As most of us know, the most incredible dance legends have trained and performed within these magnificent walls, making the Wetsmor iconic in the world of dance. But did you know that these walls hold even greater history, starting in the 1930's?
Before the Westmor was the Westmor, it was actually the Ernest Belcher Dance Studio in 1930. Take a closer look at these photos by clicking on them. The original Ernest Belcher Dance Studio balcony is now gone along with the arched entrances, however the figural sculpture under the window ledge still remains today.
Ernest Belcher was a ballet dancer and choreographer who studied ballet in London, however ballet was not his only style of dance. Belcher taught dancing in Southern California and founded two dance schools, one of which was the studio we now call The Westmor. He coached notable dancers such as Fred Astaire, Maria Tallchief, Shirley Temple, Cyd Charisse, and many more. Belcher also worked for Walt Disney Studios, and his daughter, Marge, was the model for the original Snow White! He was known as the "Father of Ballet in Southern California".
Take a look at the historical photo on the right. You're looking at the same room the Westmor Studio resides in today! The windows you see in the photo have not changed since the studio opened.
We all know of Shirley Temple. Shirley attended ballet classes taught by Mr. Belcher in preparation for her 1939 movie, The Little Princess. Ernest Belcher also staged the ballet in this film. The certificate you see below was presented to Shirley for passing 3rd grade ballet on February 1, 1938, signed by Ernest Belcher. That's right... Shirley Temple was trained right within these walls!
* Special thanks to Gaile M. McKinney for donating Ms. Temple's ballet certificate.
As you can see, the history of the Wetsmor Studio starts with Hollywood legends, and continues into present day with some of the most incredible ballroom dance legends.
"It will continue with us and with all of you. Creating a stronger dance community and uniting those who share a love and appreciation for our unique form of art is the ultimate dream." -- Valdas & Lilia