June Roper: Ballet Starmaker

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By Leland Windreich

Whatever timing is – coincidence, fate, chance, destiny, divine will or just plain chaos at work – in 1934 all its components came into play on the Vancouver dance scene. Two adept women, Vivian Ramsey and Yvonne Firkins, were planning a theatre arts school … June Roper arrived in the city to visit her sister … the lush sea coast cities of Vancouver and Victoria held a sprinkling of children who had their minds set on being dancers … and Colonel de Basil’s fabulous Ballets Russes would soon arrive to enchant and captivate a community of new balletomanes … Convergence. Flash! Over the next six years, a flood of outstanding dancers poured out of June Roper’s BC School of Dancing, destined to spread their talents across four continents.

A performer through and through, June Roper was new to teaching dance. But she had “it” – confidence, technique and a fearless approach to dance – and demanded no less from her students.

Roper found and opened opportunities for her dancers, aggressively pursuing auditions for them with producers and directors in Vancouver, the United States and with the leading ballet companies of the day.

Windreich tells the Roper story from beginning to end – her early encounters with teacher Ernest Belcher in Los Angeles; her glamorous performing career in the United States and Europe in the 1920s; her productive life in Vancouver. He includes sketches of several of Roper’s remarkable dancers and their careers. It remains a mystery how June Roper achieved so much in so little time. What was the “it” that in 1945 inspired Montreal writer Francis Coleman to proclaim her as Ballet Starmaker?

About the Author
Leland Windreich is a Vancouver-based writer who has published in Canadian, American and British dance journals including Dance InternationalDance Magazine and Ballet Review. His special interest encompasses the post-Diaghilev Ballets Russes, particularly the Canadian dancers who performed with these companies.


Softcover, 7.5" x 9",  125 pp.,  48 illustrations and photographs