Lindsay Kemp, a British dancer and choreographer who acted as a mentor and collaborator to David Bowie, died Saturday in Tuscany, Italy at the age of 80.
Nendi Pinto-Duschunsky, the director of the in-production documentary Lindsay Kemp’s Last Dance, confirmed Kemp’s death in a Facebook post where she noted he died at his home after a “perfect” day rehearsing with students. “He was very happy and it was very sudden,” Pinto-Duschunsky wrote, the Associated Press reported.
In addition to his own renowned work as a dancer and choreographer, Kemp was also a mentor to a 19-year-old David Bowie in 1966, casting the future icon in a production of Kemp’s 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 said of Bowie (via the BBC). “He was certainly multi-faceted, a chameleon, splendid, inspiring, a genius of a creature. But I did show him how to do it.”
Kemp is also credited with helping Bowie craft the theatricality of his Ziggy Stardust persona; the dancer appeared onstage during Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust Tour in 1972 and also starred in the 1972 video for “John, I’m Only Dancing.”
Kemp later appeared in the 1973 horror classic The Wicker Man, a pair of Derek Jarman films, Todd Haynes’ Bowie-inspired Velvet Goldmine and Kate Bush’s 1993 short film The Line, The Cross and the Curse; Bush, like Bowie, was a student of Kemp’s. Bush would pen her song “Moving” as a tribute to the dancer.