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Lindsay Kemp
Kemp in 2016
Lindsay Keith Kemp

(1938-05-03)3 May 1938
Birkenhead, England
Died24 August 2018(2018-08-24) (aged 80)
Livorno, Italy
Known forDance, actor, mime artist

Lindsay Keith Kemp (3 May 1938[1] – 24 August 2018)[2][3][4] was a British dancer, actor, teacher, mime artist, and choreographer.[5]

He was probably best known for his 1974 flagship production of Flowers, a mime and music show based on Jean Genet's novel Our Lady of the Flowers, in which he played the lead role of 'Divine'. Owing to its homosexual themes and perceived decadence, reviews were sometimes hostile, but it was widely considered a theatrical and sensory sensation, and it toured globally for many years.[6] He was also a mentor to David Bowie and Kate Bush.[7]

YouTube Encyclopedic

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  • Influential dancer, mime artist Lindsay Kemp dies at 80
  • Camilla Fascina & Lindsay Kemp - Time (David Bowie) [Official Video]
  • Moving - Kate Bush - Song for Lindsay Kemp
  • Sharuna Sagar meets Lindsay Kemp
  • "Flowers" A pantomime for Jean Genet by Lindsay Kemp... The DVD!


Early life

Kemp was born in Birkenhead,[8] but grew up in South Shields, near Newcastle upon Tyne.[9] His father, a seaman, was lost at sea in 1940.[10] According to Kemp, he danced from early childhood: "I'd dance on the kitchen table to entertain the neighbours. I mean, it was a novelty in South Shields to see a little boy in full make-up dancing on pointe. Finally it got a bit too much for my mother, and she decided to send me to boarding school at the age of eight, hoping that it would knock some sense into me."[10] Kemp's mother moved away from South Shields, and Kemp attended Bearwood College, near Wokingham, a school for the sons of merchant seamen.[10] He and his mother later moved to Bradford, Yorkshire, where Kemp attended Bradford Art College before studying dance with Hilde Holger[11][12][13] and mime with Marcel Marceau.[14] In the 1950s, he did National Service in the RAF. In an interview with the BBC, he fondly remembered being shouted at for being unable to march properly due to his desire to dance.[9]

Dance career

Kemp played the Player Queen in the BBC's Shakespeare Quatercentenary production Hamlet at Elsinore (recorded at Elsinore castle) in 1963, which starred Christopher Plummer.[1] He formed his own dance company in the early sixties and first attracted attention with an appearance at the Edinburgh Festival in 1968 with Flowers based on Jean Genet's Notre Dame des Fleurs (Our Lady of the Flowers).[15][16] Its extraordinary dream-like opening scene of prisoners masturbating in their cells, while the silhouette of a beautiful male angel walked slowly across the stage, his wings reaching almost to the top of the proscenium, established the tone.

Kemp's stage performances include Pierrot In Turquoise, Salome,[10] Mr Punch's Pantomime, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Duende, Nijinsky, Alice, Cenerentola (Cinderella),[5] Nijinsky il matto (1983) (translation: Nijinsky the fool) Façade, The Big Parade, Alice, Onnagata, Cinderella, Variété, Dream Dances, and, for Ballet Rambert, Parades Gone By (1975) and Cruel Garden (1977),[17][18] most of these works in collaboration with composer Carlos Miranda. Variété was later produced by Youth Music Theatre UK at the Riverside Studios in 2013 directed by Kinny Gardner.[19]

During the early 1970s, Kemp was a popular and inspirational teacher of dance and mime.[10] David Bowie,[20][21] Kate Bush[22] and Vivian Stanshall[23] were students of Kemp. He staged and performed in Bowie's Ziggy Stardust concerts at London's Rainbow Theatre in August 1972, with Jack Birkett,[24] and appears in the promotional video for Bowie's single "John, I'm Only Dancing", directed by Mick Rock.[25] Bush later wrote the song "Moving", which appeared on her debut album The Kick Inside, as a tribute to Kemp.[22][26] Bush also contributed vocals to Zaine Griff's song "Flowers", which is also a tribute to Kemp.[27]

Kemp's film roles include a supporting role in the Kate Bush short film The Line, the Cross & the Curve (1994),[22] a dancer and cabaret performer in Derek Jarman's Sebastiane[28] (1976) and Jubilee (1977)[28] respectively, a pantomime dame in Todd Haynes' Velvet Goldmine (1998)[29] and the pub landlord Alder MacGregor in Anthony Shaffer's The Wicker Man (1973).[28][29]

