Tributes paid to former Bearwood pupil Lindsay Kemp, who danced with David Bowie and Kate Bush

Lindsay Kemp pictured by Allan Warren

TRIBUTES have been paid to the respected choreographer and mime Lindsay Kemp who died last week.

The former pupil of Bearwood College – now Reddam House – in Sindlesham inspired artists such as David Bowie and Kate Bush.

Born in Cheshire, Kemp grew up in poverty in South Shields, Tyneside, with his mother after his father was lost at sea in 1940.

Speaking of his time at Bearwood, he said: “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.”

Kemp’s avant-garde style influenced the British glam rock of the 1970s and he choreographed and performed with David Bowie at his famous Ziggy Stardust concerts.

“I led them up the path of craziness,” he said of his famous pupils. Kate Bush, who said Kemp gave her dance lessons when other schools rejected her, described him as “astonishingly inspirational.”

After performing in working men’s clubs in the north of England, Kemp studied art with David Hockney at the Bradford College of Art. It was Hockney who took him to his first opera at London’s Sadler’s Wells and Kemp later studied dance with Hilde Holger and mime with Marcel Marceau.

He founded his own dance companies and was in great demand for stage and film roles.

In an interview with the Observer, Kemp explained: “You need to liberate an audience, put them under a spell – it makes the heart surgery less painful.

“And that kind of mesmerism or hypnotism, I acquired at a very early age in order to stave off the bully’s blows or the mocking of the crowd. I made them laugh; I put them under my spell.”

Lindsay Kemp died in Livorno in western Tuscany. He was 80.

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Phil Creighton

Editor of The Wokingham Paper, and has worked in local journalism for more than 20 years including the Wokingham Times, Bracknell Standard and Reading Evening Post. He's also written for computer magazines, The Baptist Times and, to his delight and probably not yours, interviewed several Doctor Whos.

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