Dancer and choreographer Lindsay Kemp, a mentor to David Bowie and influencer of the singer’s Ziggy Stardust persona, has died at the age of 80, Kemp’s documentary director Nendi Pinto-Duschunsky announced in a Facebook message on Friday night.
“It was very sudden, and he had the perfect day rehearsing with his students, about to work more on his memoirs, about to go on tour,” Pinto-Duschunsky, who’s been working on Lindsay Kemp’s Last Dance, wrote. “He was very happy and it was very sudden.”
According to the Associated Press and Italian news agency ANSA, Kemp died in the middle of the night at his Livorno home in Tuscany, Italy.
Kemp formed his dance company in the 1960s and tutored the likes of English singer Kate Bush, Peter Gabriel, and Mia Farrow. The influential dancer and mime artist often performed in white face makeup and theatric costumes.
He also tutored Bowie and was credited with helping him create the iconic Ziggy Stardust persona.
Kemp met Bowie in 1966 when the future Hunky Dory musician was 19 years old. The pair were briefly lovers and they collaborated on the production of Pierrot in Turquoise. “He came to my dressing room and he was like the archangel Gabriel standing there, I was like Mary. It was love at first sight,” Kemp had said of Bowie, according to BBC News. “He was certainly multi-faceted, a chameleon, splendid, inspiring, a genius of a creature. But I did show him how to do it.”
The dancer later performed during Bowie’s theatrical concerts of Ziggy Stardust at London’s Rainbow theatre in Finsbury Park in 1972. Kemp also appeared in films The Wicker Man and Velvet Goldmine, as well as a television movie of William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
“Unlike a lot of kids, I knew exactly what I wanted and nothing was going to stop me,” Kemp told The Guardian in a 2016 interview, reflecting on his interest in dance as a child. “I was destined for stardom! Still waiting for it.”