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The Greatest Dancers

Just come across an interview I did last year where I was asked what my favourite dance move was:

“Not sure about favourite move, but my favourite dancers are the Nicholas Brothers. The sad thing is that when you mention them not many people know who they were, yet they should have been more famous than people like Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly. They were, unfortunately, around at a time when the colour of their skin restricted them to bit parts in movies, when they should really have been given the full backing from Hollywood that their incredible talent deserved. Fortunately their immortality is assured via the wonderful routines they put together for spots in films like ‘Orchestra Wives’(1942), ‘Down Argentine Way’ (1940) and their pièce de résistance in the all black musical ‘Stormy Weather’(1943). Almost criminally, the movie parts dried-up and they ended up having to move to Paris in order to get some appreciation.

Also worth a big shout are the Savoy Ballroom’s dance crew ‘Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers’ who can be seen at the peak of the powers in the famous dance sequences from ‘Hellzapoppin’’ and ‘Hot Chocolate’ (both 1941).

These are the unsung heroes of dance, and I urge people to check them out via the clips on YouTube, or better still, the original films.”

Full interview:
http://www.hybridlife.tv/feature/twitterview/greg-wilson/

Been meaning to pay homage to the Nicholas Brothers, and Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers, ever since I started the blog, so feast your eyes – here are the handful of clips I mentioned:

STORMY WEATHER (ALSO FEATURING CAB CALLOWAY & ORCHESTRA):
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zBb9hTyLjfM&feature=related

ORCHESTRA WIVES (ALSO FEATURING GLENN MILLER & ORCHESTRA):
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fFv_PoZ2iP0&feature=related

DOWN ARGENTINE WAY:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ecBAeN9yzOc&feature=related

HELLZAPOPPIN’:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ahoJReiCaPk

HOT CHOCOLATE (ALSO FEATURING DUKE ELLINGTON & ORCHESTERA):
http://www.spike.com/video/whiteys-lindy/2695742

Nicholas Brothers Wikipedia:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nicholas_Brothers

Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers Wikipedia:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Whitey%27s_Lindy_Hoppers

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3 Responses to The Greatest Dancers

  1. phil hongkins January 17, 2011 at 10:47 pm #

    hi greg i remember watchin stormy weather about 20yrs ago on a sat aftn bbc2 great moves, i also liked the dance scenes in the cotton club gregeory hines could sure move those feet,n the little boys in angel heart they do that dance in the street whilst mickey rourkes character is slowly loosin his mind good moves an as natural as u like . bin watchin a lot of bbc 3 and 4 over the holiday period catchin up with all the original black artists of the 30s onwards from swing throo blues n of course jazz great to see all these masters dooin it their own way how they set the agendas time and time again , great to see so many powerfull female artists such strong soulful and emotive voices delivering some of the most heartfelt lyrics they had a lot to write about then !!! my fave track from those times is " strange fruit" billie holliday n everything nina simone did plus a little sarah vaughn n ella n etta james all these ladies had incredible voices they set the standard.
    i said i wud let you know wot i thought of SOULBOY good choice for the music it caught the mood of the times a little popular but thats allways the way innit, the building they used was really good the cas was a lot bigger in real life but it was the same style of building ,but it was a lot darker inside big old fashioned pre disco lights 1 mirror ball thats all, re the story : had to laff when it showed the lengths people wud go to just to get to wigan me and r dave had mates from allover the country 13 14 yrs old and they had no problem hitchin200 miles at that age those who had the money coach or train . i heard russ on the radio a few weeks ago say from 73 to 81, 8million people went to wigan easy done when you think the small room mr m"s held a thousand ( always the oldies room) the scene was fragmenting by 74 , oldies of which ther are 1000,s then the newies which came mostly from the mecca , then the rare records these are the ones who used to vanish up their own arses sometimes. back to the film there were some unwritten rules people were allways challenging each other to little dancing comps but never in a hostile way i found it quite balletic really and so much energy boundless energy ,but also lots of grace, quite odd for me 74 was a bad yr for me at school i was gettin real shit from some of my white scoolmates but in the casino bein my colour was like a badge of honour never heard a bad word in all the yrs i went, coz we all there for the music that simple. if u bumped into sumone u just sorry n got back to dancing, our dave claimed the front left hand corner of the d/floor this spot disected two mirrors so he cud see himself both ways, i won the first and second dance comps i entered 1st prize i got to meet edwin starr, and the second time i won i got to meet the tymes got some tunes and stuff. dont recall any fights but the drug used to come in from time to time n snatch people to do internals on them, the clothes are bob on and most of the haircuts to long hair was in then but it soon became a bit of a hiderance so it usually got shorter plus that went better with ur suit n ben shermans. the story was a bit far fetched but no drama means no film i suupose dont think this is the last film we will see in 74 wigan casino was the centre of 1000s no tens of 1000s of normal working class people universes that was the power of the casino it was so big, mecca was big as well but we only got the highland room not very big at all and very very pre disco proper flashing built in lights only used the big room downstairs on all dayers , the ritz club in manchester was a gud venue still going i am told i used to love seeing people who after being up u know up for two days went into this club and just to watch them try and negotiate the famous spring dancefloor some of the faces priceless, they found some great old cars to capris where the cool ones but lads used to do up minis n make them go real quick, in hindsight i still love the oldies the best but i also like where the mecca took music as well levine n curtis had a field day breakin new tunes . tried to get the little fella to give northern a go on a few occasions but he would play typical he loved his disco n studio 54 stuff. hope that gives u an insight into wigan circa1974 easy greg

  2. Chris Hayes January 19, 2011 at 10:37 am #

    Couldn't agree more about the Nicholas Brothers - criminally under-appreciated. However, let's not forget white men can dance too...
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TKlub5vB9z8

  3. greg wilson January 22, 2011 at 6:27 pm #

    Hi Chris - of course, very good dancers, but not in the same league as Fayard and Harold Nicholas for me. If Hollywood would have given them the type of budgets they put into Gene Kelly lord knows what they would have achieved.

    Here they are dancing with Gene Kelly in the 1948 film 'The Pirate' (it was Kelly's routine):
    http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x2tqdo_be-a-clown_music

    There's some great interview footage with the brothers about this - how Gene Kelly saw his arse because the routine came too easy to them.

    I think this was the final Hollywood film they got to do - which is such a tragedy.

    When Mikhail Baryshnikov, acknowledged as one of the greatest ballet dancers of the 20th century, cites them as the most amazing dancers he had ever seen in his life, you get some idea of just how criminal it was that Hollywood turned its back on them.

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