Pan's People was a British TV dance troupe most commonly associated with the BBC TV music chart show Top of the Pops from the late 1960s to the mid-1970s, however they also appeared on numerous other TV shows in the UK and abroad.
They were not the first dance troupe to appear regularly on Top of the Pops, being preceded by The Go-Jos in the programme's first four years, before Pan's People replaced them in May 1968. Starting with occasional appearances, they became a weekly feature of the programme following its revamp and time extension in January 1970.
Pan's People were formed in December 1966 in London by five ex-members of the Beat Girls. With the addition of a new member, they were set up as a sextet, they regularly appeared on television series in the UK and the Netherlands. Their earliest BBC television appearance was in 1968 on The Bobbie Gentry Show, broadcast initially on BBC2 and repeated later on BBC1. Other BBC series followed, including Happening For Lulu in 1969 as well as The Price of Fame starring Georgie Fame and Alan Price.
Following an open audition, two dancers (Dee Dee and Ruth) from the troupe were invited with others to dance on Top of the Pops by choreographer Virginia Mason in 1968 for a routine to "Simon Says" by the 1910 Fruitgum Company. This was followed by a further routine featuring just three members of Pan's People (Dee Dee, Ruth and Flick), and subsequently the entire sextet appeared in a routine set to "US Male" by Elvis Presley.
- Louise Clarke (1949–2012)
- Felicity "Flick" Colby (1946–2011)
- Barbara "Babs" Lord
- Ruth Pearson
- Andrea "Andi" Rutherford (1947–2015)
- Patricia "Dee Dee" Wilde
Colby gradually stood down from dancing towards the end of 1971 to concentrate full-time on choreographing the group's routines. At the end of 1972 Rutherford left Pan's People initially on maternity leave, and was replaced by Cherry Gillespie. In mid-1974 Clarke left Pan's People to start a family; Sue Menhenick was selected to succeed her at an open audition.
Further personnel changes within the troupe occurred during 1975, when Lord, and then Wilde, left the group. When Lord departed, two members joined the troupe, Mary Corpe (who had been a member of The Young Generation) and Lee Ward.
The line-up by the time of Pan's People's final routines for Top of the Pops in April 1976 was:
- Mary Corpe
- Cherry Gillespie
- Sue Menhenick
- Lee Ward
- Ruth Pearson (the only member who performed throughout the entire Top of the Pops run)
The 26 September 1975 issue of Reveille reported that Dee Dee was 28, Sue 20, Ruth 29, Cherry 20, Mary 17, and Lee 19.
Shortly before the group made their last appearance on Top of the Pops in the spring of 1976, dancer and TV presenter Lesley Judd became a temporary member of the group for a one-off routine, dancing to Rodrigo's Guitar Concerto De Aranjuez by Manuel And The Music Of The Mountains. The rehearsals and behind-the-scenes footage of the routine were featured on Blue Peter.
Work outside TOTP
Among other television series Pan's People appeared on were:
- Bobbie Gentry (BBC)
- Lulu (BBC)
- The Price of Fame (BBC)
- The John Denver Show (BBC)
- The Two Ronnies (BBC)
- The troupe performed with Eric Morecambe and Ernie Wise on their 1975 BBC1 Christmas Day TV Show, one of the most popular TV shows in the UK. They danced to Brenda Arnau's version of Big Spender with Morecambe & Wise posing as two new Pan's Persons.
- In 1974 Pan's People appeared in their own edition of the In Concert series for BBC television.
References in popular culture
- In an episode of Porridge ("A Night In", 1974), Norman Stanley Fletcher (Ronnie Barker) jokes to Lennie Godber (Richard Beckinsale) in their prison cell about having a night out: "We could ring up those girls on Top of the Pops. Pan's People. There's one special one... beautiful Babs... dunno what her name is."
- The Benny Hill Show spoofed the dance troupe as "Pam's People," with Benny Hill, Henry McGee, Bob Todd, Jackie Wright and Earl Adair appearing in drag. In the late 1970s Pan's People performed in two later editions of Hill's show; Louise English of Pan's People went on to become a major cast member of the show through the mid-1980s.
- The Goodies made frequent references to the group, as well as showing an all-pensioner dance troupe called "Pan's Grannies".
- In their TV series French & Saunders, Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders parodied the group, with their rendition of "Yellow River" by Pans Indeedy People.
- In an episode of Miranda, the character Penny (Patricia Hodge) revealed she gave "the most sensual audition in the group's history".
