106-year-old Eileen Kramer AND STILL DANCING
jeanniejeanniejeannie.co.uk BLOG Monday 28th June 2021
THOUGHT FOR THE DAY
106-year-old Australian dancer Eileen Kramer
At 106, Eileen Kramer seems more productive than ever.
She writes a story a day from her Sydney aged-care facility, publishes books and has entered Australia’s most prestigious painting competition.
After decades living abroad, Ms Kramer returned to her home city of Sydney aged 99. Since then, she’s collaborated with artists to create several videos that showcase her primary talent and lifelong passion: dancing.
Ms Kramer still dances – graceful, dramatic movements mostly using the top half of her body. In more recent years, she has also choreographed.
“Since returning to Sydney I’ve been so busy – I’ve performed three big dance pieces at NIDA [the National Institute for Dramatic Art] and independent theatres.
“I’ve participated in two big dance festivals in Adelaide and Brisbane, I’ve been in a film, given many smaller performances, written three books, and today I’m having a free day talking to you!” she says from her home.
Something she often gets asked is where all her energy comes from – and whether there’s a secret to dancing into old age.
Her response is that she banishes the words “old” and “age” from her vocabulary. She admonishes me for using them later in our chat.
“I say: I’m not old, I’ve just been here a long time and learnt a few things along the way.
“I don’t feel how people say you should feel when you’re old. My attitude to creating things is identical to when I was a child.”
In recent years Ms Kramer has crowdfunded, choreographed and performed several dance works that draw from her life.
She was halfway through creating a new dance video when a lockdown in Sydney temporarily frustrated her plans. But not for long.
“I couldn’t go out to the location of the video, so I wrote a book instead,” she says, laughing. “It’s a story about how we made the film.”
The film’s location is special to Ms Kramer. It takes place inside a giant Moreton Bay fig tree in the Sydney suburb of Glebe.
The smell of gum trees, the sight of the huge Moreton Bay figs and the sound of laughing kookaburras perched on them are the things that enticed Ms Kramer back to Sydney.
“The tree inspired my choreography,” she says.
“Have you ever seen one up close? You feel as though you’re in a haunted fairy tale palace. It took me back to my childhood.”
Eileen Kramer dances
Ms Kramer has a few more shots to film, then it will be edited and set to music.
Meanwhile, as the head of her own publishing house, Basic Shapes, she’ll release her book about the project later this year. Since entering her centenarian years, she has also published a short story collection: Elephants and Other Stories.
The Covid lockdowns left her thoroughly unfazed.
“I haven’t minded Covid one bit,” she says. “I haven’t felt lonely or confined – when you write, that’s your company.”
Ms Kramer has become somewhat of a local celebrity in the inner city suburb of Elizabeth Bay, where she lives.
A party was put on by a team of performer friends outside her window for her 106th birthday in November.
“I was surprised, delighted – and very touched,” she says. “They fixed a chair inside my bay window and gave me balloons to shake when there was a pause.”
From posing as a nude model to becoming the oldest ever entrant – aged 104 – in Australia’s most prestigious portrait art prize, The Archibald Prize; creative flair and defiance of conformity have defined Ms Kramer’s life.
Born in Sydney’s Mosman Bay, Ms Kramer trained as a dancer then toured Australia with the Bodenwieser Ballet for a decade. She travelled to India, and later settled in Paris and then New York – where she lived until she was 99.
Her dance career spans four continents and one century, and it has always been her first love.
“Having been in the company of dancers most of my life, I haven’t felt alone,” she says.
“Unlike me, some married and had children or returned to Europe. I put up with the inconveniences of the dancer’s life.”
Living in Paris for much of her earlier life, Ms Kramer says the only way to pay rent was to be an artist’s model.
“It was slightly dangerous to pose, but I knew the customers and their manners,” she says.
The nudity was “no big deal” because it was for the purpose of art: life drawing classes.
She fraternised with, and learnt from, famous Parisian artists. She was taught to do The Twist by Louis Armstrong at a casino in Dieppe, before moving to New York.
On returning to Australia, she was pleased some things hadn’t changed – such as seeing people eat fish and chips – and delighted other things had – such as greater recognition of Aboriginal culture.
The best advice she ever received was from Madame Bodenwieser, founder of the Bodenwieser ballet, about temporary love affairs when touring dance shows.
“She said the woman on the spot gets the man – not those passing through,” she says. “We left behind some broken hearts!”
Today, her collaborator, Sue Healey, describes working with Ms Kramer as “like experiencing a living history”.
“She’s a tangible connection to the early days of modern dance in Australia – and for me, as a choreographer, this is gold!” says Ms Healey, honorary fellow at the University of Melbourne’s arts faculty.
“She tackles life with elegance and creative gusto. She’s completely in control and constantly making something new.”
Ms Kramer says she has “never been interested in being sick like some are”, adding: “I don’t take any pills except some doctor-ordered vitamins.”
And with that there’s a knock at the door, interrupting our conversation – it’s for a Covid vaccination.
