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Eurythmy is an expressive movement art originated by Rudolf Steiner in conjunction with Marie von Sivers in the early 20th century. Primarily a performance art, it is also used in education—especially in Waldorf education and as a movement therapy.

The word eurythmy stems from Greek roots meaning beautiful or harmonious rhythm; the term was used by Greek and Roman architects to refer to the harmonious proportions of a design or building.

Movement repertoire

The gestures that build the basic movement repertoire of a eurythmist are connected to the sounds and rhythms of language, to the tonal experience of music, to fundamental soul experiences (such as joy and sorrow). Once this fundamental repertoire is mastered, it can be composed into free artistic expressions. The eurythmist also works to cultivate a feeling for the qualities of straight lines and curves, the directions of movement in space (forward, backward, up, down, left, right), contraction and expansion, and color. The element of color is also emphasized both through the costuming, usually given characteristic colors for a piece or part and formed of long, loose fabrics that accentuate the movements rather than the bodily form, and through the lighting, which saturates the space and changes with the moods of the piece. Copper eurythmy rods and copper balls are used in various eurythmy exercises, including therapeutic exercises.

Eurythmy's aim is to bring the artists' expressive movement and both the performers' and audience's feeling experience into harmony with a piece's content; eurythmy is thus sometimes called "visible music" or "visible speech", expressions that originate with its founder, Rudolf Steiner, who described eurythmy as an "art of the soul".

Most eurythmy today is performed to classical music or texts such as poetry or stories. Silent pieces are also sometimes performed.

Eurythmy with music

When performing eurythmy with music (also called tone eurythmy), the three major elements of music, melody, harmony and rhythm, are all expressed. The melody is primarily conveyed through expressing its rise and fall; the specific pitches; and the intervallic qualities present. Harmony is expressed through movement between tension and release, as expressions of dissonance and consonance, and between the more inwardly directed minor mood and the outwardly directed major mood. Rhythm is chiefly conveyed through livelier and more contoured movements for quick notes, slower, dreamier movements for longer notes; in addition, longer tones move into the more passive (listening) back space, quicker tones into the more active front space.

Breaths or pauses are expressed through a larger or smaller movement in space, giving new impulse to what follows. Beat is conveyed through greater emphasis of downbeats, or those beats upon which stress is normally placed. Beat is generally treated as a subsidiary element, expressed through greater emphasis on the down- or other accentuated beats. Eurythmy has only occasionally been done to popular music, in which beat plays a large role.

The timbre of individual instruments is brought into the quality both of the tonal gestures and of the whole movement of the eurythmist. Usually there will be a different eurythmist or group of eurythmists expressing each instrument, for example in chamber or symphonic music.

A piece's choreography usually expresses elements such as the major or minor key, the shape of the melody line, the interplay between voices or instruments and the relative dominance of one or another voice or instrument. Thus, musicians can often follow even the finest details of their part in the movements of the eurythmists on stage. Particular musical forms (e.g. the sonata) can have special characteristic choreographic expressions.

Eurythmy with spoken texts

Eurythmy is often performed with spoken texts such as poetry, stories or plays. Speech eurythmy includes such elements as the sounds of speech, rhythms, poetic meter, grammar and mood. In speech eurythmy, all the sounds of language have characteristic gestural qualities: the sound of an 'Ah' is formed by raising your arms over your head in a v-shape, designed to show the open quality of that sound. An 'n', however, uses a sharper, jerking movement (as if touching something hot and then jerking your hands up), again complementing the sound of the letter. Note that it is the audible sounds themselves, not the letters of the written language, that are expressed.

History

Eurythmy was born in 1911 when a widow brought her young daughter, Lory Smits, who was interested in movement and dance, to the Austrianmarker philosopher Rudolf Steiner. Due to the recent loss of her father, it was necessary for the girl to find a career. Steiner's advice was sought; he suggested that the girl begin working on a new art of movement. As preparation for this, she began to study human anatomy, to explore the human step, to contemplate the movement implicit in Greek sculpture and dance, and to find movements that would express spoken sentences using the sounds of speech. Soon a number of other young people became interested in this form of expressive movement.

During these years, Steiner was writing a new drama each year for performance at the Anthroposophical Society's summer gatherings; beginning in 1912, he began to incorporate the new art of movement into these dramas. When the Society decided to build an artistic center in Dornachmarker, Switzerlandmarker (this later became known as the Goetheanummarker) a small stage group began work and offered weekly performances of the developing art. Marie Steiner-von Sivers, Steiner's wife, who was a trained actress and speech artist, was given responsibility for training and directing this ensemble. This first eurythmy ensemble went on tour in 1919, performing across Switzerlandmarker, the Netherlandsmarker and Germanymarker.

