He reimagined live rock performance and taught David Bowie and Kate Bush the art of movement. Ahead of his first event in Britain for 15 years, Lindsay Kemp talks about his incredible life
“Have you got enough material for your article?” asks Lindsay Kemp, making an innocuous pleasantry sound somehow louche and debauched – one of his many skills. We have spent a long and relentlessly entertaining day together in his seaside apartment in Italy, and I think of the many asides he has sprinkled into our conversation that I want to return to: how he learned to draw alongside David Hockney at Bradford Art College; the time he was taken by Marcel Marceau to buy shirts at Turnbull & Asser and the legendary mime put half the shop on a tab that he never paid; when Federico Fellini wanted to cast him in his 1976 film Fellini’s Casanova, but Kemp disappeared and couldn’t be tracked down. “His casting director said I was the only actor that ever let Fellini down,” says the 77-year-old Kemp, in passing, before flitting on to another episode from his extraordinary, topsy-turvy life.
So, what have we talked about? Well, David Bowie, obviously. Kemp and Bowie were lovers (briefly) and artistic collaborators (more enduringly) in the 1960s and 70s. He is often hailed as the man who taught Bowie how to move and express himself – as well as Kate Bush, Peter Gabriel and Mia Farrow – and their work together on Ziggy Stardust fundamentally reimagined the way rock music was performed live. Then there’s his improbable background: a child from a poor one-parent family in South Shields on Tyneside who went from doing kitsch turns in working men’s clubs to become an internationally feted classical dancer. And how this acclaim has often been more rapturous abroad than in Britain, and why that should be.
They didn’t really like arty types in England, certainly not when I was growing up in the 1950s
I spent my money on my productions. We never had subsidies: it went on costumes, scenery and cocaine
Source: Guardian Dance News