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Daily Mail: Co-founder of Top of The Pops dance troupe Pan's People dies age 65

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Co-founder of Top of The Pops dance troupe Pan's People dies age 65

Flick Colby, the driving force behind Top of the Pops' fondly-remembered dance troupe Pan's People has died of bronchial pneumonia

Flick Colby, the driving force behind Top of the Pops' fondly-remembered dance troupe Pan's People has died of bronchial pneumonia

The driving force behind Top of the Pops' fondly-remembered dance troupe Pan's People has died of bronchial pneumonia at the age of 65.

Flick Colby was the dancer and choreographer credited with co-founding the group that went on to become an iconic part of British pop culture.

Before the age of the music video, which dawned with the arrival of MTV, the dance troupe provided the visual entertainment when an artist could not appear on the BBC show.

They were not the first such group to appear on the pop programme - they were preceded by the Go-Jos - but they were TOTP's first exclusive set of dancers.

And they came to be as synonymous with the much-loved chart show as cigar-chomping Jimmy Savile and the pounding Led Zeppelin theme tune.

Although Colby was an American who grew up in Clinton, New York, it was on British television that she found fame.

She joined dancers Babs Lord, Ruth Pearson and Dee Dee Wilde and recruited Louise Clarke and Andi Rutherford to form Pan's People in 1966.

At the time, their outfits were seen as somewhat skimpy and their dance routines considered daring.

It was, after all, a while before audiences grew accustomed to semi-naked women shimmying provocatively in every other hip hop and dance music video.

As well as being a staple of 1960s and 1970s TOTP, Pan's People featured on a number of other TV shows, including The Two Ronnies.

 
Glamorous Pan's People wearing the revealing costumes they were famous for performing on Top of The Pops in the 1970s

Glamorous Pan's People wearing the revealing costumes they were famous for performing on Top of The Pops in the 1970s

Although at first Colby was both choreographing the routines and dancing with the group, she later retreated to a behind-the-scenes role only.

She would often have just a few hours to come up with a sequence for a song on TOTP, which may explain the comically literal moves the group sometimes pulled.

They last appeared on the show in April 1976, dancing to Silver Star by The Four Seasons.

When the group split after this final performance, the women were said to have remained close friends.

 
Dance troupe Pan's People in 1974 from left to right Babs (Barbara) Lord, Dee-Dee Wilde, Louise Clarke, Ruth Pearson and Cherry Gillespie

Dance troupe Pan's People in 1974 from left to right Babs (Barbara) Lord, Dee-Dee Wilde, Louise Clarke, Ruth Pearson and Cherry Gillespie

But Colby eventually moved back to the US, where she married and settled down in Clinton with her husband George and opened a gift shop.

When her husband died earlier this year, Colby was already seriously ill with cancer herself and she never fully recovered from her bereavement, her publicist said.

Her condition deteriorated before finally leading to the bronchial pneumonia she died of at her home in Clinton on Thursday.

Philip Day, who has been Pan's People's publicist for more than 40 years, said: "Challenging as the task was, the ladies, spearheaded by Flick, made it a pleasure.

"Never a moan, always on time and true professionals at all times. I will never see their like again.

Ms Clarke, 61, paid a glowing tribute to her friend and fellow dancer.

'She was extraordinary," she said.

'She changed my life. She was a wonderful choreographer, she was innovative, and how she did what she did every week was extraordinary.

'You don't realise when you're doing it because it's your job, you love it, it's your chosen career path.

'But when you look back, that was pretty unreal what she achieved. They were exciting times.'

Pan's People, which Colby played an integral part in creating, helped raise the profile of dancers in general, she said, successfully boosting the amount of recognition they received.

But this was not her only achievement.

Like the others, Colby was a trained ballerina and had choreographed two operas as well as the pop routines for which she is famous.

'She was an amazing lady, Ms Clarke added.

She also spoke of the strong bond that remained between the former members of the troupe, who plan to travel to Clinton for Colby's funeral on June 17.

'The last time we all went over there was as a surprise to Flick a few years ago, but since then we have seen her in London,' she said.

'Some people form bonds and some don't, and we did. We didn't have jealousy or rivalry.

'I think because we were a group we were very solid and we've been through the good and the bad together.