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Gertrude Kraus Celebrating 100 Years

     It was not by chance that in l935, the year of Gertrude Kraus's immigration, Palestine was a magnetic force that she could not resist.  Herzl's "old-new land" promised Gertrude everything she could dream of, both as a Jew and as an artist.
"I was drawn back.  Returning to Palestine," Gertrude said, "fulfilled an unconscious desire for two things:  the searching for an artist to smell something new and also the search of a single person for a homeland.  In this time orange blossoms and the smell of jasmine perfumed the gentle pastoral landscape…we came to discover a dream…to leave the past…to find real colors like an artist." The past that Gertrude describes is a European, cosmopolitan one which had created the conditions for her to mature as both a musician and a dancer.
     Like many great artists coming out of this period, Gertrude's art was nourished in the atmosphere of Expressionism where dance, art and music manifested themselves in new and profound ways.  In both Germany and Austria after WWI dance, as an expression, was encouraged not only as a form of rehabilitation for those victims of wartime undernourishment, but also in schools such as Dalcroze in Hellerau and Rudolf Van Laban in Switzerland where music was related directly to movement, and modern theater experimentation became part of their everyday curriculum.
     Modern dance, while virtually the oldest form of all dance manifestations, had come into its own in the 20th century.  Freeing itself from the academic structures of classical ballet, the modern dancer utilized the principle that dance is not a spectacle but a means of communicating emotional experiences, intuitive perceptions and elusive truths – which cannot be communicated in reasoned terms or reduced to mere statement of facts.  Encouraging dancers to re-unite with the basics in life, these schools experimented in the psychology of movement and the analysis of space, constantly putting an emphasis on the freedom of the individual and the creative process as an emotional impulse.
     Reading the intimate thoughts of Gertrude, it is difficult to separate her aspirations as a modern artist and her need to express them in her then new-found modern country - Palestine.  Of modern dance she said, "Modern is the changing of yesterday, it is tomorrow."  Of Israel, she said:  "To say yes to our landscape, I believe, will slowly create the art of the country."

Dr. Ayelet Shefer                                                                                                 April 2004
Art Historian
Haifa University

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