Surviving Top Of The Pops appearances
Pan's People performed at a time when the BBC routinely wiped the videos of the Top Of The Pops shows to save money on new tapes and because it wasn't thought that anyone would want to watch the shows again. However, organisations such as the BFI and Kaleidoscope have spent time searching archives and as a result many recorded dance routines have been rediscovered. More recently they have found roughly 40 lost dances on home video tapes and have extracted digital footage from the very fragile analog tapes. A private collector is known to have recorded several more of the missing routines. Estimated video survivals by year:
- 1968/69 – None
- 1970 – 14-18
- 1971 – 18
- 1972 – 8
- 1973 – 24
- 1974 – 23
- 1975 – 47
- 1976 – 17 (of 21)
Life after TOTP
Even after their departure from Top of the Pops Pan's People were much in demand for personal appearances. Dee Dee Wilde continued to dance with and manage a new group of girls under the name Pan's People: Pauline Crawford, Abigail Higgins, Patricia McSherry, Francesca Whitburn and Sarah Woollett. Also members for a short time during this period were the future Hot Gossip dancers Sarah Brightman and Carol Fletcher.
Babs Lord married actor Robert Powell and became an amateur yachtswoman and world explorer, with several trips to the Himalayas, the Sahara, both Poles and the jungle in Guyana. By 2013 she had visited both the North and South Poles. Lord was the subject of BBC's This Is Your Life in November 2001. She appeared on the final regular weekly edition of Top of the Pops on 30 July 2006, the only member of any of the show's dance troupes to appear in person at the recording.
Top of the Pops continued to use professional dancers until 1981, with Colby remaining as the show's choreographer through the entire period. Pan's People were followed by a group called Ruby Flipper, which featured male and female dancers. However, there was pressure to return to the all-girl format, and after six months a new troupe was created, named Legs and Co. after a viewer competition to choose a name. Both Gillespie and Menhenick from Pan's People featured in Ruby Flipper, with Menhenick going on to join Legs & Co. Pearson was Legs & Co's manager. Legs & Co performed every week on the show until 1981, when they were replaced by Zoo, a large troupe of dancers from which individual members could be selected to perform each week, depending on the song. Flick Colby became the 'Dance Director' for Top Of The Pops at this time. By the early 1980s Zoo's role had shifted towards leading the audience, and eventually the group was disbanded, some members remaining in the crowd as strategically placed 'cheerleaders'.
In 1997 Gillespie appeared as a panellist on Channel Five's nostalgia quiz Wowfabgroovy.
Patricia 'Dee Dee' Wilde eventually married composer and musician, Henry Marsh.
Clarke died of heart failure on 24 August 2012 at the age of 62.
In November 2013, Signum Books released the autobiography 'Pan's People: Our Story,' authored by Babs Powell, Ruth Pearson, Dee Dee Wilde, Cherry Gillespie and writer Simon Barnard.
In April 2014 Babs, Sue, Dee Dee and Ruth reunited to model clothes for isme.com 
Rutherford died after a long illness on 3 December 2015 at the age of 68.
- "Dee Dee's Top of the Pops memories". Wiltshire Gazette and Herald. Retrieved 26 July 2014.
- Rose, Gary P. (26 December 2011). "Felicity Isabelle Colby – Her Story in Words and Pictures". PansPeople.com. Retrieved 26 July 2014.
- "Top of the Pops 2 - Trivia: Pan's People". BBC. Archived from the original on 16 September 2014. Retrieved 26 July 2014.
- "Louise Clarke : Obituaries". The Stage. 12 September 2012. Archived from the original on 15 October 2012. Retrieved 23 November 2013.
- "Top Of The Pops Annual 1974: The Girls Who Bring Glamour To The Show". the Unofficial Pan's People Homepage. Archived from the original on 22 March 2012. Retrieved 19 June 2016.
- "Family Announcements: Andrea Rutherford". Hertfordshire Mercury. 10 December 2015. Retrieved 19 June 2016.
- "Moonlighting". the Unofficial Pan's People Homepage. Archived from the original on 22 March 2012. Retrieved 19 June 2016.
- "Ronnie Barker OBE – Comic Actor and Writer". BBC h2g2. 6 December 2005. Retrieved 26 July 2014.
- "About Kaleidoscope". The Kaleidoscope Archive. Retrieved 19 June 2016.
- "Routines that still exist and possible survivals". One for the Dads. 27 December 2012.
- "Flick Colby, Pan's People co-founder, dies". The Guardian. 29 May 2011. Retrieved 19 June 2016.
- "Pan's People dancer dies aged 63". Daily Express. 25 August 2012. Retrieved 19 June 2016.
- "'Rihanna and Miley Cyrus push it too far' say Pan's People as they reunite for fashion campaign". Mail Online. London. 21 April 2014. Retrieved 26 July 2014.