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partnership, although Lake being tall, masculine and strident tended to overshadow the quieter, calmer and slightly withdrawn Kemp.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.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Life and Style
fashionJ Crew introduces triple zero size to meet the Asia market demand
Sport
Ray Whelan was arrested earlier this week
Arts and Entertainment
In a minor key: Keira Knightley in the lightweight 'Begin Again'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Celebrated children’s author Allan Ahlberg, best known for Each Peach Pear Plum
books
News
peopleIndian actress known as the 'Grand Old Lady of Bollywood' was 102
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Year 5/6 Teacher

£21000 - £31000 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: The JobWe are looking ...

Teacher

£90 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: The Job...Due to continued ...

Supply Teacher

£100 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Supply TeachersWould you l...

Job opportunities for SEN teachers and support staff in Essex

£50 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: We are urgently looking for...

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice