Director: Michael Shevloff
Writer: Heather Ross
By Joan Amenn
Caution: This film may cause an unexpected urge to dance.
“Nicholas Brothers: Stormy Weather” (2022) is twenty minutes of pure kinetic joy. While it could be seen as promotional material for the very popular, very talented hip hop duo known as Les Twins, it humbly acknowledges that they stand on the shoulders of dance giants, the Nicholas Brothers. The historical case for the evolution of tap to hip hop is compellingly made by Savion Glover, a dance legend in his own right and an engaging narrator for this brief but wonderful film.
Les Freres Bourgeois, aka Les Twins, are stunning in the fluidity of movement and synchronized rhythm that they bring to their interpretation of hip hop. Much as the Nicholas Brothers brought exceptional grace to tap dance in their routines, the Bourgeois have similar energy and style in their shows, whether they are featured with Beyonce, the Cirque de Soleil, or on their own. However, it is the history of how the Nicholas Brothers came to Hollywood from the Cotton Club in Harlem, New York that is the heart of this film.
Fayard Nicholas survives his brother Harold who passed on in 2000 to briefly touch on what their act faced in a world hostile to African Americans in general and certainly not welcoming to a dance duo attempting to break into the big time. It is noted that the brothers frequently had their scenes arranged in films so that they could be easily edited out when distribution attempted to book them into theaters that were in openly racist parts of the US. In the 1940’s that must have been quite a long list of cinemas, but the Nicholas Brothers did finally get their chance to make their mark in the film “Stormy Weather” (1943) starring Lena Horne, Bill Robinson and featuring Cab Calloway. The rest is history, and anyone who hasn’t had the pleasure of seeing the Nicholas Brothers work their dance magic in this film needs to stop reading this and see it now: https://youtu.be/zBb9hTyLjfM . We’ll wait.
Les Twins have the ambition of continuing in the footsteps (dance steps?) of the Nicholas Brothers and it is not just hype that they are up to the challenge. “Nicholas Brothers: Stormy Weather” may be just a tantalizing taste of what they are capable of but we will be seeing more of them, of that you can be sure.