South Shields-raised Lindsay Kemp - who taught David Bowie to dance - dies aged 80

Lindsay Kemp, left, with David Bowie in the 1970s.
Lindsay Kemp, left, with David Bowie in the 1970s.

Tributes have been paid tribute to South Shields-raised dancer and mime artist Lindsay Kemp after his death today at the age of 80.

The influential choreographer was known for tutoring singers David Bowie and Kate Bush during his career.

Lindsay Kemp in later life.

Lindsay Kemp in later life.

Kemp, who lived in Talbot Road, West Harton, as a child, choreographed and performed during Bowie's celebrated Ziggy Stardust concerts at London's Rainbow Theatre in 1972 and was widely known as the person who taught the legend to dance.

He also made cameo appearances as a pantomime dame in the film Velvet Goldmine in 1998 and as pub landlord in 1973 horror film The Wicker Man.

Kemp, who was a pupil at South Shields's former The Royal Merchant Navy School, saw his first pantomime at the Sunderland Empire at the age of four and was hooked on theatre and performance.

Director Nendi Pinto-Duschunsky, who is currently making a documentary of Kemp's life called Lindsay Kemp's Last Dance, confirmed reports that he died in Livorno, in Italy, on Saturday morning.

Pinto-Duschunsky wrote on the film's official Facebook page: "It's hard to find the right words now. I'm so sorry to tell you Lindsay passed away last night."

She added: "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. He was very happy and it was very sudden."

Comedian Julian Clary paid his respects to Kemp by writing on twitter: "Rest in Peace Lindsay."

Doctor Who actor Barnaby Edwards wrote: "Sad to hear of the death of Lindsay Kemp.

"Dancer, actor, choreographer, raconteur, teacher of mime and movement to David Bowie and Kate Bush.

"I met him a few years ago and he was an absolute delight. The world will be less fun and less naughty without him."

Kemp was born Cheshire in May 1938 and brought up by his mother in South Shields after she returned to her hometown when his merchant seaman dad was lost at sea in 1940.

They later left South Tyneside to move to Bradford.

After studying under expressionist dancer Hilde Holger and French mime Marcel Marceau, Kemp formed his own dance company in the 1960s.

His many stage productions included Mr Punch's Pantomime and A Midsummer Night's Dream.

He left the UK in 1979 to live in Spain before later moving to Italy.

But he never forgot his South Shields roots and returned to the town's Customs House to discuss his life and career as recently as 2016.