Taught to dance by the great Marie Rambert, Leo Kersley was a founder member of the Sadler’s Wells Theatre Ballet. His father, known as “Puff”, earned his living from a wide variety of jobs, working at one stage as a strongman on music hall bills. Some of the higher-class halls often staged excerpts from ballets and operas that captivated both “Puff” and his son.
The family was not well-off, but when there was money to spare it was spent on theatre tickets. Kersley chose to go as often as he could to Sadler’s Wells in Islington, north London. When he was 13, he began lessons with Rambert. Soon, he was appearing onstage and, within a few years, became a full-time member of her company.
At the start of the Second World War, Kersley registered as a conscientious objector. At first, he was sent to prison, but he was then given work in a hospital, choosing to do early shifts so he could dance in the evenings.
After the war, the Sadler’s Wells dancers moved to the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden, but the opera stayed in Islington. When dancers were required for opera ballets, Kersley joined the new troupe.
He left Sadler’s Wells at the end of the 1950/51 season and, after some time in America, secured work as a dancer and teacher in the Netherlands. He returned to Britain in 1959 and set up the Harlow Ballet School in Essex. Here, he taught and his wife, the ballet critic Janet Sinclair, played for classes. The couple also wrote a dictionary of ballet terms as well as articles and reviews for dance publications.
Kersley, who was born on May 30, 1920, died on July 3 at the age of 92.
Richard Anthony Baker
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