During the 1920´s and 1930´s, the Harlem Renaissance was a booming cultural movement where many African Americans expressed their unique culture and love for the arts through dancing, singing, performing, and painting. At the forefront of, this cultural revolution was a club in Harlem, New York that would later be known as the infamous Cotton Club. The club was originally used as an illegal speakeasy during the prohibition period. The Cotton Club was exclusively for upper-class white individuals, and the performers and staff were African American.
Several musicians, dancers, and performers became famous because of their performances at the Cotton Club. While the Cotton Club was highly segregated, it gave African Americans the opportunity to share their culture to the white majority through music and dance. It was a blending of several cultures and customs that helped skyrocket tap dancing to the center of attention at Cotton Club performances.
The most popular dancers at the Cotton Club where the Nicholas Brothers, who were known for their flashy tap dancing and fast-moving performances that left the audience in awe. Performances at the Cotton Club almost always included live music, and the Nicholas Brothers often ¨communicated¨ with the orchestra by tap dancing to the rhythms of the music. Tap dancing became popular in the Cotton Club because it was a new style of dance that was so unique and culturally based. It was something that the white audience had never seen before, so it became a new favorite of the Cotton Club. Also, tap dancing was limited to men, some women even tap danced in the Cotton Club. The Nicholas Brother´s performances at the Cotton Club are now known as some of the best dance routines in all of dancing history because they had the ability to captivate the audience with their charm, charisma, and impeccable dancing skills. Their routines include daring steps on a staircase, including jumping into the splits and dancing around musicians.
The Cotton Club truly changed how white audiences viewed tap dancing and African American performers. Tap dancing was a meld of many cultures, customs, and individual styles. In a way, tap dancing in the Cotton Club broke the segregation barrier between African Americans and whites by uniting people together with the help of music, dance, and the arts. In addition, the Cotton Club helped bring tap dancing to Hollywood and mainstream media.