One of the most fondly remembered dancers with Pan’s People, the troupe that enlivened BBC television’s Top of the Pops, was Louise Clarke. The daughter of a music arranger, she began dancing at the age of four and later went to the Corona Stage School in Hammersmith, London. While there, she played minor roles in films and television and also did some modelling.
At the age of 16, Clarke appeared in Aladdin (1964-65) at the London Palladium, starring Cliff Richard and the Shadows, and Arthur Askey. After that, she played in cabaret at a club and then became the lead dancer in a company touring Europe.
Pan’s People were formed in 1966, and replaced another dance troupe on Top of the Pops, the long-running charts show, two years later. Clarke had joined the previous year. In an era preceding the pop video, the group’s task was to dance to records whose singers were not available to perform them live. The first record that all six girls danced to was Elvis Presley’s US Male, which reached No 15 in the British charts.
In their day, Pan’s People created something of a controversy in that their routines were overtly sexual and were enhanced by the skimpy outfits they wore. This meant that men who were not remotely interested in pop music tuned in every week. On the other hand, the Mary Whitehouse brigade denounced the troupe as a threat to human decency.
Clarke left Pan’s People in the summer of 1974 to start a family. She had met her future husband, Tony Dobson, an entrepreneur, on the night of her 21st birthday in 1970. In the same year, she joined Tim Curry in a play at London’s Strand Theatre entitled Lie Down, I Think I Love You. But it flopped, notching up only 13 performances.
The publicist for Pan’s People, Philip Day, said of Clarke: “She was a real darling. Of all the clients I have had the good fortune to represent, they were the most fun to work with. They were loyal to a fault and the very best at what they did.”
Clarke was widowed in 2010 when Dobson died. After his death at the age of 77, she lived with her son, Anthony, a financial consultant. Louise Clarke, who was born on September 3, 1949, died on August 25, aged 62.
Richard Anthony Baker