Berry Brothers

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The Berry Brothers were an African-American "exotic, acrobatic soft shoe dance" trio, active in the entertainment business for over 30 years.[1] The trio was composed of Ananias (Nyas, "King of the Strut"), James and Warren Berry.


Ananias "Nyas" Berry and James Berry were born in New Orleans, in 1913 and 1915 respectively. As early as 1919 the two brothers already performed in Chicago and then in Denver where the family settled and the younger Warren was born in 1922.[2]

In 1924 the family moved to Los Angeles where as child actors Nyas, James and then Warren appeared in several films.

In 1929 Nyas and James formed the dance duo "The Berry Brothers" and began performing in vaudeville, in New York (at the Cotton Club) and London.

Around 1935 Warren joined his brothers and the duo became a very successful trio of dancers.

In 1938, at the Cotton Club there was a face-off dance competition between the Nicholas Brothers and the Berry Brothers. It has become a legendary confrontation, a sort of dance-fight for supremacy. By some accounts the Berry Brothers were more athletic but the Nicholas Brothers were better overall performers – better at pleasing the crowd.[3]

At the peak of their success, in the 1940s, the Berry Brothers also performed their routines in some Hollywood movies.

The experience of the Berry Brothers came to a sudden end when Nyas died in 1951 of heart failure.[4] James and Warren continued to perform together or individually for a few more years. James died in 1969, and Warren in 1996 after working for over 15 years as a film editor.[5]


Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ Frank, Rusty E. (1990). Tap: The Greatest Tap Dance Stars and their Stories, 1900–1955. Da Capo Press. pp. 153–160. ISBN 0-306-80635-5.
  2. ^ American National Biography Online.
  3. ^ Neal, Mark Anthony (2004). That's the Joint!: The Hip-Hop Studies Reader. Routledge. pp. 34–35. ISBN 0-415-96919-0.
  4. ^ "Ananias Berry" in Find a Grave.
  5. ^ American National Biography Online.
  6. ^ Oh Boy (1927) on IMDb