Is eurythmy different to other forms of dance and movement?
Yes it is. Some people notice similarities in the quality of movement with oriental disciplines such as Tai Chi and qigong but the intentions of a eurythmist are quite different from any other dance form. Some Mystery Dances of ancient Greece had common elements, according to Rudolf Steiner, but there seems to be nothing that has survived. Perhaps eurythmy has some aspects in common with the traditions of movement-drama such as Japanese Kabuki theatre with its complex gestures that a knowledgeable audience understands.
In eurythmy the inner qualities of speech and song are made visible, not the feelings evoked by what is heard. The performer becomes the speech and the music so that the hidden inner life is revealed. This demands a high degree of skill and, in his time, Steiner often apologised that this new art was in infancy. Speech has its own laws, as music does, which eurythmists have to obey. These laws are found in our etheric body and eurythmy is thus an art of etheric movement. The vital, life forces that surge through our etheric bodies include the forming power of the zodiac and planets. These can be made visible through their corresponding eurythmy gestures.
It is perhaps one of the more perplexing aspects of eurythmy that eurythmists do not express the personal feelings or a response to the music by the choreographer, as is frequently seen in modern dance. The eurythmical challenge is to move beyond personal limitations or disabilities, for the speech and music to become visible without any distracting technical shortcomings. In a similar way a piano player may develop the skill to allow the music of Beethoven sound freely without added artificial colourings of the player's personality intruding. The pianist uses a well tuned piano as a medium for music. A badly tuned instrument is an unwelcome distraction. The eurythmist combines the tasks of tuner and player, developing a mobile body as the medium for eurythmy as well as learning skilful technique.
The ability to overcome personal limitations in movement comprises an important aspect of the self-development of anyone who practices eurythmy, and this aim is integral to eurythmy's potential to therapeutically address disharmonies in our constitution.
Contemporary eurythmists have made tremendous efforts to make the movement as true to the eye as it is experienced by the ear. Modern music and poetry require new styles to be developed beyond the indications that Steiner gave and there is a vast amount of work going on to achieve in movement all the nuances that a speaker and musician can bring out. I feel that this experimental phase of eurythmy demonstrates that the baby of the arts has reached the full flood of adolescence.
One particular difference from many dance disciplines is that eurythmy relates strongly to the centre of movement that radiates from the area of the collar bone. Close to the heart, it invokes a very different experience of movement from when one moves from the lower abdomen, or hara, as is common in eastern martial arts.
By preparing themselves [for a performance] eurythmists become receptive for what is guided out of the spiritual world. In the case of the audience, the movements living in their astral body and ego are intensified through experiencing eurythmy movements in visible form.
-- Rudolf Steiner (Balance in Teaching: p 41)
Eurythmy in modern times by Coralee Schmandt »
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How did eurythmy begin?
It seems that Rudolf Steiner had many new and revolutionary ideas that he wished to develop, but he would wait until somebody asked the right questions before developing and presenting them in public.
In 1912 the seed question came from Clara Smits who was looking for a career in movement for her daughter, Lori. Although Lori was only a teenager, Steiner began to introduce Lori to a new art of movement through exercises and imaginative pictures. Speech eurythmy was developed first and introduced into some scenes of Steiner's four Mystery Dramas. Visible singing developed much more slowly but, from the first performances, proved more popular with audiences than visible speech.
It soon became clear that eurythmy could be a health-promoting activity, and specific exercises for a wide variety of medical conditions were developed as curative eurythmy, now called eurythmy therapy.
In 1919 the first Waldorf School opened and eurythmy was introduced as an integral part of the curriculum. Like the whole curriculum introduced by Steiner, the eurythmy lessons develop through the school in tune with the development of the children.
Find Waldorf links in DISCOVER EURYTHMY RESOUCES »