Friday, October 10, 2014

Getting Noticed

June Roper was 12 yeas old and one of hundreds of aspiring young dancers at the Belcher studios. She was also one of the few who came without a 'stage mother'. Belcher showed no interest in the young girl until she was fourteen and managed to get herself an engagement at the Pantages Theater as a solo dancer in a sketch called The Goddess of Love. For auditions, Elizabeth Roper had accompanied her daughter and when June was accepted, Mrs. Roper had produced the outfit. It was an elaborately beaded garment with slit harem trousers, breast-plates with elaborate tassels and a feathered head-dress.

The Los Angeles Examiner featured a photo of June in her costume with fellow performers Mrs. Shunway Enderley - reader, interpreter and harpist - and Margaret Goetz- "who is giving highly instructive operalogues." The caption above June's photo read "Highly Talented".

Elizabeth and June must have been hoping that George Roper wouldn't be in Los Angeles and that he didn't read the Examiner.

After her debut at the Pantages, other assignments followed. Some in vaudeville at the Loew's State Theatre, some at several Pantages houses and Grauman's picture palaces as well as those that came through charity bazaars presented in major Los Angeles hotels. This got the interest of Belcher and he realized that the young June Roper was worthy of his personal attention.

In her third year of high school, June's father died and this opened avenues for the young woman. No longer would she need to hide her activities and she could make more positive moves towards the career she longed for.

George left her an inheritance and June used it to enrol in a private school where she learned English, French and painting in the afternoons and left her mornings free for her dance training. At 7 a.m., June was at the Belcher Studios.

June's studies brought a mastery of basic ballet technique. She was also able to acquire a profound insight into the mechanics and physics of dancing through private lessons. She got occasional assignments in films which helped pay for the the personal instruction.

One such assignment where she was a stand-in for Billie Dove required June to do a spectacular high dive into the water at Catalina Island and stab a shark that threatened the film's heroine. Fortunately, her brothers gave her lessons in high-diving.

At sixteen, June was an accomplished ballroom dancer and had mastered many theatrical versions of the major ethnic dance forms. She began to incorporate elements from her ballet training into her adagio work. She worked with Jose Novarro, brother of the film idol Ramon, who worked with her for two months developing a routine she tried out at her high school's annual show. She was successful in training a partner from scratch and this talent would be repeated in her years as a performer and a teacher in Canada. 

Monday, I will start telling you about June Roper's professional career. She was a determined young woman and I think we can all learn from her on how to succeed at what you want to do. Once again, I would like to thank Leland Windreich and his book June Roper Ballet Starmaker for the information above.

Have a great weekend and I hope you find the beauty around you.


  1. Oh my, what a girl. My sister took ballet, piano and other things. I have many skills but a master of none of them. Was glad to see her mother was there to support June. It is very important to have your parents support your endeavors. I like the mosaic pictures you have in some of your posts and the foliage. Rock on Karen you sure have some interesting stories and I love reading them.

    1. This story of June, and the segment on Ivan Ackery, is inspiring me to get my goals accomplished. The mosaics you like are in the sidewalks around town.

  2. I love the mosaics and figured they must be in the sidewalks by the look of them. I used to do mosaics when I was young.