that the Nicholas Brothers didn't rehearse for the sequence, but with their impeccable performance, one would think otherwise.

The routine was shot in one take

The Nicholas Brothers' dance routine in "Stormy Weather" is for the song "Jumpin' Jive" sung by Cab Calloway. The duo starts their routine by getting off their seats and jumping on top of a table, and from there, they showcase their precise footwork and incredible dancing skills. The dance routine lasts a little over 3 minutes, with the brothers jumping and landing on splits, leaping over tables and each other, and tapping their feet in tune with the lively music (per My Modern Met).

In an interview with the Chicago Tribune in 1991, the Nicholas Brothers recalled how they performed the sequence. According to Fayard, when it came time to shoot, choreographer Nick Castle told the duo not to rehearse and just do it. And that's just what they did. They were able to perform the entire routine without making mistakes and to add to that, it was done in only one take; the camera followed them around as they danced on the set. The brothers fed off each other's energy and were able to nail the routine without practice. Harold said that he was relieved that they didn't have to do the routine several times to get it perfect. To this day, Fayard and Harold are still regarded by professional dancers as the greatest tap dancers of all time.