Richard Gere plans dance troupe reunion in Sunderland

The Rosslyn Babes pictured in panto at the Sunderland Empire - date unknown.

The Rosslyn Babes pictured in panto at the Sunderland Empire - date unknown.

A former Sunderland showbiz troupe could step back into the spotlight – for one night only.

Generations of Wearside schoolgirls performed with The Rosslyn Babes; a professional dance company whose members starred in stage shows nationwide.

The Rosslyn Babes performing in Cinderella at the Empire in 1982.

The Rosslyn Babes performing in Cinderella at the Empire in 1982.

Now plans for a possible reunion have been announced – but only if enough ex-dancers are interested in attending a get-together in early June.

“The Rosslyn Babes were formed by dance teacher Mary Harbord and her sister Norah Gere and proved highly successful,” said theatre historian George McCarthy.

“Norah’s son, Richard, was the rehearsal pianist for years. He later moved to America, but is coming back here on holiday and wondered if anyone is interested in a reunion.”

The Rosslyn Babes – named after Mary and Norah’s childhood home in Rosslyn Street – were formed in 1944 and made their début in Mother Goose at the Empire.

The Rosslyn Babes at the Sunderland Emprie in 1979.

The Rosslyn Babes at the Sunderland Emprie in 1979.

Although billed as “Your Favourite ‘Step’ Children”, the Babes were also known as the “Small, Cute And Clever Tappas.” The word “small” was very important.

“The girls were all professional; well drilled in dancing and singing,” said George, who was a teenage lighting technician at the Empire at the time. “But Mary insisted the girls had to be small.

“She argued that they ceased to be cute, even if they were clever, once they topped 4ft 8ins.”

Mary’s policy worked. As the popularity of the Babes grew, so she hired out several groups at a time to appear in pantomimes across the country.

The Rosslyn Babes pictured at the Empire Theatre in 1958.

The Rosslyn Babes pictured at the Empire Theatre in 1958.

And the youngsters even came second in Hughie Green’s Opportunity Knocks TV show in 1967, after performing a routine filled with high-kicks.

But, in the late 1980s, the group finally folded. Today, a Facebook page dedicated to the dancers is flourishing.

* Anyone interested in the reunion should email rosslynbabes2016@earthlink.net or contact George on 551 0314.