So Eurythmy is an
Art of Movement!
Not a form of dance, not a rendering visible of music or of the spoken word, but an art of movement.
A lawful art that originates in the archetypal movements that clothe the laws of the living.
One often reads that eurythmists sing their gestures on stage through the body-become-instrument; that eurythmy is visible music and/or visible speech, played upon the instrument of the human body. But that is not true. At least, not entirely.
As a musician does not play piano, or violin, the eurythmists does not play upon his human body. For a violinist does not play violin, but plays upon tone. His sole instrument is his tone. He does not play a forte or a piano, he plays a dynamic of strength or tenderness; he does not play a down-bow or an up-bow, he gives weight or enlivens through levity. He crafts tone, shapes sound, paints colour, breathes... A musician clothes music in tone.
As a eurythmist, my instrument is not my body, it is my movement. I outwardly order my gestures according to the dynamics of movement that archetypally form them. I play upon my movement.
As a eurythmist, I clothe eurythmy in movement.
And while the art of eurythmy is composed of specific gestures that years of training and practice are needed to master, these gestures in and of themselves do not compose eurythmy. Eurythmy is the quality that is brought in going from one gesture to the next. While the art of music is composed of series of notes, music resounds in the intervals that lie between each notes; the art of eurythmy is composed of series of gestures, but eurythmy itself resounds in the qualitative how one goes from one to the next.
I remember how struck I was as a young teenager when I read Menuhin’s statement that one could hear the entire musicianship of a violinist in how he played a single octave scale. The sincerity of the statement had impressed me terribly, for it opened the door into understanding that music lies between the notes, and not in them. So does movement lie between the gestures, and not in the outer ‘agitation’ of the arms.
A VISIBLE RENDITION OF THE INVISIBLE?
Eurythmy is often described as ‘visible music’ or ‘visible speech’. But is this correct? Does one actually see visible music or visible speech onstage? Or do we rather perceive music and speech in a non-audible manner?
The question might seem pedantic, but it is nothing more than:
can we use our eyes to perceive something we cannot see?
The biggest difference between dance and eurythmy lies perhaps in what is performed onstage and how it is received by the audience members.
One could say that dance over the last 300 or 400 has manifested itself through the two great polarities of ballet and modern/contemporary dance, and that in these two leading roles, it has served the two great masters of Representation and Personal Expression.
For ballet is a representation in dance of the world order: in the Court Ballet of Louis the XIV, one danced to honor the sovereignty of the social world; one danced the representation of the world, planet circling a sun king. And Giselle dances what we think off as the idea of pain. Structured within the tutu, the ligne of classical ballet, the arabesque, the straight line of the leg extended beyond itself into the pointed foot expresses the pristine idea we form in ourselves of an emotion. Giselle dances the perfect crystal-like Idea of Pain. She dances a majestic Representation.
Modern Dance dances the emotion itself. The structured outer world has shattered and the inner world pours itself forth from its most intimate inner depths. Modern dance is first and foremost a direct expression of the personality choreographing or dancing.
And so, stretched between representation and expression of the personal inner self, dance has portrayed, if only in the past couple of centuries, an incredible variety of forms.
Eurythmy, as an art of movement and not a dance form, originates from an entirely different place.
Rooting itself in the conscious perceiving of the archetypal movements that shape the world we live in, it neither portrays nor expresses. It very humbly seeks to move. To allow the sculpting process of inner movement to become perceivable.
For no gesture in eurythmy stands as a symbol of something.
Each gesture is in and of itself a truth. Eurythmy is in reality so easy to watch, for there is no symbolism woven in our gestures, for nothing ‘means’ anything! Anyone attending a eurythmy performance for the first time can ‘get’ it.
No secret code needs to be learned, no secret language mastered, as each gesture comes from a lawful experience of archetypally ‘simple’ elements: in tone eurythmy for example, the ground scope of the movement is shaped according to how high or low a note is, to how long or short, to how it is shaped according to its place in the musical phrase, beat, and/or what its dynamic is… In speech eurythmy, we also move first and foremost according to the quality of the word: active verb or passive verb, adjective, noun, according to the quality of the poem, epic, lyric or dramatic… Each sound has a gesture, but the entire dynamic of its performance needs to be found in the quality of the poem itself.
And so our gestures in eurythmy are formed from a conscious experience of living, archetypal truths, and moved according to the laws that govern them.
With very few expressions (the Isadora Duncan School being one of them) all forms of dance (and also including the eastern arts of movement) are centered in the hips. The hips hold the center of gravity, as when we walk, run or move about in our daily lives.
In eurythmy, and for the first time in the history of movement in such a consistent manner, the center of gravity has shifted upwards into the chest area, and lies dynamically at rest between the breathing lungs and the beating heart. This allows the incredible ‘flow’ people often speak of when watching eurythmy, the impression that the eurythmists flow on stage like running water… Because the center of gravity, that is to say, our center when in movement, has freed itself from where it usually serves to hold the marvelous form of the human body anchored in life, has sacrificed its original physiological function, so that the chest could begin to reign upon the kingdom of movement.
Physiologically speaking, we have shifted from a functional center of gravity to a non-functional one.
The outer function has become an inner one: the outer necessity of life has become an inner necessity.
I will come back in a later blog to the question of the inner necessity of art, but for now, let us come back to our original question. When looking into our capacity to perceive through the eyes something invisible such as movement, we begin to approach the level of feeling-awareness needed when looking at eurythmy. And we can begin to recognize that although needed, the eyes are of little importance when attending a eurythmy performance.
For eurythmy is not perceived with the eyes. It is perceived with the heart.
The human heart must become the physiological organ of perception that receives within itself and orders the eurythmical impressions it receives.
Watching a eurythmy performance, the eyes only serve as does a door into a room. One must go through the door to enter the room, but what matters is the activity which takes place within the room, not the act of going through the door in and of itself. The eyes are only the door opening into the cavity of the heart.
The dynamics of movement flowing from one gesture to the next resound in the chest of the audience member, hollow violin body become caisse de resonance of this art. As the eurythmist must learn to shift his center of gravity upwards to the heart, the audience member must learn to shift his perception downwards through the eyes, through the gateways of the soul, into the heart.
For eurythmy works upon the human heart.
I of course do not mean to say that one cannot be touched by dance. That would be grossly wrong! I only mean to say that the organs of perception for dance are the eyes, their impressions then coming down into the heart, whereas the organ of perception for eurythmy, while needing to go through the eyes, is the heart.
Feelings, emotions, being touched by something, moved, brought to tears, to laughter… the entire range of emotions can of course by awakened by dance, by all the arts, and by eurythmy. What I am merely saying is that the organ of perception is the heart. As music must be heard in the soul-become-great-ear, painting seen by the soul-become-giant-eye, eurythmy must be ‘felt’ in the soul-become-vast-heart.
What I am talking about is not a question of feeling, but of perception.
And that is perhaps difficult to feel within oneself when discovering eurythmy through videos, and not through a live performance, as with any other art, or as with human conversations, statements, discussions... But I can personally attest that I have come out of eurythmy performances with my heart engulfed in a glowing feeling of pulsating warmth, or feeling as if the beating muscles of my heart had received within them a dynamic force.
Watching eurythmy is like going to the gym for the heart! It is so healthy that everyone should attend eurythmy performances!