“I’m dreading it!” she says. “But it’ll continue to prevent me from getting sick.”
By Gary Nunn – Sydney.
Although I am 35 years younger than Eileen Kramer I too ban the words “old” and “age”. I also say: I’m not old, I’ve just been here a long time and learnt a few things along the way. Although unlike Eileen Kramer I have never learnt to dance but I can say I write a story a day.
The secret of life is to find passions and keep active 14 hours a day doing things you love and are passionate about!
TOP TEN OF THE DAY
TOP TEN Famous People Who Prove Following Your Passion Pays Big
(Sorry, has a slight American bias.)
Here are ten inspirational people who’ve proven that following your passion can create lasting success.
- Harrison Ford
In his pre- Star Wars days, Ford made his way as a carpenter. In fact, he was still working as a carpenter when he got the role of Han Solo. While he probably didn’t shed any tears over the career change, he was, in fact, trading a life of certainty to embrace what can often be a tumultuous life, as an actor. Whatever Ford’s reasons, he decided to follow his passion no matter where it led, and for that, he is an inspiration!
- Ellen DeGeneres
Would you believe that this beloved comedian turned talk show host used to pay the rent shucking oyster’s? Before becoming an entertainer, Ellen worked as a paralegal doing clerical work for a law firm, sold vacuum cleaners door-to-door, and yes– even shucked oysters for a short time. Talk about a 180!
- Whoopi Goldberg
Perhaps the biggest career jump on this list, Whoopi, now one of the most well-known actor-comedians, once paid her bills applying make up to dead people. Besides being a morgue beautician, she also worked as a brick layer for a time– creating a highly unusual resume, to say the least.
- Mark Cuban
Before Cuban started his first company, MicroSolutions, and made over $2.4 billion, he worked as a salesman at a computer store. But Cuban was swiftly fired after failing to open the store one day because he was busy with a potential client. Needless to say, it was the last time he would work for anyone but himself. Some people just know they’re a boss… Even when they’re fired by their boss!
- Jon Hamm
Prior to his iconic role as Don Draper in the award winning TV series “Mad Men”, Hamm worked as a set-dresser for porn films. It turns out his real life work experience vaguely resembled the childhood of his character, Draper. Coincidence? Perhaps not. Hamm is quick to point out that the porn was ‘soft-core’ and he just ‘moved furniture around naked people’. I’m sure Hamm has little nostalgia over his past.
- George Clooney
Despite the fact that Clooney had Hollywood in his blood, he didn’t always have it easy. Among other jobs, Clooney worked as a door-to-door insurance salesman. He also tested his hand at playing professional baseball, trying out for the Cincinnati Reds in 1977, but luckily didn’t make the cut. It’s clear to see now that George is doing what he loves, but, even for him, it took trial and error.
- Walt Disney
Before he dominated the cartoon and amusement-park empire, Walt Disney was an ambulance driver in France during World War I. He then took a job as a newspaper editor, but was fired for “lacking imagination” and having “no good ideas”. Criticisms that seem incomprehensible now. The loss of his job was a blessing in disguise, as it freed him up to do something he really loved. Heading to Hollywood, Walt proved that successful people don’t give up, and set goals bigger than any before– he had his heart set on producing a cartoon series. Disney followed his passion even when others doubted his talent, for that the world will never be the same.
- Ken Jeong
You know his as Mr. Chow in The Hangover, but would you believe it’s actually “Dr. Jeong”? Jeong practiced as a Doctor of Internal Medicine before making the drastic career change to comedic actor. He is a living example that it’s never too late to pursue your passion. Jeong credits the support of his family and wife as being one of the main factors in his shift.
- Sylvester Stallone
Before becoming a legend as Rocky Balboa in the movie “Rocky”, Stallone worked in a variety of off-beat jobs that included a lion cage cleaner, where he earned a scanty $1.12 an hour. Sheer perseverance has been the key to his success and the suffering he endured before finally selling the “Rocky” script is well documented.
- J.K. Rowling
Best known as the author of the Harry Potter fantasy series, Rowling first worked as a researcher and bilingual secretary for Amnesty International. After losing her job, she lived in poverty, while focusing all of her effort on writing her series. For Rowling, following her passion even through poverty turned out to be the right choice. In 2004, Forbes named Rowling as the first person to become a billionaire by writing books.
DON’T FORGET TO LAUGH EVERYDAY
INSPIRATIONAL QUOTE FOR THE DAY
Too many people think life will be easy. Keep in mind that it will not and you’ll find peace of mind.
– Maxime Lagacé
Happiness is…writing a story a day.
GRANDAD’S ONE LINER JOKE OF THE DAY
Could a …librarian be called a bookkeeper? … referee be a game warden? … dairyman be a cowboy?
Love is…holding one another’s hand and giving it that special squeeze.
A time to live life to the full…A time to live life to even fuller.
BOOK OF THE DAY
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RETRO HIT RECORD RAMBLINGS
Reflections of a Top Hit Record
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©2021 Phil M Robinson