From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Eurhythmics (also Rhythmic Gymnastics, Rhythmics) is an approach to the education of music that was devised by Emile Jaques-Dalcroze. This method utilizes the expression of physical movement and musical rhythms to reinforce the concepts which affect the student’s performance and retention of musical basics.
It is the expression of physical and musical rhythms and the basic laws affecting their performance. Through participation in simple games, exercises and improvisations the students learn to combine music and movement in order to develop rhythmic unity between the eye, ear, mind and body.The definition of eurhythmics can get more complicated, “Of all music teaching methods, the Dalcroze approach is probably the most nebulous to define. That's because it lives in the teachers themselves, not in specific books, songs, or other materials. Specific branches, principles, and strategies form a common thread among Dalcrozians, while teachers may differ greatly in their interests, skills, and teaching styles (Dale, Monica).”
The system grew directly out of Jaques-Dalcroze's experiences as a music theory teacher at the Conservatory in Geneva. He found that his students could not appreciate rules for music without any understanding of the corresponding musical experience. His system encouraged students to feel changes in time, space, and energy that occur in music through discovery through learning.
When eurhythmics was used with solfege (most often used when sight-singing and ear-training) by Dalcroze he found that it sharpened his students’ perception to music and elements of performance (Mead, Virginia Hoge). Dalcroze was also a great improviser. So he often encouraged his students to feel the music he improvised with their whole bodies as well as in singing and playing. This came to be known as the Dalcroze method as known today.
Important Influences on the development of Eurhythmics
Before taking a post teaching theory, Jaques-Dalcroze spent a year as a conductor in Algiers, where he was exposed to a rhythmic complexity that helped influence him to pay special attention to rhythmic aspects of music.
Jaques-Dalcroze also had an important friendship with Édouard Claparède, the renowned psychologist. In particular, this collaboration resulted in Eurhythmics often employing games of change and quick reaction in order to focus attention and increase learning.
Effectiveness of Dalcroze Eurhythmics
Research shows that pre-schooled children (ages 4-6) who are involved with movement programs such as eurhythmics have a better sense of rhythmic movement and a sense of space. A group of 72 pre-school children were tested on their rhythmic ability; half of the children had free-play (35-40 min.) twice a week for a 10-week period while the other half had rhythmic movement classes for the same amount of time. The group that had classes (experimental group) did significantly better than the group that just had free-play (control group). The experiment group scored four or more points better in every area tested than the control group in the final test. This shows that eurhythmic classes can benefit a child’s sense of rhythm (Zachopoulou, Evridiki).
Please note that it is hard to find empirical data, never the less compare it, on Eurhythmics specifically since the styles that teachers use differ greatly.
Teaching Eurhythmics Today
Eurhythmic classes are found all over the world and at every level, and are taught by licensed and certified teachers. It is hard to give an example of curriculum that several teachers would use when teaching eurhythmics. For example some teachers might focus just on teaching eurhythmics while other might combine solfege and improvisation with eurhythmics, as it was truly intended (Johnson, Monica Dale).
- Eurythmy, a movement art originated by Rudolf Steiner in the early 20th century. The word is a new formation from Greek roots meaning beautiful or harmonious rhythm.