Wednesday, October 29, 2014

June Roper, Teacher

A pupil attending one of June Roper's advanced classes had to be prepared to work hard. Class started with a short barre based on the syllabus Ernest Belcher had created derived from his own training in Cecchetti methodology. Usually, it lasted no more than twenty minutes, involving a series of fixed exercises.

The centre work was strenuous. Sometimes, June would introduce a new combination. It could be one of her own invention or inspired by a recent exposure to a dance outside of the studio or one taken from memory from something she had seen before.

June's classes were tough and professional. Not for the faint of heart.

The competition in the studios among the ballet hopefuls was intense. But June encouraged people to compete with themselves, not others. If one dancer couldn't perfect a move that her peer had, she was encouraged to observe and ask how they did it.

June never appeared in a ballet company, she had only seen limited performances of a professional troupe and that could account for gaps in her training.  She groomed her prize students for star assignments, not taking into account those fortunate enough to be accepted into the companies would have a long apprenticeship in the corps de ballet before they even got a small solo role.

However, because June taught her students that stardom was a tangible goal, her pupils were constantly encouraged to be unique in realizing their personal dreams. Ian Gibson and Rosemary Deveson - both former students of Miss Roper's - were frustrated in their corps de ballet assignments. They felt the stress on personal artistic achievement was wasted since they were in roles requiring anonymity. Fortunately, when June's students joined a ballet company, they were performing solos within a year so stardom was still in their sights.

June's was great as a teacher because of her ability to motivate her students to achieve technical prowess and convince them hard work would ensure their success as artists. She ruled her domain firmly yet was never autocratic, unkind or hurtful. She had a loving spirit and her students worked hard to please her as much as themselves. They worked to win her praise and appreciation.

Her advanced dancers went with June on trips to schools in Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York. There they received additional coaching from experts in ballet training and alternative theatrical forms. When the students returned to Vancouver, they were encouraged to share their new found knowledge with other classmates.

What a wonderful, creative place 887 Seymour Street must have been at that time! June Roper's B.C. School of Dancing sounds like it was a place of sharing, collaboration and creativity. And lots of love of course. I hope those feelings remain. The studios were there for many decades but, when the Orpheum Theatre was renovated in the seventies, it took over that spot. Now the foyer space to the concert hall occupies that area.

Thanks to Leland Windreich and his book, June Roper Ballet Starmaker for the information.

I hope you find the beauty around you.


  1. June was a strong self made woman worthy of recognition. She would have been someone of worth meeting. She was strong, caring, and loving. Should all teachers be so.

    1. June loved what she did - she sacrificed enough for it!

  2. Thanks for the "beautiful" pictures! reminding me to find beauty around me!

    1. Thank you Siggy. I am glad you enjoyed this post.