I felt sad to hear of the premature death of Louise Clarke, one of the founding members of Pan’s People, the dance troupe that sashayed across our telly screens every Thursday Night during Top of the Pops.
Like most kids of the 70s, I watched TOTP religiously along with my brothers. Now I am sure that they watched Pan’s People for a different reason to me as they were boys and Pan’s People were always glamourous, usually very sexy, and often brilliantly kitsch. I watched Pan’s People because I was a dancer, doing ballet three times a week and hoping to go the Royal Ballet School (which is quite a different blog post). I thought they were amazing, the way they floated whimsically across the stage in high heels and sparkly dresses or spandex leotards. I wanted to be in Pan’s People but alas I was from Devon and a child so I could only dream. (Philippa, my narrator from ‘The Generation Game’, harbours similar feelings…)
Now, anyone that knows me, or has flicked through my blog posts, might be surprised to see me in awe of Pan’s People. I am a feminist and dancing girls are not something I approve of as a rule. But seeing this old video has brought up memories of sitting with my family watching telly, of having aspirations of stardom as a child, of flares and big hair, of a time when women were exploring the limits of what it meant to be the female of the species.
Ok, yes, looking back, the concept of Pan’s People is outdated. But actually they were of a more innocent time when, although a little sexy, they were not overtly sexual like women in the music business are expected to be now. They didn’t have to worry about shaking their booty or having Brazilians or surgically enhanced breasts. They still had a hint of that film star glamour that was passed down from Ginger Rogers with a bit of the girl-next-door Doris Day thrown in for good measure. And they were somehow quintessentially British.
Times have changed. Top of the Pops is no more. Families rarely sit down together and watch the same programme. We are living in a post-feminist society when anything goes. When young girls have the world at their feet but have somehow lost the aspirations of my generation, when anything was possible.
And then there’s the golden platforms. You’ve just got to admire a woman who can dance in golden platforms. I want some.
This week BBC Radio 4 are broadcasting short stories about women ‘quietly outperforming the men in their lives’ to mark 100 years since the birth of Hollywood legend Ginger Rogers. A few blog posts ago I had a photo of Fred Astaire doing his stuff and I have to make a confession. For me, Fred was the one who always outshone his partner. But I never really thought about what Ginger had to do. And she did exactly what Fred did, only backwards. And in high heels. And a big frock. She has shot up in my estimation and so I wanted to pay tribute to her here.
How many other great women have been overlooked for doing it the hard way?