It is nearly 40 years since former dancer Glenis Gerrard set up Kaleidoscope Dancers in Bournemouth but the idea of running her own dance school had been her ambition for years.

"I grew up to have a fascination with the theatre and have memories of the old Theatre Royal and Empire in Peterborough, my home town. It was a beautiful red and gold three tiered building managed by my grandfather in the days of rep and variety. I remember making snow flakes for the snow storms in the Christmas shows and the stars who frequented the dressing rooms and signed autograph books. It had a huge impact on me", said Glenys who began her ballet training in Peterborough and continued at Bournemouth.

After leaving school she trained full time, six days a week, at the Wessex School of Dance in Southbourne. She also took further academic courses to become a school teacher, combining dance teaching with history and religious studies.

But even while she was doing her teacher training the seeds of Kaleidoscope Dancers were beginning to be sown when she joined a variety group 'The Harlequins', run by Sidney Edwards, and toured residential homes dancing solos for the group. Her father said she should have her own group of dancers to go round the homes.

Having placed a letter and some small adverts for her new dance group in the Echo in 1977, the first dancers appeared, including Lynda Aggett ( nee Berry ) the receptionist at the Echo, who took her first advert.

Rehearsals began with two dancers and before long there were four, Lynda Berry, Chrissy Norman, Melanie Mitchell and Glenis.

" We danced in an attic room in the family house and caused the plaster to come off the ceiling below. With increased caution we continued and the first show emerged", said Glenis.

'Dancing to Strauss' was a medley of dances inspired by Strauss music, with constant changing of costumes, hence the name of the group 'Kaleidoscope'.

"We prided ourselves in 30 second costume changes so that everyone would remain interested and wonder what was coming next. This could be challenging and sometimes there were 'wardrobe malfunctions' as skirts fell off, hats got stuck in low-hanging Christmas decorations and even a stray leotard fell in to a sink of water before being put on", said Glenis.

Kaleidoscope Dancers performed once a week mainly in residential homes, some of which no longer exist today. They wanted to bring live entertainment to people who were house-bound.

Over the years the dancers put on a show at many other charity venues, visiting hospitals, day centres and friendship groups. Kaleidoscope often visited the Arthritis Care hotel, Orton Riggs, at Canford Cliffs.

In the early years they took part in local carnivals and would walk the route helping collect money for charity and occasionally putting on an arena display. Eventually they had their own float after a road-making company loaned them a small lorry which would arrive the night before covered with oil and tar. After being scrubbed clean by the early morning it was transformed.

"Our first float was the 'Nutcracker Sweet', a play on words, with the lorry being covered with sweets and the dancers dressed in Nutcracker costumes. None of us knew how to stay on the back. The Sugar Plum Fairy had an undignified arrival as she flew off the back and landed on her face".

Larger floats followed as Kaleidoscope members made their own creations, with Sara Thornton and Frankie Ames helping the group win several awards.

During the 1980s Kaleidoscope performed at pantomimes and a variety of events including Bournemouth Health Week on Pier Approach, Bournemouth Station Centenary Gala and Mudeford Lifeboat Day.

They have also staged fund raising events and have donated thousands of pounds to charity, especially Save the Children.

In 1999 Kaleidoscope Dancers had only two members, Glenis and Emma Joseph, soon to become an Echo reporter, as dancers left for college and university. For a while Glenis and Emma ran an exhausting 'two-woman' show.

Glenis had been running a dance department at a local private school for many years and realised there were children who would love to perform in the Kaleidoscope way and in an exam-free environment, but would need training.

After a transitional period, Kaleidoscope was re-born with centres in Ensbury Park, Lilliput and Mudeford, teaching children as young as three, ballet, tap and fun dance. Soon the dance group was back to performing at residential homes, carnivals, garden fetes and their twice yearly shows.

Hundreds have danced with Kaleidoscope over the years, and today some of the dancers are children of the original members. This year's show entitled 'Make Yourself at Home' will be the 1,148th performance.

For more details of the show contact Glenis on 01202 422845.