Monday, October 27, 2014

June Roper's B.C. School of Dancing

June Roper fulfilled her commitment to Yvonne Firkins and Vivien Ramsay but she didn't go back to Los Angeles. Instead, she joined with a twenty-three-year-old woman, Hope Brealey, who had an aptitude for bookkeeping to open June Roper's B.C. School of Dancing. Brealey was working in clerical position, which although secure, wasn't that challenging. She and June agreed Hope would earn sixty dollars a month and a ten percent share of the school's take.

The two rented a suite at 887 Seymour Street - adjacent to the Orpheum Theatre. The space was suitable for two studios. A student later recalled the area to be surprisingly spacious. The school contained a reception room, a sewing room, a business office and a studio large enough to accommodate thirty dancers. The studio had an excellent wooden floor, strong barres of two heights and one fully mirrored wall. There was a smaller studio and an airless, crowded dressing room without showers, which occupied the remaining area. 

June was able to direct the school with minimum assistance for the next five years. Colonel de Basil's Ballets Russes appeared three times in Vancouver during that time and June continued to be inspired as a teacher and a choreographer by those shows. The young Canadians who came to her studios had innate talents, strong bodies and the kind of dedication she demanded.

The school was open Monday through Friday from early morning until nightfall. The late afternoon classes were for the young beginners and the advanced ballet class was held at 10:00 am for ninety minutes. Early afternoons were devoted to rehearsals for upcoming shows and recitals. Some pupils would choose to spend a full day at the studio and they paid a monthly rate of thirty-five dollars. That fee included morning class and a half-hour of private instruction each week with June. These students were the ones interested in a career in the ballet.

June taught the beginning and advanced classes. She called upon associates and experienced students for special teaching assignments. Most of her advanced students took part in teaching the younger children. Ted Cawker, a local performer, offered classes in tap dancing. Vancouver athletes shared their skills in acrobatics for performance training.

When she taught her private lessons, June gave personal attention to a dancer's special needs. She would often provide programmes of intensive correction. For example, Robert Lindgren was given a series of exercises to elevate his arches.

Usually an advanced class drew twelve to fifteen pupils. Each day of the week was assigned a different ballet activity. Mondays were leaps and jumps; Tuesdays, turns; Wednesday, combinations; Thursday, adagio and Fridays, character class.

Thanks goes to the book June Roper Ballet Starmaker and its author, Leland Windreich for the information. Wednesday, I will tell you more about June's school.

I hope you find the beauty around you.