An Incredibly Modern Art
What is Eurythmy?
What could one say if the same question were asked of music?
What is Music?
What could one answer to someone who had only heard a few Gregorian chants in his life that could point him to what lies in all that was later developed in music? What could we say that could point him towards what unfolded through the geniuses of Bach, Beethoben, Mozart, Schubert, Wagner, Bruckner, through the inside/out dionysian work of Liszt, the musical lace-work of Chopin, the colour works of Ravel...
With the difference that we are still at the Gregorian chant timeframe in eurythmy and that its later developments are just beginning to unravel.
We can call eurythmy an art of movement in the same way that we can call music an art of sound. Of sound, and not of noise!
Of how one sound inherently leads TO another.
Music is at its most musical in the transformation of one sound, of one note, into another; in the living in-between space that lies between the two tangible realities of the notes. If you think of music as a thread of intervals, and not of notes, of living, resounding intervals, than I can use this experience to lead you towards developing a feeling for eurythmy.
For eurythmy is an art of movement, but it can only be archetypally called an art of movement in the same way that music can be called an art of intervals.
The outer movement is like the notes, a result of a none-tangible reality. The notes have to be there so that there can exist spaces “between” them! And same for eurythmy gestures: they exist so that one may go FROM one TO the next.
If we go back to the picture of the history of music timeframe and say that eurythmy is at about the Gregorian chant age, then you can understand how much is still to come!
Imagine that Andrei Rublev had not painted anything yet. We have had no Renaissance, Italian or Dutch and Flemish; no Raphael and no Michelangelo, no Venetian school, Impressionism and Expressionism in France, no Hudson River School in the States… no Picasso…
A personal habit perhaps, but I find analogies between the arts so rich and expressive! What one is more easily drawn to in one art has also lived in another art form and undergone either a similar or an entirely different transformation. Qualitatively speaking, German music is to be sculpted, French music painted, Italian music sung and modern music set into movement; Russian music must dance! Or glide like the incredible Yagudin.
And yet in what little we have in eurythmy today already lies the potential for all that is to come.
We will have our Malibran, our Maria Callas, our Cecilia Bartoli; the composers will come, as will the interpreters. But as for the monks in their cloisters, the consciousness and the knowledge of the human being will have to evolve for the art of eurythmy to evolve. And the knowledge, the consciousness that lies at the very heart of eurythmy is the consciousness of the human being as a free being.
Each art has enabled the development of a human faculty. The development of the classical arts has always been intimately linked with the social rules and cultural consciousness of a time and place. The unfolding of each art throughout the centuries has also been the unfolding of the human beings culturally, socially and intellectually. The fact that eurythmy appeared ‘only’ a hundred years ago addresses in and of itself the role eurythmy plays in the cultural sphere.
Culturally, its development between the two World Wars happened as the heart of the western world was torn apart and it has ‘grown up’ amid the social uprooting of the past hundred years. The fact that eurythmy truly addresses the most burning social questions today might be taken as a good joke by some, yet I believe that, in the practice of eurythmy as a social art, much could be felt as regards the qualitative interactions we are capable of.
Eurythmy today speaks to the consciousness of the human being.
To the qualitative consciousness of the human being: that means in a human way, through the medium of art; in the development of a HOW as opposed to a WHAT, in the development of a qualitative in-between.
Now one might say that all this is a lot of chitter-chatter for people moving around in veils! But precisely because eurythmy comes so late in the development of the human society, we cannot let it develop “of itself” in a way. Its development must be accompanied with the faculties of today, which are faculties of consciousness with regards to the qualitative how. And unless this actually resonates in eurythmists, the art of eurythmy will not be able to live healthily and rightfully in the cultural sphere, amidst the other arts.
If the feeling soul was once capable of leading music through all that is has undergone in a very short time, I do not believe one could say that it still has the strength today to do the same for eurythmy. Our strength today lies in our capacity to think. And if we can train ourselves not to think randomly, but through our hearts, then we have a well-spring of creativity that is incredibly modern.
When one thinks a thought through one’s heart, then one experiences in oneself the same processes that unfold onstage in the art of eurythmy.
Eurythmy is incredibly modern! It speaks directly to the strengths of the modern human being, speaks directly to the capacity to transform dead thoughts into living thought.
I will not go into what that means here, but one possible answer would be to say that thoughts are put into movement. That one shapes them according to a dynamic of movement and not according to a result-orientated goal. That one becomes aware of how they play with and upon each other, that thoughts are always in movement, are always an activity.
Eurythmy is actually so modern that we haven’t quite grasped it yet!
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