There is Magic in the air, here right in front of us. Right before our very eyes. Magic can mean many things. To some a sleight of hand, a foolish or ignoble trick, an illusionary device, a confirmation of an easily deceived or slow-witted mind. Or a party piece for entertainment value, to surprise and enthral an enthusiastic audience. But it can mean much more, of course. Something truly of great worth, something that can enliven the senses and spirit of the perceiver. Something to live long in the mind, and for to cherish the memory. There is good magic and bad magic, to influence the behaviour of the beholders; there is a natural magic to leave a sense of wonder in those witness the splendour of the world, for example. A supreme sense of magic can bestow much enlightenment and joy upon those that are aware of it. Magic in a pure sense may really prove the superiority of the human existence- were one to try to prove that Humanity was the perfected end of all History. If we see something that has pleased us greatly or something which makes the ‘life’ in all of us that little better for witnessing it, is that not Magic? Are the practitioners of this art to be esteemed above us, in some way? Superstition is to be derided as a practice in the modern age, but are we not programmed to believe such primitive modes? How are we so different from the people of 800 years ago, if only through modern science and technology? What belief and credulity do we have that our forbears did not? A human then is a human now, even if we do know much more through progress and discovery. Magic can make you believe you are seeing something that is not there. But it can also mean that you have beheld something that was true and will always be a truth. Magic has many forms, and formulates vicariously throughout those who bear it within. ( And if there are any who think this writer is ‘away with the fairies’ this writer may agree with you ). A good Magic will bring much strength to the soul and joy to the spirit. And good Magic is exactly what I believe I have found.
I will not leave any doubt in announcing straight away that this is a routine I enjoy watching very much. The interplay between the members, the many glorious close shots of them and the personalities of the girls shining through like a fiery beacon on a dark, dreary night. This is a dance were the craft and vision of Flick, and the ability of the team to display her and their expertise is not found wanting. Yet again, despite the surviving copy being in stark monochrome, I can see this in beautiful colour in the mind, an imagined vivid, bright landscape for the vivaciousness of all the dancers. All the girls look stunningly beautiful, startlingly so in fact. Their hair appears sumptuously coiffured, even from the black and white images, and the floor-length halter-neck dresses with the diagonal, diamond patterns and long frontal split look utterly divine on them. But how I would like to see them all in real colour! All of Pan’s are ravishingly and radiantly gorgeous in this number. Which is something we should come to expect in this undoubtedly purple period of routines during the summer of 1973, from the evidence in video form we have before us. No doubt this was helped by having good music to dance to, and this track, ‘You Can Do Magic’ by Limmie and the Family Cookin’ is, needless to say, a good track to which I enjoy listening. There is a pitch black background, and no audience to be seen,- but oh!- what shining Enchantresses in front, performing for us in the momentous style of a Greek tragedy of sorts- my idea of one, leastways. From the very moment that Cherry and Ruth appear on screen together, the beginning, up to the vision of a quintet of dancers moving wondrously and evocatively in different formations, the end, this is a rare treat for the eyes. At the start of the piece there are Cherry and Ruth spinning beautifully in unison, and everything is set up for a complete and marvellous number. Things to note that please me are legion and to detail them will take space, but it is an utter necessity for me to do so. We find Babs and Louise move beguilingly back to back with outstretched arms and endearing facial expressions, which are continued on all the dancers throughout the number. The three of Babs, Louise and Dee Dee, with their circular arm movements and palms showing foremost are bewitching as they seem to show their magic within. A motif repeated by all the team within this dance. However it must be clear to all that Babs is chief Magician, Witch or Wise Woman here- you may pick which epithet is preferred- as she leads the line where we encounter Louise at the tail, and from which Cherry and Dee Dee emerge so engagingly well, as they demonstrate their skill of sorcery. Perhaps there is not too much to be found of actual dancing, but all the actions performed are exquisitely divine. At one point Dee Dee and Louise appear cross-legged with arms stretched up and sideways in a position difficult to explain and bear repeating, then later they re-appear with more lovely movements and arms raised upwards and then thrust forwards. More joy to behold. The part of the routine from 01.51 to 02.10 I find particularly enthralling, as four of the group, minus Cherry, move backwards into view, side by side with their double but not exact repeats of each other. Words escape definition as they curtsey and exchange magic signs to their own likeness, and which is the true form, on the left or right? Then more images to savour as they move across the screen from left to right, followed by more playful vignettes going across and forward. And we reached the end with another magical denouement, as one, then two, then three groups of dancers arrive, all positioned differently, and with several movements not seen earlier in the piece. For me the enticing sideways motion at about 02.27 and 02.42 are particularly enchanting, sheer unadulterated pleasure on my part seeing them so. Such is the entire routine. If this convinces anyone that this is indeed a favoured routine, then I still feel the need to convince over again. I like this number a lot, and I do not mind who knows! Everyone appears so engaged and willing to be part of it.
