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Eurythmy - visible speech and music.

Eurythmy is an art of movement developed by Rudolf Steiner, at the beginning of this century, as an expression of the spiritual qualities inherent in speech and in music. Whilst gymnastics works with the basic physical forces of weight and levity, eurythmy seeks to bring the inner structure and laws of spoken language and music to an artistic expression through bodily movement. Since the creation of this new art form it has become acclaimed world-wide as a performing art. The formative and harmonising qualities of eurythmy also play a significant role in Waldorf education as well as being a valuable therapy in their own right. All children in Waldorf schools are taught eurythmy.

Just as the other arts do, eurythmy finds different ways of expressing itself. Eurythmy appears in space through the forms created by the movements of the artist. Speech and music are made visible in the movements of individual eurythmists or in movements carried out by whole groups. These forms can be very simple or highly complicated and consist of individual components that interpenetrate. Eurythmical movements are based on two elements. One of these is speech, from the sounds of vowels and consonants to the grammatical structures that do not confine themselves to the audible phenomenon. The other is music in all its elements, from simple tones and intervals up to the laws of harmony and musical form.

As we are all aware, speech and music in themselves already have a formative and even healing effect on the human being. When they find new expression in body movements, they work on the entire constitution and on the bodily form.

Sounds of speech or of music, soul-moods, intervals and harmonies are all eurythmically formed by gestures and movements of the arms and the entire body. The forms created in space which can be called a kind of choreography, make the formal elements of speech or music visible in three-dimensional movements. Through eurythmy people can learn how to use movement in working with a piece of music or with speech, in such a way that it has an ordering and harmonising effect on the entire being, on the soul as well as on the body.

In Waldorf Schools, all pupils are taught eurythmy which has its own curriculum corresponding to and complimenting the teaching of all other subjects. It begins in the kindergarten and goes up right through to the end of school, approaching the children and later the adolescents in ways that are appropriate to their stages of development. In being enabled to use their bodies in this way right from the start, the pupils not only learn to work with speech and music, they also acquire presence of mind and an ability to react to a given situation in an artistic way. Over and above this, they generally heighten their skill and self-awareness within the group through doing the forms together. The significance of this art as a factor of social integration should therefore not be underestimated. At the same time, the vital forces of the individual child are strengthened and built up by practicing eurythmy during the weekly lessons. As far as the health of children is concerned, eurythmy is gaining in importance.

In view of increasing posture problems, of the defects in physical make-up that often require orthopedic help and that are frequently engendered by a lack of sufficient movement, eurythmy may well find itself working with children and young people pedagogically and therapeutically on an ever larger scale.

Helga Daniel

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