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Oleg Kerensky (January 9, 1930 - July 9, 1993)

Oleg Kerensky was a dance, music, and theater critic for newspapers and magazines in the U.S. and Britain.

TO BE BORN with a famous name must be a problem as well as a help. Being grandson of Alexander Kerensky, head of the Russian Provisional Government in 1917, certainly helped Oleg in his Oxford days at Christ Church and as treasurer and Librarian of the Oxford Union.

The problem comes from people's expectations. Touched by history as Oleg Kerensky was, he would be obsessed with politics. He wasn't. Well-connected and informed, having languages and an international outlook, he won his success at Oxford and later at the BBC through ability rather than his name. Political expectations remained unfulfilled along with interest in the bridges and motorways built by his designer father.

What absorbed him was the world and personalities of the arts, especially classical ballet, to which he was introduced by his mother. They appeared together at performances, he myopic and astigmatic, carrying powerful opera glasses to see the stage, she tiny beside his bulky height, a galleon and its pinnace sailing slowly among the Covent Garden crowds.

Companionship with words, written or spoken, was grounded in education at Westminster School. Scattering them widely at first across broadcasts on many subjects, particularly for the BBC's European and World Services, he focused finally on arts commentary and dance criticism, where he made his name. He was for five years deputy editor of the BBC's journal the Listener before going freelance, from the late 1960s. His writing and speaking had neither the imagery of Gautier, the wit of Tynan nor the glitter of Buckle at his best. Instead he offered from 1957 to 1978 a plain man's guide to dance for readers of the Daily Mail, the New Statesman and the International Herald Tribune.


Oleg Kerensky with Rudolf Nureyev
Oleg Kerensky (January 9, 1930 - July 9, 1993) was a dance, music, and theater critic for newspapers and magazines in the U.S. and Britain. What absorbed him was the world and personalities of the arts, especially classical ballet, to which he was introduced by his mother. They appeared together at performances, he myopic and astigmatic, carrying powerful opera glasses to see the stage, she tiny beside his bulky height, a galleon and its pinnace sailing slowly among the Covent Garden crowds.


Oleg Kerensky with his parents

This practical approach led him to criticise both sides of the curtain. He condemned whispering, chattering, sweet-eating audiences as much as indifferent stage performance and was ready always to fuel controversy. In the Times, the Guardian and the Dancing Times as well as in his regular outlets he discussed male dancing and homosexuality and argued for changes in dance training and better employment for dancers after performing careers. Thus he was an opinion-former as well as a critic heard frequently on The Critics, The World of Books and other BBC arts programmes.

Words too were companions in daily life. Prolific in conversation, revelling in gossip, always entertaining, he stayed nevertheless an outsider, a loner, socially and professionally. His life, it seemed to me, remained always in the same key, the same smile, the same phrases and the same desires reflecting a world lived within himself but often sunless.

He moved latterly to the United States, where his occasional pieces in the Stage and elsewhere signalled across the ocean that his commitment to classical ballet remained even while he fought the cancer which killed him. Classical ballet, he wrote in Ballet Scene (1970), his best book, is 'the most international form of theatre . . . more poignant than spoken drama, more exciting than a sporting event, as entertaining as a variety show and as aesthetically satisfying as painting or sculpture . . . one of the highest forms of art.' At a time of threat to all art we need such champions.

In 1983 Oleg Kerensky is delighted to play the role of his grandfather Alexander in the film Reds, next to Jerzy Kosinski, Jack Nicholson and Warren Beatty, who also directed and produced the film.

In 1988 Oleg Kerensky learns that he is HIV positive and knows from now on that he will have his life cut short. On July 9, 1993, Oleg Olegovich Kerensky, aged 63, dies of AIDS. He is fully awake when he dies. He is cremated and his ashes are returned to his cousins in England, for internment in the family plot in Putney Vale. A memorial service is held in London. The Times publishes a three column obituary on Oleg. He loved to travel, yet he never managed to visit Russia, the homeland of his grandfather.

Burial: Putney Vale Cemetery and Crematorium, Wimbledon, Greater London, England

Source: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/people/obituary-oleg-kerensky-1484441.html (PETER BRINSON)

Further Readings:

The World of Ballet by Oleg Kerensky
Hardcover
Publisher: Putnam Pub Group (March 1, 1975)
ISBN-10: 0698104072
ISBN-13: 978-0698104075
Amazon: The World of Ballet

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Tags: essayist: oleg kerensky, gay classics
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