What is the earliest memory of the Top Of The Pops dancers which remains with you? Which troupe were the first to make their mark, from the 1960s, 70s or 80s? I have mentioned before that I began watching the programme in the 1960s, and can remember various items from about 1969. But what is my earliest recollection of Pan’s People, who were the dancers from that time, as we know? Certainly I can remember pieces from 1972, like Cherry’s unwrapping and one of the routines on Nationwide which left Ruth very thirsty indeed. And I am pretty sure that I can recall some from 1971, particularly involving the band T. Rex. Any from 1970 from me- unfortunately at this point no. Try as I might, I cannot delve far back enough in my mind to uncover any from that year, or any other early numbers from the first few years, although I must have seen them. Which I do find sad now, as those memories, however fleeting they existed, are gone forever. From 1973, I think I remember some more, and not just because I have been reminded by watching the routines in a modern format- on the blog, on YouTube for example. And ‘You Can Do Magic’ is a routine which I would say that with 99% reliability I recollect from the day it was broadcast. And I am so very happy to be able watch it again, whenever I want. Which can be often.
I feel that I should leave no stone unturned to express my admiration at this whole number, and hope that comes through to all. An ensemble piece without compare. And what of the individual dancers, what do I have to say? Dee Dee is the only member who has not been given a real starring role in this piece. But between the Enchantment of Babs, the Loneliness of Louise, the Anguish of Cherry and the Vivacity of Ruth, whom should I pick to gain my favour? There are so many choice morsels to consume. Dee Dee rises into our vision at 00.04 as if like a ‘jack-in-the-box’ or an impish sprite, with an especially engaging grin. Then dances away from us with a lovely spin- as another confirmation of the whole spectacular marvel yet to come. And in the group of four she looks ever so lovely as she peels way from our view at 00.47. At 00.12 Babs appears with a ravishing trademark smile and looking ever so lovely with her light blonde hair cascading behind her, as she dances back to back with Louise. Then again Babs at 00.26 just as ravishing, just as seductive in her long dress as she engages me with the magnificent hand movements. But from 00.35 is the best, and proof she is indeed the ‘Queen of Enchantresses’ as she appears yet again and bewitches me with her delightful posture and graceful movement once more. Then she crouches down to reveal Louise and others- the Enchantresses assistants they seem to be. It is always lovely when Babs mouths the lyrics during a routine and there is plenty of evidence on show of this attribute here. And the many hand gestures and movements seem not of this world and are very attracting to me, without any doubt. Then at 01.01 she attracts again with her smiles and clasped hands and seems to plead for our favour, which would be easily given. Yet there is more, at 01.36 when she appears another time as if like an hallucinatory image and repeats her deliciously provocative hand and body gestures. I could go on there is so much more to enjoy! At 00.21 there are two of Cherry, each one looking as enrapturing has Cherry has ever done, but which is the real one, and which is the rival? At 00.23 when each Cherry realises the other’s presence and the anxiety shown of discovering a competitor equally gifted and desirable seems too much to bear, with the pointing at each other and a finger to each lips as an expression of doubt- simply moving. And her reappearance at 00.56 as the one Cherry seems to continue her feelings of mental anguish- but which one has won through? We shall never know, but her vision at 01.31 shows the happier, joyful side, then again at 01.46 as she seems more at ease with her world. Even Magician’s assistants have emotions. For Ruth, she seems slightly apart from the others even when she is with them, as the Enchantresses Apprentice with the most individual future. When we see her at 00.19 as she shifts from right to left, all the while with that typical smile and engrossing presence, which is repeated at 00.32 as she dances away to the background, and again at 00.48. And when she comes into view at 01.53 at the rear of the team of doubles- and it is very noticeable how the right side are lower or shorter than the left- the Right Ruth gives a very mischievous and beguiling smile, as the Left Ruth bestows upon us a more customary version. Then she does it again at 02.04, as the two groups move towards us. Which is then topped off perfectly at 02.07 when our Princess of All Enchantments gives the sign, which surely only I am able to see- so others here won’t know to what I am referring. And what of Louise? When she appears at 00.51 on the right side of the trio, she brightens us with the most lovely smiles and movements, yet the drama has not unfolded. The passage of the routine from 01.02 to 01.26 when Louise parades towards then past us four times show her true inner loneliness at first, with utter dejection on the second pass, then the redemption starting to begin on the third, and by the fourth the ecstasy of true and enduring love attained is clear for all to see. All the while accompanied by lovely gestures and graceful movements, finished by an enormously endearing smile at the camera to end. What joys in life are granted for those with the patience to know their turn.
DOTD- Babs. The Sorceress. A Circe for the modern age- capturing and captivating the hearts of all those that cross her path- past, present and future. Why would Odysseus even consider returning to Ithaca to his Penelope? Or I retaking human form- the gibbering wreck that she has made me?
Routine- 10/10 and then some more. One of my all-time very favourite routines, an unbridled joy. And a number that can make this old creature burst out in praise of the ‘Lightest of Arts’. An art of dazzling brightness. Perfect in form, scintillating in execution.