In the field of opera he occasionally produced works in Italy; Il Barbiere di Siviglia in Macerata in July 1995, Iris in Livorno in November 1998, and Die Zauberflöte in Jesi in November 1999. He returned to Livorno in November 2016 with a new production Die Zauberflöte in which he also designed the sets and costumes, as well as co-lighting the production.[30] His last public performance in the United Kingdom was a collaboration with singer songwriter Tim Arnold at Manchester's Bridgewater Hall in a multimedia live arts installation of Arnold's song "What Love Would Want" in June 2018.[31][32] In the seasons from 2005 to 2012 he plays the role of the fairy Carabosse in The Sleeping Beauty of the Italian company Balletto del Sud with the Fredy Franzutti's choreography. The collaboration with the company and with Franzutti also continues with the interpretation of the magician Kašej in The Firebird in the seasons from 2007 to 2010, the shows have been repeated in several Italian tours.

Personal life

Kemp was gay.[33][34] He was also rumoured to have had an affair with David Bowie,[35] and their friendship was highly important in Bowie's artistic development. He left England in 1979 for Spain and then Italy. By 2002 he had homes in Rome and Todi.[10]


Kemp died in Livorno, Italy, on 24 August 2018, aged 80.[36] David Haughton, his closest friend and collaborator for 45 years, said Kemp had remained busy and active right until the end, saying "he suddenly said he felt ill, and a minute and a half later he was gone."[9]


  • Lindsay Kemp - di David Haughton e Guido Harari - Editoriale Domus (1982)
  • Sogni di luce. Lindsay Kemp - Giovanna Talà - Bandecchi & Vivaldi Editore (2012)
  • Lindsay Kemp. Wednesday drawings - Peccolo Editore (2014)
  • Lindsay Kemp Claudio Barontini. Disegni e fotografie - Vittorio Sgarbi - CAMeC - Centro Arte Moderna e Contemporanea (2018)



  • Le Train Blue - in coöperation with Ben Holder, for Introdance, Netherlands
  • "The Parades Gone By" - for Ballet Rambert, London, 1975 with music by Carlos Miranda
  • "Cruel Garden" - for Ballet Rambert, London, 1977 with Christopher Bruce, Music by Carlos Miranda


