The following is a guest post by Dance Heritage Coalition Fellow Nicole Topich.
Processing the Marge Champion Collection in the Music Division has been one of the most exciting archives jobs I have held. The collection is not very large, but almost every item I found was interesting or historically significant. Because the collection has such rich material, I have spent a lot of time focusing on the description, content, and context of the collection.
There are significant materials in the collection related to Champion’s father, Ernest Belcher. Belcher was also a dancer, and began his own dance school in LA in 1916. He became involved with Hollywood choreography in 1918 and worked on 200 films before 1931. He is credited with 70 percent of all dance sequences in movies before the early 1930s, including landmark films such as The Phantom of the Opera and The Jazz Singer.
Belcher was given this megaphone when he was named the Dance Director of Movieland by the Western Association of Motion Picture Advertisers in 1925. You can see the signatures of many Hollywood actors and actresses on the megaphone, such as Sam Warner, John Barrymore, Harry Myers, Lina Basquette, Gloria Swanson, Derelys Perdue, Ramon Novarro, Dolores Costello, Sally Rand, Marion Davies, and Colleen Moore.
Much more research needs to be done on Ernest Belcher, and the information presented here is from one of the few pieces to focus on Belcher: Prevots, Naima. “Ernest Belcher and American Dance.” Dance Chronicle v.10, no.2 (1987): pg. 170-222.