Founder of dance troupe Pan's People, whose appearances on Top of the Pops endeared them to teenagers of an era
Flick Colby, who died on May 26 aged 65, was the driving force behind the dance troupe Pan's People which appeared weekly for eight years on BBC Television's flagship chart show Top of the Pops and carved its own distinctive niche in British pop culture.
A trained ballet dancer from New York, Flick Colby formed Pan's People in 1966 and originally performed with the group herself. But she preferred to remain out of the limelight and concentrated on choreographing the other five members.
Before the age of the music video, Pan's People furnished the visual entertainment when important artists could not appear on the show. They were not the first such group to appear on the programme -- they were preceded by the Go-Jos -- but they were the first set of dancers to perform exclusively on Top of the Pops.
Clad in skimpy miniskirts, hot pants, bikinis or eye-catching bell-bottoms, the girls' weekly gyrations ranged from raunchy disco moves to balletic and lyrical routines of remarkable grace and beauty. Flick Colby's own free dance solo to accompany Simon and Garfunkel's Bridge Over Troubled Water in 1970 attracted particular critical acclaim.
But Pan's People were best known for strutting their stuff in an overtly sexual way never before seen on television. The group's weekly appearance triggered what Ian Gittins, in his History of Top of the Pops (2007), described as a "national hormonal tsunami". He added: "It's hard to overstate the effect that the spectacularly nubile Pan's People had on the UK's pop-loving pubescent males."
Flick Colby agreed that the group flaunted their sexuality, but pointed out that attractiveness is a showbusiness commodity. "Personally," she said, "I was always flattered to be called a dolly bird."
Not everyone, however, was enthusiastic: an outraged Mary Whitehouse of the National Viewers' and Listeners' Association wanted their risqué costumes banned, while feminists vilified Pan's People as a soft porn act pandering to male fantasies.
Even Tony Blackburn, one of the Radio 1 disc jockeys who presented Top of the Pops, considered them little more than "a dodgy dance act" and Flick Colby "a real cold fish".
Nevertheless, under her direction, Pan's People came to be as synonymous with the programme as the cigar-chomping Jimmy Savile and the pounding Led Zeppelin theme tune.
Felicity Colby was born in the United States on March 23, 1946, the daughter of a university professor, and grew up at Clinton, a small college town in upstate New York. Educated at Andover, New Hampshire, she took ballet and dance lessons in Boston before joining a repertory theatre company, where she met her first husband.
Anxious to experience the "swinging London" phenomenon of the mid-Sixties, the couple moved to England. When her marriage failed, Flick Colby found work on the BBC show The Beat Room. She also performed as a go-go dancer in a Soho nightclub.
In 1966 Colby joined five other dancers -- Babs Lord, Ruth Pearson, Dee Dee Wilde, Louise Clarke and Andi Rutherford -- in a new all-girl troupe. But when they appeared on Dutch and Belgian television, the presenters were defeated by the group's original name, Dionysius' Darlings, and they became Pan's People instead.
The girls based themselves on The Beatles, each member having a different look and personality. When they returned to Britain in 1968 they were booked on Top of the Pops and soon became a weekly fixture on the show.
Although regarded as national heart-throbs, the girls were paid the Equity minimum of £56 a week. When the Prince of Wales visited the Top of the Pops studio, they were ordered to hide because their costumes -- they were dressed as mermaids in gossamer -- were considered too skimpy for the royal eye.
The weekly pop chart was published on Tuesday and Top of the Pops was recorded on Wednesdays, leaving Colby one day to devise and rehearse a six-handed routine to perform on national television. As a result, their range was severely limited. "They weren't Broadway-standard routines," Colby confessed. "We were definitely doing watercolours, not oil paintings."
Shortage of time also explains the clunkily literal moves the group sometimes included. During the Osmonds 1974 hit I Can't Stop, Pan's People danced beneath four sets of traffic lights, which turned red on the word "stop". For Monster Mash, they appeared as werewolves; and for Norman Greenbaum's Spirit in the Sky they wore angels' wings.
Although at first Flick Colby was both choreographing the routines and dancing with the group, she later retreated behind the scenes, directing the girls and the cameras from the studio gallery during their weekly number. Their last appearance on the show was in April 1976, dancing to Silver Star by The Four Seasons.
When the group split, Ruth Pearson joined Flick Colby to run and choreograph Ruby Flipper, a mixed-gender troupe which danced on Top of the Pops, until a BBC boss complained that he wanted another all-girl group. But the new line-up, named Legs & Co by a viewers' poll, never earned the same degree of public affection.
Flick Colby finally persuaded Top of the Pops to let her include some men, and she formed Zoo, a group of some 20 dancers which appeared irregularly on the show until the early Eighties. By then, with record companies offering the BBC free promotional videos, dance troupes seemed superfluous.
Returning to the United States in 1984, Flick Colby bought a farm in New York State and worked part-time in a novelty shop.
When her second husband, George, died earlier this year, she was already seriously ill with cancer.
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