I have written before about how, after participating in only a morning of Dalcroze Eurhythmics, at the 2008 Dalcroze UK Easter course, I was inspired to train to become a Dalcroze teacher. It is fascinating that, although Dalcroze is still largely unknown by musicians and teachers in the UK, many that do try it ‘fall in love’ with the method! Of course, it’s not for everyone, but Dalcrozians are, by and large, passionate not just about its benefits but love simply doing it. Dalcroze Eurhythmics is notoriously difficult to describe: it has to be experienced to appreciate it properly!
So – what is it that makes Dalcroze Eurhythmics special? What is it about taking part in a class that leaves many people ‘on a high’? I’m not the first to attempt to answer this question but here goes…
Eurhythmics = Good Flow
I was reminded recently about the meaning of eurhythmics, which means ‘good flow’. A rhythmics lesson (the music and movement ‘branch’ of Dalcroze Eurhythmics and arguably the heart of the method) aims to connect the body and the mind, to ‘tune up’ the body and the senses. It focuses on both movement and vocal improvisation and this leads to self-expression. And all the games and exercises aim for that sense of flow that is instantly recognisable when it occurs!
Rhythmics is for everyone…ensemble
The sense of moving and experiencing together is a powerful one! It can also be felt when playing an instrument in an ensemble, executing a dance routine in a group, or singing in a choir and perhaps in some team sports…Yet in a rhythmics lesson this can be achieved just by walking together. You don’t have to have a skill, just the willingness to move. In the Taster Day I led back in February 2022 one of the participants found it particularly powerful when I asked the group to find a walk together. They had to match their ways of walking in every way they could and the result was a feeling of being part of something greater. If that sounds an exaggeration then I would suggest you come to a class to experience that sense of ensemble.
Active listening through teacher improvisation!
My teaching experience is largely restricted to teaching musicians and/or music teachers and one of the joys of rhythmics is giving a class, whether this is a group of children, adolescents or adults, a challenge. This might be a polyrhythm where one rhythm is shown with the hands and another with the feet or perhaps stimulating the active listening in lessons when the participant is required to respond to a musical signal. As long as the games and exercises are carefully scaffolded then students love doing them. The sense of achievement is great to observe in one’s students and it’s a joy to improvise play music that appropriately stimulates and excites the class. Many people maintain that it is teacher improvisation that makes Dalcroze Eurhythmics unique.
Freedom of expression – finding the inner child
I loved dancing as a child so relished the opportunity to do so again once I’d discovered Dalcroze Eurhythmics. Many of the disciplines of contemporary dance are required in those that take rhythmics lessons. However, the element of freedom and creativity of movement is more often emphasized in rhythmics as opposed to a contemporary dance class. This can be an area that some find intimidating as an adult. I sometimes encourage a class to find their ‘inner child’, to slough off the problems of the day and explore the joy of movement. It is the most beautiful thing to watch someone move freely to music.
Dalcroze Eurhythmics – a healthier way to live!
A typical rhythmics class will address many issues that lead to a healthier life. The all important one is that sense of flow. Speaking more prosaically rhythmics promotes flexibility, improved balance, coordination and mental alertness. At the same time participants work and move with others and discover their own creative strengths.
Research has backed up many of the claims in this blog but one of the landmark research projects was undertaken by the Swiss researcher and gerontologist Professor Reto Kressig. He found that regular participation in rhythmics classes reduced the numbers of falls in seniors and led to some insurance companies paying seniors to take rhythmics classes! Rhythmics is, of course, well-known and widely practised in Switzerland. It is hoped that in time this will be the case in the UK too.
If you are reading this and are interested in giving Dalcroze Rhythmics a try then do attend my Monday rhythmics classes in Ealing. A new series of classes will be starting in September 2022. Follow this website to keep up to date with forthcoming classes and courses!