Eurythmy is an art of movement that engages the whole human being, integrating bodily movement with movements that arise within the soul. It creates a harmonious relationship between the inner self and the physical body.
In simple terms Eurythmy is often described as ‘visible speech’ and ‘visible music’. It comprises a language of gestures representing each sound (vowel and consonant) and each musical tone and interval.
As an essentially artistic process, it is more closely related to dance than to gymnastics. This relatively new art form is, at present, taught only in Steiner schools and is often little known in the wider community. However, its aims lie at the heart of the Steiner Curriculum. Practising the elements of Eurythmical movement helps the children to become more graceful, co-ordinated, alert and at ease with themselves.
Through learning the gestural vocabulary of sounds and tones, the children form an inner connection to the qualities inherent in the elements of language and music, which supports their development of linguistic and musical literacy. The work on choreography and interpretation of literature and music deepens the children’s aesthetic appreciation of those subjects experientially.
Working with geometrical forms in three-dimensions helps to cultivate an inner sense of orientation and increase spatial awareness. Working in groups the children develop the social capacity to sense the movement of the group as a whole and become able to move with others in a harmonious and co-ordinated way. Awareness of social processes is a quality that Eurythmy cultivates at many levels.
In the Kindergarten, Eurythmy lessons are shaped primarily by a story, which leads the children into the movements in an imaginative way. The Eurythmy gestures are simple and pictorial and are integrated into the narrative so the children are able to imitate them unconsciously. Finger games and rhymes form
the basis for developing fine motor skills and these are woven into the overall structure as seamlessly as possible.
The archetypal form of the circle is the starting point for the Eurythmy lessons and in Class 1 it is experienced through the imagination as the ‘sun’ or the ‘castle garden’. Simple forms, straight lines and curves are practised through the pictures that arise out of the stories and poems: ‘The Golden Bridge’ or ‘The Dragon’s Tail’. The distinction between right and left, forward and back is made. Agility exercises such as hopping, skipping and jumping games are played. Ideally, as in the Kindergarten, all the elements of the lesson should flow into one integrated whole.
In their ninth year the children begin to experience a stronger differentiation between themselves and their surroundings. In Eurythmy this is accompanied by rhythmic exercises: contraction and expansion, hopping and clapping rhythms, and awareness of major and minor moods in music. The speech sounds, vowels and consonants, begin to be recognised individually and practised consciously in poems and spelling games.
In Class 4 copper rods are thrown, caught, passed from hand to hand, twirled and handled in many ways. These exercises encourage alertness and dexterity; precision is now required of the children in their movement and they enjoy the challenge of difficult co-ordination exercises. Alongside their Norse Myths Main Lesson they learn to step exact ‘Walls of Asgard’ and step alliterative Viking poems. During the grammar main lesson the parts of speech are brought into movement, deepening the children’s understanding of nouns, verbs and adjectives experientially.
In Class 5 the children are poised between childhood and the beginning of adolescence. It is a harmonious point in their development and the graceful movements of Eurythmy come naturally to them at this age. The beauty, rhythm and form of language can be experienced and understood and the perfection of the human form is consciously discovered. In their Main Lesson throughout the year the children are studying ancient cultures: India, Persia, Egypt and Greece. The moods of these epochs are evoked in Eurythmy through the characteristic styles of movement and poetry belonging to each culture. In music, the two part melodies are introduced and work on the musical scales continues.
The Roman theme of structure and law which characterises the Class 6 curriculum is reflected in Eurythmy by a strong emphasis on geometrical forms and their transformations. Everything is practised to a high degree of accuracy and the social aspect of the Eurythmy exercises is consciously cultivated. The Latin language brings another dimension to the children’s experience of the Eurythmy sounds and dramatic elements in poetry can be introduced and used to enrich the children’s soul life. At a time when rapid physical growth and change can lead to a loss of physical boundaries, copper rod exercises are especially valuable in helping the children to form a coherent inner image of their own spatial dimensions.
In Class 7 Eurythmy lessons, more subtle shades of mood are explored through poetry and music, and the children begin to develop a fine sense for different inner qualities and their expression in movement. Exercises for upright posture and good spatial awareness become more conscious and the concentration and rod exercises provide stimulating challenges. With the skills and knowledge required in the previous classes the children can begin to contribute artistically to the choreographies of both music and poetry and are encouraged to take an active part in the creative process.