The English dancer, mime artist and choreographer Lindsay Kemp died this morning in Livorno (Leghorn) in Italy, where he had his home. He was 80.
Kemp formed his own dance company in the early sixties and first attracted attention with an appearance at the Edinburgh Festival in 1968. Kemp’s stage performances included Pierrot In Turquoise, Flowers, Salome, Mr Punch’s Pantomime, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Duende, Nijinsky, Alice, Cenerentola, Nijinsky il matto, Façade, The Big Parade, Alice, Onnagata, Variété, Dream Dances, and, for Ballet Rambert, Parades Gone By (1975) and Cruel Garden (1977) – most of these works in collaboration with composer Carlos Miranda.
David Haughton writes,
From the success of Flowers in 1974, Lindsay Kemp’s career was transported into an international dimension, and for the next 20 years was very much inseparable from that of the story of the Lindsay Kemp Company. In October 1974 Flowers opened at the Biltmore Theatre in New York. It was astonishing that such an unorthodox show should appear On Broadway at that time, and it elicited extreme reactions, both positive and negative: feted by progressives and hated by conservatives – this would be a recurrent pattern for years to come.
He staged and performed in David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust concerts in 1972, was a dancer in Derek Jarman’s film Sebastiane (1976) and and a cabaret performer in Jarman’s Jubilee (1977). He was a pantomime dame in Todd Haynes’ film Velvet Goldmine (1998) and the pub landlord Alder MacGregor in Anthony Shaffer’s The Wicker Man (1973).
David Bowie and Kate Bush were students of Kemp in the 1970s when he became a popular teacher of dance and mime.
In 1979 Kemp left England for Spain and then then settled in Italy.
Livorno is a port, and Kemp lived in an anonymous 1970s block of flats. A strange choice for an Englishman abroad:
I fell in love with Livorno many years ago when we came with Flowers to Teatro Goldoni [the city’s main theatre]. I was born in a town with a port… with the sea. It’s the people of Livorno though, and I feel at home here more than in any other place in the world. I’ve found great humanity, and receive a huge welcome in the streets, bars and in the market… especially in the market, next to my house. I don’t care about nobility, celebrity, but I like normal people, sincere people, people who you can trust.
In Italy he directed a production of 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.
Graham Spicer is a writer, director and photographer in Milan, blogging (under the name ‘Gramilano’) about dance, opera, music and photography for people “who are a bit like me and like some of the things I like”. He was a regular columnist for Opera Now magazine and wrote for the BBC until transferring to Italy.
His scribblings have appeared in various publications from Woman’s Weekly to Gay Times, and he wrote the ‘Danza in Italia’ column for Dancing Times magazine.