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"All I wanted was to be myself"

Lindsay Kemp during a scene from 'Kemp Dances'.
Lindsay Kemp during a scene from 'Kemp Dances'. / SUR
  • Lindsay Kemp, student of Marcel Marceau and stylist to David Bowie, comes to the Cervantes this Sunday

"I don't see myself as a mime, I'm a poet and a dancer," says Lindsay Kemp who, at 78, still feels the same impetus when he takes to the stage and puts on his show 'Kemp Dances', which will be coming to the Cervantes theatre in Malaga on Sunday.

"I see Lindsay walking down the street looking not very nimble at all," says David Haughton, Kemp's long-term collaborator, "but when he takes to the stage, he is filled with inspiration and grace, and is capable of movements he can't do in any other context".

Kemp (South Shields, 1938) has always thrived off these impulses. As a young boy growing up in a small town, he would wear make-up, put on a kimono that he dad brought from his travels as a sailor, and dance. He didn't do it for the attention, he was driven by "spontaneous feelings, without thinking. And today it's still the same".

They would "accuse me of wanting to be different," he said, "but that was never the case. I've always wanted just to be myself and have others understand me and accept it."

Kemp always had the essentials, but he lacked training; he got that by studying dance with Hilde Holge and mime with Marcel Marceau. He then went on to combine both in his shows, mixing elegant body movements with strong gestures. Authentic mimes, he says, "stopped existing when Marceau died".

His creativity is not just limited to the stage, though, and inevitably the interview comes round to the question of David Bowie. The pair worked together to create the image of Ziggy Stardust in 1972 which would turn him into a rock legend.

"We had a very strong creative relationship in which we both inspired each other," he says. The man described as 'king of reincarnation' admits that the relationship wasn't one-sided: "I gave him the ability to transform himself."