Eileen Kramer, 103
103-yearold ballerina Eileen Kramer
Just shy of her 104th birthday, Eileen Kramer moves with the gentle grace of someone who has lived to dance. “When I rst began dancing,” she says, “I would nish the class, wouldn’t talk to anyone, would get dressed quickly and oat down King Street in an ecstasy of dance. I’d just parted with my rst boyfriend but I had no pain because I’d gone straight into dance.” There were other boyfriends, even a husband, but none lasted as long as her love affair with dance.
Eileen was born in 1914 in Sydney’s Mosman Bay. She studied singing but, after seeing a concert by Gertrud Bodenwieser’s revolutionary dance company, switched her allegiance. “I saw these beautiful girls dancing to [Johann Strauss’] Blue Danube Waltz. That was it for me. I went straight into their class and in three years, I was a member of their company.”
In her 10 years with the Bodenwieser Ballet, Eileen toured Australia, South Africa, New Zealand, Rhodesia and India. Then, in 1953, she set out alone, dancing her way through India, Pakistan, and nally Paris, where she met her husband, Barouk, with whom she moved to New York. When he suffered a stroke, she gave up dancing and nursed him for 20 years.
Eileen returned to dance in her seventies. At 99, she ew home to Sydney, because she longed to hear a kookaburra. Today, she writes, dances and last year she choreographed a new work to celebrate her 103rd birthday.
“People ask, what is my secret? I tell them not to lose that connection with their childhood. That’s when you’re creative. I’ve stayed with creativity all my life.”
Eileen Kramer’s memoir will be published by Melbourne Books in November.
She also writes a blog: suehealey.com/ eileens-blog.html