There is hardly a dance-artist active in Israel who does not regard Gertrude Kraus as their mentor and a figure influencing their artistic development.
Gertrude began her own dancing career only after she had graduated as a pianist from the State Academy of Arts in Vienna, and started to take modern dance classes with Gertrude Bodenweiser. Later she danced for a short period in Bodenweiser’s company, but soon started to create solo dances for herself. Her debut took place at Vienna’s largest concert hall in 1926. Soon she won tremendous critical acclaim and began teaching in her own studio. Her students eventually became dancers in her company.
She gained international renown when her company performed her dance-cycle “Ghetto Songs” at the International Dancers Congress, in Munich, 1930. She became one of the leading choreographers of the new, expressionistic dance movement.
She was invited to perform her solo program in Eretz Israel in the early ’30s and finally settled in Tel Aviv in 1935, opening her studio and soon founding her own company, which performed together with the Palestine Orchestra (today’s Philharmonic) and the Folk Opera during the ’40s.
In 1950 she was instrumental in founding the first professional dance troupe – the Israel Ballet Theatre – a venture lasting one and a half year only.
In the early ’50s, Gertrude stopped dancing, continuing to teach, and started painting and sculpting.
When the Rubin Academy in Jerusalem opened its dance department, Gertrude became its first professor.
In 1968 she was awarded the prestigious Israel Prize for her life’s work.
Since the foundation of the contemporary Israeli dance companies, she acted as counselor and member of the board of directors at the Bat Sheva, the Israeli Ballet and the Kibbutz Dance Company.
Being always willing and able to help and offer constructive criticism, young dancers kept approaching her for advice and encouragement, in spite of the generation gap,
In 1975, an exhibition of her paintings and sculptures was held in Tel Aviv. Some of her plastic art works are kept now in her house in Ein Hod.
In 1928 a portfolio of drawings by Felix Kraus (no kin) of Gertrude dancing was published in Vienna. In 1978, a year after her death, Giora Manor published his book “The Life and Dance of Gertrude Kraus”, by the Kibbutz Meuhad Publishing House.
Every year the Rubin Academy in Jerusalem holds a competition for young choreographers in her memory.
Professor Gertrude Kraus became a member of Ein Hod Artists’ Village in 1953 upon the invitation of the painter Marcel Janco.
[All photographs A. Himmelreich, copyright silver print]