Developed in the early 1900s by Swiss composer and educator Émile Jaques-Dalcroze, Eurhythmics uses movement to express elements of music. From the Greek “eu” and “rythmos”, eurhythmics literally means “good flow.”
Dalcroze observed that his students struggled to relate the harmonies they were transcribing to their respective sounds, or aural intervals. Additionally, their performances lacked rhythmic specificity and polish. Using Solfège during ear training exercises, Dalcroze began inventing games to help his students connect the notes they heard to the notes on the page. Even more importantly, Dalcroze noted that his students would move almost involuntarily in response to the music — toe tapping, swaying, swinging their arms. It was from these observations that Dalcroze began experimenting with the body as a “medium” between sounds and our thoughts.
According to this methodology, the body is the vessel for musical expression and concept comprehension. In Eurhythmics, movements are informed by the music heard and experienced. Breathing becomes as important as spoken words, and a heightened body awareness, or kinesthetics, is integral for fully realizing the music. Children are taught in school how to sing, keep time or a steady beat, and listen carefully all while interpreting the music physically.
Eurhythmics can be taught at any age. It is rare that a person will be born with ‘perfect rhythm’, so the integration of movement in the classroom early on is key. Once the muscles and motor skills have developed sufficiently, the visual representation of rhythm (notation) can be introduced.
Eurhythmics has been noted to increase confidence in students, along with fine and gross motor skills, musical appreciation and aptitude, the ability to hear and analyze sounds, as well as the ability to improvise and freely develop new ideas.
For more information about Dalcroze and Eurhythmics, visit the Dalcroze Society of America website.