‘I am not old. I have just been here for a long time.’

What a life Eileen Kramer has had!

Now one hundred and eight years old, Eileen Kramer has lived an amazing life. While perhaps best known as a Bodenweiser dancer, she also paints, draws, is involved in animated film, creates costumes … and is an auriophile. She danced and painted murals in Karachi, worked as an artist’s model in Paris and London, met Ella Fitzgerald and Groucho Marx, and learnt the twist from Louis Armstrong.

This is a delightful book, written in a warm, chatty, vibrant style. It is of medium size and thickness, divided into twelve chapters with acknowledgements at the end, but does not have an index! Photos are included in the middle. It is generally written chronologically.

Born in Mosman, we learn about her parents, how Kramer was always curious and artistic and the breakdown of her parent’s marriage. In 1935 Kramer moved  to Phillip St and became a voice student at the NSW Conservatorium of Music. She also meets Rosaleen Norton ( yes, ‘the witch of Kings Cross’).

Kramer’s first love was Dr Richard Want, a psychoanalyst – at first she was a patient of his then they became lovers, were together for four years but parted. Chapter three describes how Kramer attended a performance by the Bodenweiser company and how it was life changing.

Kramer then details how she hunted out and met Madame Bodenweiser, attends classes and becomes a most enthusiastic student. Breath and movement are very important. Kramer then describes some of the other students who become her friends – Evelyn Ippen, Bettina Vernn, Emmy Towsey. The pianist Marcel Lorbes is also important. Bodenweiser declares that movement is an essential force of life. Kramer also muses on how does one write down a dance – yes there are notation systems (eg Benesh and Laban) but how do they translate?

While studying with Madame Bodenweiser, Kramer is also very busy modelling at East Sydney Tech, Julian Ashton’s and Datillo Rubbo’s. She also posed for Norman Lindsay. Bodenweiser creates the ‘ Spring ‘ solo for Kramer and after three years Kramer is accepted into the Company. The various tours are described , both here in Australia and internationally – South Africa, what was then called Rhodesia and New Zealand. Then comes the major tour of India, where everyone is drastically affected by the heat.

In 1953 Kramer returns to India, performs at the Taj Hotel and then Karachi (where she paints a huge mural ) and Lahore before moving to London where she reunites with Evelyn and Bettina before moving to Paris, where she is dressed by Schiaparelli and Lanvin. She bumps into old flame Andre Moitessier from New Delhi but nothing eventuates.

In 1959 Kramer learns that Madame Bodenweiser has passed away – she and many others are devastated (archives are now in the National Library of Australia). Kramer always regrets not telling Madame how much she meant to her.

Kramer now needs to find another future. Still in Paris, she models and also writes articles for the Australian Women’s Weekly among other things and meets Baruch Shadmi, a filmmaker. They become lovers and move to New York. In 1986 Shadmi suffered a stroke and never really recovers. Kramer acted as his carer. Shadmi died in 1987.

In 1988 Kramer moves to Lewisburg, West Virginia to be close to her friend Maryat, and resumes theatre and artwork. Maryat sets Kramer up with ‘Bill’ TuckwillerKramer is at first very reluctant but they hit it off and live together. Kramer is busy at The Dance Studio and choreographs for a performance in 1992 at Carnegie Hall which includes a new work Whispers, Cries and Angels.

In 1997 Kramer creates another major work, The Buddha’s Wife and then in 2003 Osiris and the Black Hole at Carnegie Hall. New Year’s Eve 1997 Bill suddenly passes away sitting in a chair as if sleeping. Kramer was devastated.

In 2013 Kramer decided to return to Sydney (after short trips previously for Bodenweiser dancer reunions) and eventually finds a place in Chippendale, Thurles Castle.

She explores the area, discovers a terrific café and meets dance Shane Carroll ( ex Sydney Dance and Australian Ballet ) who introduces her to Dr Maggie Haertsch who was involved with the Arts Health Institute – they get on famously.

Kramer also muses on her friends Anca Frankenhaeuser, Patrick Harding – Irmer, Julia Cotton ,Geoff Weston , Sue Healey and Paul Capsis . Kramer has also been on ABC’s Compass.

Kramer has now moved from Thurles Castle to the retirement village where she now lives but still draws and creates . She once said, ‘a drawing is a kind of dance on paper, one that lasts forever.’

Kramer muses on the affects of Covid and how it impacted her life and mourns all the friends she has lost as she has outlived them.

But she will always be A DANCER – for her dance is a vocation.

ISBN: 9781761266539

  • Format: Hardback
  • Pub Date: 25/07/2023
  • Category: The arts / Contemporary dance
    The arts / Dance & other performing arts
    Biography & True Stories / Memoirs
  • Imprint: Macmillan Australia
  • Pages: 240
  • Price: $36.99