Eurythmy at Potomac Crescent Waldorf School
Ashley Parker, a Washington Waldorf School alumna, has been performing and teaching Eurythmy in California since her graduation from The American Eurythmy School near Mt. Shasta in 2013. Ashley has also been studying Anthroposophical Speech Formation and Drama. She will be teaching Eurythmy for the Early Childhood and Grades classrooms this Fall. Later this year she will be moving to Dornach, Switzerland where she will complete her Speech training.
by Victoria P. Mansuri
Waldorf Teacher, Educator, and Mentor
Rudolf Steiner, the Austrian-born artist, philosopher and educator, introduced eurythmy in 1912. It is most commonly known as the expression of sound through movement; but it is far more than this. Allow me to use a metaphorical picture to explain: although in physical geometry one can never truly experience a line or point because, for example, the chalk or pencil would always be too fat, one can still understand their pure forms, or archetypes. Similarly, the true natures of the spoken word and musical sound do not clearly manifest themselves in the physical world, but live more in the ethers (the space around us), or an etheric world, if you will. The art of Eurythmy is to align one’s physical body with these archetypes of sound in the etheric world. The sounds can be spoken or tonal; specific movements for each were developed by Rudolf Steiner. These two differentiations are called Speech Eurythmy and Tone Eurythmy, or “Visible Speech” and “Visible Music.”
Since these archetypes of sound live in the ethers, it is not the beauty of the eurythmist that is of primary concern; but rather, how the space around and between the eurythmists is shaped. As is described in a Eurythmy Spring Valley publication, “enlivening the space between performers calls for a dynamic balance between complete individual involvement and a listening in movement to others. Finding an approach to enhance individual expression while building a unified group ‘sounding’ in movement…” is the challenge of the artistic eurythmist. Thus, in the art of eurythmy, the dancer becomes both the listener and the instrument.
There are practical, pedagogical, and philosophical reasons for children to take Eurythmy in Waldorf schools. The word Eurythmy comes from the Greek “eu,” meaning good, and “ruthmos,” meaning rhythm. The intricate rhythms in speech and music are experienced through various forms of movement. This helps the children to develop a sense of coordination, grace, and beauty in their movements. Taking eurythmy for many years can be extremely helpful, for example, to the adolescent boy who has grudgingly executed eurythmical movements and now finds that his gangly limbs are beautifully coordinated on the basketball court.
Bringing the rhythms of speech and music into the physical body through Eurythmy also helps in the academic realm. A Waldorf high school student who has taken Eurythmy for many years may find that he or she can easily identify the different rhythms in poetry, readily recite Shakespeare’s iambic pentameter (and understand it!), or easily syncopate a trumpet piece in band.
The deepening of the sounds into the human being also helps with clear and beautiful pronunciation, of not just the mother tongue, but of all languages, for sound is universal. It also brings an intuitive wealth to the young poet who has the sounds and rhythms of the universe imprinted into his or her very being.
Science and mathematics are also aided and complemented by a student’s eurythmical experience. Through Pythagoras’ teachings we know that mathematics and music are intricately related. By taking the archetypes of intervals and their relationships into one’s soul, math and its complicated variations, patterns, arithmetic and geometric sequences, can be approached from a deeper, all-encompassing perspective. In the sciences, the beautiful and mystical forms of, for example, the spiral of the conch shell or the sunflower, the five-pointed star found in the rose and the apple, accompany speech or music as eurythmical movement. In this way the phenomenon of biology is not only intellectually examined, but also inwardly experienced.
There is much more that could be said about Eurythmy, its artistic aspects and pedagogical influences. There is also a curative aspect to Eurythmy, which is prescribed in conjunction with a knowledgeable doctor. In all forms of Eurythmy, be it artistic, pedagogical, or curative, an invisible organ is strengthened which intuitively “listens” into the supersensible.
This ability makes a person more sensitive to others and what is in the space, be it tension, compassion, depression, or joy, whatever is in the etheric world around him or her. In this way Eurythmy offers us the potential to become a more empathetic human race, linked with our fellow human beings, as citizens of the cosmos.