Obituary: Travis Kemp

Travis Kemp was a veteran of English ballet. What he lacked in physical esprit he made up for with dogged persistence. If he did not excel as a classical dancer, he was a capable partner: not listed; never in the headlines; but always part of the ensemble.

Born in 1914 in Nottingham, where he spent his childhood, Kemp learnt to dance with Pauline and Noreen Bush, to whom he was related. He made his first stage appearances in variety, but was drawn to the ballet. Ninette de Valois, on the lookout for male dancers, engaged him and coached him to appear in some of her early ballets. He stayed but three years with the Vic-Wells Ballet, gaining further experience with the Ballet Rambert.

His horizons were broadened when he obtained a contract with Victor Dandre's Russian Ballet - the company that had been a frame for the immortal Anna Pavlova. With this company he toured South Africa and Australia.

But it was the English dancer Molly Lake, a fellow artist in the company, who absorbed most of his attentions. They became friends and developed a dancing partnership, although Lake being tall, masculine and strident tended to overshadow the quieter, calmer and slightly withdrawn Kemp. Together they returned to England to join the Markova-Dolin Ballet. Kemp became Anton Dolin's understudy and when Dolin was injured he partnered Alicia Markova in Giselle and Les Sylphides. He also danced leading roles in Bronislava Nijinska's Les Biches and The Loved One. Towards the end of the Thirties he and Molly Lake formed their own company - Ballet Intime - which toured the provinces and which revealed Kemp's organisational ability.

At the outbreak of war he and Lake were dancing in lunchtime performances with the London Ballet and the Arts Theatre Ballet. When he was called up for military service Lake agreed to marry. They had been together in partnership for several years.

After Kemp's demob from the Royal Artillery, he and his wife formed Embassy Ballet. It was later renamed Continental Ballet. At this time there were at least a dozen small touring ballet troupes all vying for a living and Kemp and Lake had a hand-to-mouth existence. In 1954 they gave up the struggle, to take up an appointment offered them by Ninette de Valois to teach and direct the Turkish National Ballet School which de Valois had founded at the request of the Turkish Government after her retirement as director of the Royal Ballet.

They taught the method of the Italian Maestro Enrico Cecchetti and together - she, with eagle eye, cogent remark and military precision; and he, gentle, persuasive and personalised - they made an excellent combination. Over the next 20 years they established successful schools in Istanbul, Izmir and Ankara.

Their work in Turkey was brought to an end by political unrest and on their return to Britain they took appointments with the London Contemporary Dance School at The Place, with Lake as classical teacher and Kemp as principal of the school. Eventually, in retirement, they opened a small ballet school of their own.

John Gregory

Travis Kemp, ballet dancer, teacher, director: born Nottingham 23 May 1914; married Molly Lake (died 1986); died Nottingham 16 July 1995.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA celebration of British elections
Floyd Mayweather will relinquish his five world titles after beating Manny Pacquiao
Arts and Entertainment
tvGame of Thrones season 5 ep 4, review - WARNING: contains major spoiliers!
Tottenham legend Jimmy Greaves has defended fans use of the word 'Yid'
Life and Style
Arts and Entertainment
The Ridiculous Six has been produced by Adam Sandler, who also stars in it
filmNew controversy after nine Native American actors walked off set
Life and Style
Google celebrates Bartolomeo Cristofori's 360th birthday
techGoogle Doodle to the rescue
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living