  1. ^ a b c British Film Institute entry for Lindsay Kemp Archived 4 February 2014 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved 21 January 2014.
  2. ^ Daniel Kreps (25 August 2018). "Lindsay Kemp, Dancer and David Bowie Collaborator, Dead at 80". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 25 August 2018.
  3. ^ Mark Armstrong (25 August 2018). "British dancer Lindsay Kemp dies". Retrieved 26 August 2018.
  4. ^ David Rankin (25 August 2018). "Lindsay Kemp, choreographer and Bowie mentor, dies aged 80". The Times. Retrieved 26 August 2018.
  5. ^ a b "L'uccello di fuoco". (in Italian). 2 March 2009. Retrieved 29 April 2012.
  6. ^ Church, Michael: The fabulous, fabulous world of Kemp, Independent, 31 August 1996 [1]
  7. ^ Lindsay Kemp obituary, The Guardian, 27 August 2018
  8. ^ Nadine Meisner, "Lindsay Kemp: How the lost boy of dance found his feet", The Independent, 28 January 2002. Retrieved 25 August 2018
  9. ^ a b c "Lindsay Kemp, performer and Bowie mentor, dies at 80". BBC News. 24 August 2018.
  10. ^ a b c d e f Smith, Rupert (30 January 2002). "Lindsay Kemp talks to Rupert Smith about his outrageous career". The Guardian. Retrieved 29 April 2012. 'I first danced Salome in school, naked but for some toilet paper' ... influenced David Bowie, and thus influenced every pop musician with the possible exception of ... respect for this 63-year-old dancer-mime-actor-choreographer-director has reached critical mass
  11. ^ "Lindsay Kemp obituary". The Guardian. 2018. Retrieved 9 September 2018.
  12. ^ "British choreographer and mime Lindsay Kemp dies". The Guardian. 2018. Retrieved 9 September 2018.
  13. ^ "Lindsay Kemp, choreographer and Bowie mentor, dies at 80". UsaPostClick. 2018. Retrieved 9 September 2018.
  14. ^ David Whetstone (17 September 2016). "He worked with Bowie and taught Kate Bush – and now Lindsay Kemp is coming home". Chronicle Live. Retrieved 2 July 2017.
  15. ^ a b Salas, Roger (25 August 2018). "Muere el coreógrafo y mimo británico Lindsay Kemp". El País (in Spanish). ISSN 1134-6582. Retrieved 28 August 2018.
  16. ^ Reporters, Telegraph (25 August 2018). "Lindsay Kemp – choreographer and teacher to Bowie and Kate Bush dies aged 80". The Daily Telegraph. ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved 28 August 2018.
  17. ^ "Lindsay Kemp Company The Big Parade" (PDF). attraversolospettacolo (in Italian). Archived from the original (PDF) on 13 June 2013. Retrieved 29 April 2012.
  18. ^ Lindsay Kemp's oral history interview in the Rambert Archive
  19. ^ Youth Music Theatre UK (8 October 2013). "Variété 2013 – Youth Music Theatre UK (YMT)". YouTube. Archived from the original on 19 December 2021. Retrieved 27 August 2018.
  20. ^ Dillard, Brian J. (2008). "Kate Bush: Live at Hammersmith Odeon (1979)". Movies & TV Dept. The New York Times. Archived from the original on 14 June 2008. Retrieved 29 April 2012. studied with David Bowie mentor Lindsay Kemp
  21. ^ Brown, Mick (September 1974). "Lindsay Kemp: The Man Who Taught Bowie His Moves". Crawdaddy!. Retrieved 25 October 2011.
  22. ^ a b c d Nyren, Erin (25 August 2018). "Lindsay Kemp, Choreographer and Bowie Mentor, Dies at 80". Variety. Retrieved 28 August 2018.
  23. ^ The Illustrated Vivian Stanshall, a Fairytale of Grimm Art
  24. ^ Romano, Nick (25 August 2018). "Lindsay Kemp, David Bowie mentor and Ziggy Stardust influencer, dies at 80". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 28 August 2018.
  25. ^ Buckley, David (24 April 2012). Strange Fascination: David Bowie: The Definitive Story. Random House. pp. 137–44. ISBN 978-1-4481-3247-8.
  26. ^ Thomson, Graeme (9 February 2015). Under the Ivy: The Life & Music of Kate Bush. Omnibus Press. pp. 94–95. ISBN 978-1-78323-392-2.
  27. ^ Twomey, Seán (25 August 2018). "In Memory of Lindsay Kemp 1938–2018". Kate Bush News. Homeground Magazine. Retrieved 28 August 2018.
  28. ^ a b c Gallagher, Paul (10 February 2011). "Lindsay Kemp's Last Dance". Retrieved 29 April 2012. Sebastiane and Jubilee; and in Ken Russell's The Devils and Savage Messiah, ... original version of The Wicker Man
  29. ^ a b c d e f g Coveney, Michael (26 August 2018). "Lindsay Kemp obituary". The Guardian. Retrieved 28 August 2018.
  30. ^ Del Nista, Roberto. Report from Livorno. Opera March 2017, Vol 68 No. 3, 338–339.
  31. ^ Bourke, Kevin (3 July 2018). "What Love Would Want: Lindsay Kemp and Tim Arnold chat to Northern Soul". Northern Soul. Retrieved 3 July 2018.
  32. ^ Cochrane, Robert (19 June 2018). "A Simplicity Sublime". Culture Catch. Retrieved 19 June 2018.
  33. ^ Thian, Helene M. (11 June 2013). "For David Bowie, Japanese style was more than just fashion". The Japan Times. Retrieved 8 June 2016.
  34. ^ Spitz, Marc (2009). Bowie: A Biography. New York City: Three Rivers Press. p. 85. ISBN 978-0-307-71699-6. Retrieved 8 June 2016 – via Google Books.
  35. ^ Lindsey Kemp Obituary, The Times, 28 August 2018
  36. ^ "Lindsay Kemp obituary". 26 August 2018. Retrieved 26 August 2018.
  37. ^ "Lindsay Kemp is on the phone: Scenes from his life from Genet to Bowie", Dangerous Minds, 3 May 2012. Retrieved 26 August 2018
  38. ^ "Lindsay Kemp: il carisma e la grazia di un maestro". XL (in Italian). Retrieved 28 August 2018.
  39. ^ a b "Lindsay Kemp obituary". The Times. 28 August 2018. ISSN 0140-0460. Retrieved 28 August 2018.
  40. ^ "Cartoline Italiane". Festival de Cannes. Retrieved 28 August 2018.
  41. ^ Anna Harvey. "Surprisingly Moving Documentary ★★★★".
  42. ^ Clarisse, Loughrey. "BBC Hermode And Mayo's Review". BBC.
  43. ^ Carrier, Dan. "BATTLE OF SOHO Review ☆☆☆☆".

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This page was last edited on 4 March 2024, at 13:03
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