Bill Harry's Sixties

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by Bill Harry

The popular ‘Top Of The Pops’ dance troupe, Pan’s People, began appearing regularly on the series from May 1968.
Producer Johnny Stewart had decided to use dancers when an artist wasn’t able to attend and perform as this was in the days prior to the development of the pop video, and the girls were introduced into the series, which was then recorded in Manchester, following its launch in 1964.

There had previously been another dance troupe on the weekly series called the Go Jo’s. Initially the Go Jo’s comprised three female dancers and was then enlarged to six. The Go Jo’s had been formed by Jo Cook, a member of the Beat Girls, who were featured in the weekly BBC2 show ‘The Beat Room’. The initial dancers had been Jo, Linda Hotchkin and Jane Bartlett. Jo then began to concentrate on choreography and managing the group and Thelma Bignell and Barbara van der Heyde were recruited.

By 1968 they had become a six-piece with the inclusion of Lesley Larbey and Wendy Hillhouse. They made their final appearance on ‘Top of the Pops’ in June 1968 dancing to ‘Jumpin Jack Flash’ by the Rolling Stones.

The five girls in Pan’s People had appeared on previous TV shows and in a TV series in Amsterdam, but it was on ‘Top Of The Pops’ that they became tremendously successful. The original personnel were Flick Colby, Ruth Pearson, Babs Lord, Dee Dee Wilde, Louise Clarke and Andy Rutherford.

Babs, Ruth and Dee Dee had been members of the Beat Girls. There was an internal disagreement within the outfit and three of them walked out, with Ruth approaching Flick Colby for an audition for the forthcoming troupe of Pan’s People. Flick, an American who had trained as a ballet dancer, was the leader and choreographer of the group and eventually ceased performing in the troupe in 1971 to concentrate on choreography. Andy left to have a baby late in 1972 and was replaced by Cherry Gillespie. Louise left in 1974 to begin a family and was replaced by Sue Menhenick. Babs was to marry actor Robert Powell. The girls were attractive and sexy and had a huge following. Flip was the choreographer of the programme for a considerable time but felt that after eight years, there needed to be a new troupe who included male dancers, so Ruby Flipper was formed, which also included Cherry and Sue.

After six months the BBC decided to return to using an all-girl troupe and Legs & Co came into being, with Ruth and Flick as their managers. Legs & Co comprised Patti Hammond, Lulu Cartwright, Rosemary Hetherington, Gill Clark and Pauline Peters. That outfit left ‘Top of the Pops’ in 1981.

The final dance troupe was a large outfit called Zoo, which comprised ten male and ten female dancers, who lasted on the programme until 1983. By that time the pop video had become well-established and the producers felt they no longer needed the services of a resident dance troupe. However, none of the replacements seemed to match the appeal of the legendary Pan’s People.

Pan’s People made their final appearance on the programme in April 1976 when the personnel comprised Mary Corpe, Cherry Gillespie, Sue Menhenick, Ruth Peason and Lee Ward. They danced to ‘Silver Star’, the current hit by the Four Seasons. Following the demise of the troupe Louise married a millionaire and went to live in Marbella while Flick returned to New York where she opened a gift shop and Dee Dee set up a dance school.

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