Steiner saw eurythmy as a unique expression of the anthroposophical impulse:
"It is the task of Anthroposophy to bring a greater depth, a wider vision and a more living spirit into the other forms of art.
But the art of Eurythmy could only grow up out of the soul of Anthroposophy; could only receive its inspiration through a purely Anthroposophical conception."
- Rudolf Steiner


In 1924, Steiner gave two intensive workshops on different aspects of eurythmy; transcripts of his talks during these workshops are published as Eurythmy as Visible Speech and Eurythmy as Visible Singing.

Eurythmy ensembles in Stuttgartmarker, Germanymarker and at the Goetheanum soon became established parts of the cultural life of Europe. The Goetheanum ensemble was recognized with a gold medal at the Paris Expo of 1937/8. The Stuttgart training and ensemble, led by Else Klink, had to close in the Nazi period but reopened shortly after the close of World War II. There are now training centers and artistic ensembles in many countries.

Eurythmy as a performing art

There are notable eurythmy ensembles in Dornachmarker, Switzerlandmarker; Stuttgartmarker, Germanymarker; The Haguemarker, Netherlandsmarker; Londonmarker, Englandmarker; Järnamarker, Swedenmarker and Chestnut Ridge, New Yorkmarker (near New York Citymarker), USAmarker. All of these groups both perform locally and tour internationally. Many smaller performing groups also exist (see list).

Pedagogical eurythmy

When the first Waldorf School was founded in 1919, Eurythmy was included in the curriculum. It was quickly recognized as a successful complement to gymnastics in the school's movement program and is now taught in most Waldorf schools, as well as in many non-Waldorf pre-school centers, kindergartens and schools. Its purpose is to awaken and strengthen the expressive capacities of children through movement, stimulating the child to bring imagination, ideation and conceptualization to the point where they can manifest these as "vital, moving forms" in physical space.

Eurythmy pedagogical exercises begin with the straight line and curve and proceed through successively more complicated geometric figures and choreographed forms, developing a child's coordination and concentration. An extensive set of special exercises has also been developed for pedagogical purposes. These include many geometric or dynamic movements (such as form metamorphoses), exercises with (usually copper) rods to develop precision in movement and expand the experience of space, and exercises with (usually copper) balls to objectify the movement experience.

There are post-graduate trainings for eurythmy teachers; however, pedagogical trainings are increasingly being incorporated into many colleges of eurythmy.

Therapeutic eurythmy

Eurythmy is used therapeutically, normally on the advice of a physician, to compensate for somatic or psychological imbalances; the aim is to strengthen the organism's salutogenic capacity to heal itself.

There are post-graduate trainings in the therapeutic use of eurythmy.

Socially therapeutic uses of eurythmy

Eurythmy has also been used in many social contexts, including workplaces and prisons, with the aim of rejuvenating individuals and their social relationships.

For more information



Performance excerpts



Training programs

Full-time eurythmy courses are generally four-year programs. There are an increasing number of part-time programs available. English language trainings include:

References

  1. Matila Ghyka, The Geometry of Art and Life, Sheen and Ward, NY 1946, p. 5.
  2. Mercurius, makers of eurythmy rods and eurythmy balls. Retrieved 2007-11-28.
  3. Carlo Willmann, Waldorfpädogogik, Böhlau Verlag, ISBN 341201898-8, 1998.
  4. Robert A. McDermott, The Essential Steiner, ISBN 0-06-065345-0, p. 403
  5. The gestures of eurythmy have been found to be related to the flow the larynx gives to the stream of air when speaking different sounds. See here.
  6. Alan Stott, Eurythmy: its Birth and Development, ISBN 0954104846
  7. Rudolf Steiner's "Lecture on Eurythmy" August 26, 1923
  8. Karl Stockmeyer, Rudolf Steiner's Curriculum for Waldorf Schools, Steiner Schools Fellowship, 1985
  9. Thomas Poplawski, Eurythmy: rhythm, dance and soul, ISBN 0-86315-269-4, pp. 80-4


Bibliography

  • Kirchner-Bockholt and Wood, Fundamental Principles of Curative Eurythmy , ISBN 0-904693-40-6
  • Poplawski, Thomas, Eurythmy: Rhythm, Dance and Soul, ISBN 0-88010-459-7
  • Siegloch, Magdalene, How the New Art of Eurythmy Began, ISBN 0-904693-90-2
  • Spock, Marjorie, Eurythmy, ISBN 0-910142-88-2
  • Steiner, Rudolf, Eurythmy as Visible Speech, ISBN 0-85440-421-X
  • Steiner, Rudolf, Eurythmy as Visible Singing
  • Steiner, Rudolf, An Introduction to Eurythmy: Talks Given Before Sixteen Eurythmy Performances , ISBN 0-88010-042-7



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