Monday, October 13, 2014

A Star Begins to Rise

June Roper was still a minor when another Belcher studio graduate, Jack Kinney, approached her to go out on the road with him. Kinney was beginning to find bookings on the East Coast nightclub tour, including a six-week tour with the Pantages theatre for himself and his partner. His partner was unable to perform the occasional classical ballet number that was required. Originally it was trio - Kinney, Roper and Lee - who started a tour of nightclubs in Denver and Chicago. After a performance at Chicago's Lyric Theatre, Lee left the trio.

Because June was so young, you needed her mother's approval to perform. She urged her mother to tour with them as a chaperone and mentor. Elizabeth Roper was sixty-five years old but she gave up her comfortable life in Los Angeles to travel with her young daughter for the next seven years, living a nomadic lifestyle in the United States and Europe. The elder Roper embraced the world of show business - after all, she had longed for that existence for herself in her younger years - and became a good friend and confidante to June's associates and peers in the theatres.

June and Jack operated without the services of an exclusive agent and their bookings in the United States were for short term engagements. After performing at the Lyric Theatre in Chicago, the duo moved to Billy Gallagher's Monte Carlo Club in New York. There the press said they were "one of the best whirlwind posture and classical dancing teams that has hit the East in months."

A talent scout from England saw June Roper and Jack Kinney and signed them for a spot at Ciro's Club in London. From that came a three-week engagement at the Kit Kat Club. Every performance they booked opened the doors for others and the duo had few breaks between performances. They accepted engagements in southern France and Spain. They were signed by the Dutch Impresario Tuschinski for the Gaite Theatres in Amsterdam, Rotterdam and The Hague. Jack and June's dancing perfected and their confidence grew - so did their fees.

The stages the duo performed on were those of lavish casinos and night clubs in Europe. June and Jack presented innovative, characteristically American dances, which they created and those of the popular music hall. The pair added acrobatic embellishments to their adagio creations. June often incorporated ballet techniques into her own performances, some of which were done partly on pointe.

June Roper must have been living a dream. A hard working dream, but something she had imagined since she was a child and had seen Anna Pavlova dance. The young lady was doing what she wanted - dancing - and was now gaining fame and recognition. It must have seemed like light years away from the days when she had babysat for money so that she could take two streetcars to attend dancing lessons. And from the days when she had performed at charity bazaars to get noticed.

Are you getting inspired by this young woman's story? I sure am! The dedication and determination June showed throughout these early years, paid off. It reminds me that if I want to realize my goals, I have some big work to do!

I am getting my information from the book June Roper Ballet Starmaker by Leiland Windreich. 

I hope you find the beauty around you.


  1. A wonderful dream come true. I had a heart attack at ten and was laid up for 1 year and when the music was played in the house I would use my index and middle fingers as ballet dancers to entertain myself. Looking back it probably looked very funny.

    1. But at least you were entertained! Good for you Lee.