Lindsay Kemp

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Kemp in 1969, photographed by Allan Warren

Lindsay Kemp (born Cheshire, England, 3 May 1938[1]) is an English dancer, actor,[2] teacher, mime artist and choreographer.[3]

Life and work[edit]

Kemp's father, a seaman, was lost at sea in 1940.[4] 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."[4]

Kemp's mother moved away from South Shields, and Kemp attended Bearwood College, near Wokingham, a school for the sons of merchant seaman.[4] He and his mother later moved to Bradford, Yorkshire where Kemp attended Bradford Art College before studying dance with Hilde Holger and mime with Marcel Marceau.[5] He played the Player Queen in the BBC's Shakespeare Quatercentenary production of Hamlet filmed at Elsinore castle in 1963, which starred Christopher Plummer.[1]

Kemp formed his own dance company in the early sixties and first attracted attention with an appearance at the Edinburgh Festival in 1968.

His stage performances include Pierrot In Turquoise, Flowers, Salome,[4] Mr Punch's Pantomime,[3] A Midsummer Night’s Dream,[3] Duende,[3] Nijinsky,[3] Alice,[3] Cenerentola (Cinderella),[3] ''Nijinsky il matto (1983) (translation: Nijinsky the fool)[6] Façade, The Big Parade,[6] Alice,[6] Onnagata, Cinderella, Variété, Dream Dances, and, for Ballet Rambert, Parades Gone By (1975)[6] and Cruel Garden (1977),[6] most of these works in collaboration with composer Carlos Miranda.

He staged and performed in David Bowie's Ziggy Stardust concerts at London's Rainbow Theatre in August 1972, and, with Jack Birkett, appears in the promotional video for Bowie's single "John, I'm Only Dancing", directed by Mick Rock.

Kemp’s film roles include a supporting role in the Kate Bush short film The Line, the Cross & the Curve (1994),[2] a dancer and cabaret performer in Derek Jarman’s Sebastiane[7] (1976) and Jubilee (1977)[7] respectively, a pantomime dame in Todd Haynes' Velvet Goldmine (1998)[2] and the pub landlord Alder MacGregor in Anthony Shaffer's The Wicker Man (1973).[2][7]

During the early 1970s, Kemp was a popular and inspirational teacher of dance and mime.[4] David Bowie,[8][9] Kate Bush[8] were students of Kemp. Kate Bush later wrote the song Moving, which appeared on her debut album The Kick Inside, as a tribute to Kemp.

In 1979 Kemp left England for Spain and then Italy and by 2002 had homes in Rome and Todi.[4]

In the field of opera he has 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.[10]

Kemp is openly gay.[11][12]


Kemp in 1979


  1. ^ a b c d British Film Institute entry for Lindsay Kemp. Retrieved 21 January 2014.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l "Lindsay Kemp - About This Person". The New York Times. 29 April 2012. Retrieved 29 April 2012. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g "L’uccello di fuoco" (in Italian). 2 March 2009. Retrieved 29 April 2012. 
  4. ^ 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 
  5. ^ 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. 
  6. ^ a b c d e "Lindsay Kemp Company The Big Parade" (PDF). attraversolospettacolo (in Italian). Archived from the original (PDF) on 13 June 2013. Retrieved 29 April 2012. 
  7. ^ 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 
  8. ^ a b Dillard, Brian J. (25 March 2011). "Kate Bush: Live at Hammersmith Odeon (1979)". The New York Times. Retrieved 29 April 2012. studied with David Bowie mentor Lindsay Kemp 
  9. ^ Brown, Mick (September 1974). "Lindsay Kemp: The Man Who Taught Bowie His Moves". Crawdaddy!. Retrieved 25 October 2011. 
  10. ^ Del Nista, Roberto. Report from Livorno. Opera March 2017, Vol 68 No.3, 338-339.
  11. ^ Thian, Helene M. (11 June 2013). "For David Bowie, Japanese style was more than just fashion". The Japan Times. Retrieved 8 June 2016. 
  12. ^ 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. 

External links[edit]