Wednesday, October 8, 2014

A Secret Passion

After ten-year-old June Roper saw Anna Pavlova dance, her future was determined. She was ready to make the necessary sacrifices and commitments to seeing her dream come true. Elizabeth Roper, her mother, understood June's desires - perhaps recalling her own dreams as a child -but refused to support those goals financially. After all, approaching her husband George for endorsement would have created a disaster.

June kept on with her goals, refusing to accept any roadblocks. When a teenaged neighbour threw out a pair of used toe shoes, June grabbed them and cut them down to size. At the age of eleven, she danced in an impromptu debut at a family Christmas gathering.

At the age of twelve, June started babysitting and she offered free lessons in dance as part of the package. She was a young lady very attentive to detail and soon became popular with the mothers in her neighbourhood. June charged 25 cents for each session. With four assignments, she would take three streetcars into downtown Los Angeles for a class at Ernest Belcher Studios.

June's long absences into town were never questioned and her mother knew what was going on though she didn't try to stop the dancing. The young Roper was a contradiction - one on hand she was fearful that her father would discover what she was doing yet on the other hand, she would seek out any and possibilities to perform publicly. Amateur nights at the moving-picture houses was one way to perform as was a furniture store opening.

Ernest Belcher had opened his studios in 1916 in Los Angeles. Belcher was an expert in the Cecchetti ballet method. He was considered the most prominent of the English teachers in American and had studied ballet in London with Francesca Zanfretta and Alexander Genee. He learned national and folk dances under Louis d'Egville and Spanish dance through studies with La Belle Otero in Spain.

Belcher maintained an employment link to the motion-picture industry so if a dancer studied with him, they had a means to get work in the movies. Belcher arranged the dance sequences and coached Hollywood stars for more than 170 motion pictures. If a student were truly ambitious, he or she would take the fees earned from film engagements and obtain coveted private lessons from Belcher. 

Thanks goes to the book June Roper Ballet Starmaker by Leland Windreich.

I hope you find the beauty around you.


  1. Beautiful pictures and I can see that young June Roper wasn't about to let religion or money stand in her way. Don't ever give up your dreams.

    1. It sort of makes any excuse we can come up with for why we can't get things accomplished, weak in comparison.