Eileen Kramer is an Australian dancer, choreographer, artist and writer – a true creative spirit – born in 1914 and still making art in 2022 at the age of 108.
Eileen was an original member of the influential Bodenwieser Ballet, Australia’s first modern dance company. Joining the company in 1940, she toured with them extensively for a decade, both within Australia and internationally, then spent the next 60 years living and working overseas. 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.
In the 1970s, she made a full-length feature film with her partner, Baruch Shadmi, using stop-motion animation shot entirely in their New York apartment. When Baruch died in 1987, Kramer moved to West Virginia, joined a performance collective in Lewisburg, and began to dance again, as well as design costumes and choreograph new works.
She returned to Australia in 2013 aged 99, because she “missed the kookaburras and the smell of gum trees”, but her creative energy remained strong. She choreographed and starred in two dance dramas for the stage in 2015 and 2017, and collaborated with award-winning dance filmmaker Sue Healey on several short films. She had roles in Belvoir’s production of The Wizard of Oz (2015), and the Foxtel series The End (2020) and danced in music videos for the likes of Lacey Cole (2014) and Sarah Belkner (2015).
Eileen published her first memoir, Walkabout Dancer, in 2008, and a fantasy novel The Heliotropians, in 2009. This was followed in 2018 by Eileen: Stories from the Phillip Street Courtyard, chronicling her bohemian adventures sharing an inner-Sydney rooming house in the 1930s. Then, in 2020, the COVID-19 lockdown saw her spinning her vast trove of memories into the imaginative tales that became the book Elephants and Other Stories, as well as conceiving a new work for film, The God Tree, released in 2021.
Watch videos featuring Eileen, including her latest creative work.
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Interviews, recordings and articles about Eileen
‘Out of the box’, podcast episode, 13 October 2013.
Mia Hull interviews singer/songwriter Lacey Cole and Eileen. Lacey had just made a video clip for his new song ‘Nephilim’s Lament’, featuring Eileen — then 99 — dancing on the cliffs at Clovelly Beach. “It was wicked.”
‘Breath is life’, BBC Radio4, June 2019.
Brilliantly evocative audio documentary by Falling Tree Productions for the BBC, including recordings of a dance workshop led by Eileen in Adelaide in 2018
Oral history: Eileen Kramer interviewed by Michelle Potter [sound recording]:
National Library of Australia, 2003
‘Bohemian rhapsody’, Fenella Souter, Sydney Morning Herald Good Weekend, 3 November 2018. https://www.smh.com.au/national/bohemian-rhapsody-why-there-s-no-stopping-this-103-year-old-dancer-20181030-p50ctl.html
‘The Creative Life of Eileen Kramer,’ photoessay by Kylie Melinda Smith, Griffith Review 68: Getting On, Text Publishing 2020