A SPECIAL show celebrated the career of Wirral dance teacher, actress and theatrical producer Julia Whitehead - who is retiring after more than 50 years in showbusiness.

Family, friends and ex-pupils of the Whitehead School of Dance's retiring principal watched the emotional show in her honour at Port Sunlight's Gladstone Theatre.

Looking back on a career that has included performances on stages across and also saw her caught up in a country's revolution, Julia told the Globe: "I have worked with so many fantastic people over the years, many of whom have become great friends.

"If I had the chance to do it all again, I certainly would."

Julia was born in Waterloo, Liverpool, and at the age of 12 passed an audition for a place at Sadler's Wells Ballet School, which is now the Royal Ballet School.

A year later she changed to the Italia Conti Stage School.

After graduating she secured a film with Ronald Shiner, and a Christmas production of Where the Rainbow Ends with Donald Houston and Johnny Briggs (later to find fame as Coronation Street's Mike Baldwin).

Returning home to Waterloo to have her tonsils removed, Julia appeared in Pantomime at the Liverpool Shakespeare Theatre, followed by a summer season in Blackpool with stars of the day; comedian Max Bygraves, comedy actress Hylda Baker and pianist Winifred Attwell.

Then came pantomimes and summer season in Bournemouth, Yarmouth and back to Bournemouth as a member of the internationally-renowned Tiller Girls troupe.

It was there that Miss Bluebell spotted Julia from the audience, and picked her to become a Bluebell Girl on a ten-month tour of South America.

In Buenos Aires she was caught up in the revolution with President Peron; bombs and tanks in the streets, shooting and burning buildings.

The dancers were kept in a church hall and then taken back to their hotel once the President was back in control.

After South America Julia spent sixteen months dancing in Spain then six months at the Windmill in London with entertainment legend Bruce Forsythe.

Next it was off to Canada and on to New York dancing with the Rockettes at the Radio City Music Hall.

Along with a Canadian girl she headed for Las Vegas working with Tony Bennett, Johnny Ray, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Jayne Mansfield, Pat Boone and many other stars.

In a kicking routine she found herself next to Marlene Dietrich, with strict instructions that she was not to kick her leg higher than the star. On another occasion she was within touching distance of Elvis!

Returning home in 1961 Julia started her dancing school firstly in Waterloo and then after marriage in Eastham.

When the Civic Centre opened in Bebington she was one of the first to hire rooms there, as well as locations in New Ferry and Rock Ferry.

She has produced, costumed and choreographed shows for many of the local amateur operatic / dramatic Societies as well as writing many pantomimes for the Port Sunlight Players, who she joined in 1962.

Julia has no plans to retire completely from the stage completely and still runs a very successful youth drama group.

She also runs a murder mystery group called The Red Herrings, whose productions have raised more than £4,000 for charity over the years.

Her work, for more than 50 years teaching dance to all ages was recognised two years ago with an invitation to Buckingham Palace.

She gives talks on her career to various audiences and will still carry on teaching Tap dance to the 3Ls and a class at Meadowcroft for Age Concern.

Often when telling her life story she is asked "Is there a book?" Who knows.

With more time on her hands, keep watching this space!