We present here the introductory word by Dr. Rudolf Steiner at a performance of Eurhythmy, given at Dornach. It is the 40th of 88 such introductory words in the series entitled Eurythmy, the Visual Expression of the Speaking Soul.,
12 December 1920, Dornach
You will perhaps allow me to say just a few short words before our attempt to give a performance of Eurhythmy. It is not my purpose to try to explain the content of this performance, for the very reason that all that is of the nature of Art must speak for itself. An explanation of any kind is not in itself “artistic” and would consequently be out of place here. It is, however, necessary to say some few words, because what we here call the Art of Eurhythmy is derived from sources hitherto unfamiliar to the world of Art, and makes use of an artistic language whose forms are likewise rather unusual.
Eurhythmy is the Art of Movement in Space carried out by individuals and groups of individuals in reciprocal relationships and positions. These movements are not mere gestures, nor are they miming. Eurhythmy as we here give it cannot therefore be regarded as anything in the nature of dancing; it is a new Art, having as its instrument Man himself, and its movements are absolutely in accordance with law. The movements which are made in the larynx and the other organs of speech when a man expresses himself in sound have been studied by a kind of perception which is at the same time “sensible” and yet “super-sensible” — if I may use the expression of Goethe. But in speech those inner movements, or, better, those underlying principles of movement which it is the function of the larynx and the other organs of speech to bring into expression, are arrested as they arise and are transformed into finer vibratory movements which by means of the air carry the sound so that it can be heard. In Eurhythmy, then, a process as yet within the human organs of speech is interpreted by one individual or by groups of individuals. Goethe's teaching of Metamorphosis forms the basis of this Art. Everything that we do here is founded an Goetheanism, and Eurhythmic Art is just one detail of it.
Goethe developed his teaching of Metamorphosis out of his universal world-conception. The following rather abstract remarks about the simple way in which Goethe applied this teaching of the Metamorphosis of plants are not made with the purpose of evolving a theory, but only of making myself clear.
Goethe sees in principle a complete plant in each single leaf, so that a plant as a unit originates from the right development of what lies as idea within each single leaf. The whole plant is, in principle, an elaborated leaf, and each individual leaf is a primitive plant. What Goethe worked out with regard to organic metamorphosis — for he expanded the range of his conception to cover all organisms — can be applied to organic functions and development and then transformed into Art. So that if we turn what exists in principle and as Idea in a single group of organs — such as the larynx, and other organs of speech — into movements carried out by the individual, making him or a group of individuals into a living larynx in movement, as it were, we get a visible speech. And what lies at the basis of our Eurhythmy is this visible speech.
It is obvious, of course, that there will be opposition to an Art like this, employing, as it does, methods that are unfamiliar, but this opposition will all disappear in the course of time. The gestures are not accidental in our Eurhythmy; there is no mere chance connected between some movement of the arms, for instance, and a certain emotion of the soul. Just as a definite shade of tone in speech corresponds to a psychic or soul process, and vice versa, do you find in our Eurhythmy the logical sequence of movements. That which comes into expression in speech, in song, in music, is represented in Eurhythmy by means of a different artistic medium, by a different form of speech. Hence, as you will see, Eurhythmy can be accompanied by music, for that which in music is expressed in tone is there and then expressed by the movements of individuals. This visible speech of Eurhythmy can also be accompanied by audible speech, such as recitation, or declamation. The poem is recited and the real artistic content of it is translated into Eurhythmy into visible speech. We can in this way see how Eurhythmy in this somewhat inartistic age may be able to develop a true artistic understanding and rendering of recitation and declamation.
To-day in reference to recitation and declamation it is the verbal content of the poem which is considered specially important. But the real artistic value of poetry is not determined by this verbal content so much as by the plastic-figurative, or musical element to be found in it. When recitation or declamation is to accompany Eurhythmy, therefore, special care must be taken that they shall bring out the artistic element, the rhythm, the metre, and the inner form of the language used. In that way we shall get back to the understanding of the art of recitation as it existed in epochs which were truly artistic. It is interesting in this connection to remember that when Goethe studied his Iambic dramas with the actors, he always used a baton as if he were conducting music, showing that he attached more importance to the Iambic formation of his verses thin to their verbal content. Eurhythmy will also have an influence upon recitation because the art of recitation must accompany that which forms the artistic basis of Eurhythmy.
As the months have gone by we have developed the subject. At first we expressed the poetical content by the visible speech of Eurhythmy while the recitation itself was going on. Now we are trying to impart the essential content of a poem, for instance, by means of evolutions which precede and follow it, so that the visible but unaccompanied language of Eurhythmy can also be displayed to advantage by itself.
That, briefly, is the artistic side of the question, and it represents one aspect of Eurhythmy as we practise it. The other is the pedagogic, didactic element, shall I call it. Our Eurhythmy, besides being of the nature of Art, is a kind of spiritualised gymnastics. As such, it is used in the Waldorf School which was founded in Stuttgart by Emil Mott and arranged and directed by me. Eurhythmy, as well as Gymnastics, has been introduced there as a compulsory subject in all the classes. It is true to say that in epochs more artistically impartial than ours, there will be a quite different way of judging Gymnastics. Just recently a famous modern physiologist came here, heard what I said as an introduction to the Eurhythmy, and also saw the performance. His opinion was that from a physiological point of view ordinary gymnastics were not a method of education at all, but so much barbarism. Remember, it is not I who say that, but a modern physiologist for whose name people have a tremendous respect. I do not myself go nearly so far; I say that Gymnastics are carried out according to corporeal laws, built up upon a physiological basis merely, whereas when a child is allowed to carry out the movements of Eurhythmy, all of which are full of meaning, then the whole of its being, body, soul and spirit, is affected and not the body only. We have already been able to see, by a year of experience in the Waldorf School, with what delight the children have made this Eurhythmy Art their own. They really feel that these movements proceed from the human constitution itself. The natural joy of a child learning to speak may be compared with that of children between the ages of seven to fifteen who are beginning to practise these eurhythmic movements. They find that the human element in them is being guided into a course that is a right one. Out of the four hundred children in the Waldorf School there were at the very most two or three who did not enter into the thing as joyfully as was the case with all the others; the number of children who for some fundamental reason took to Eurhythmy with difficulty was quite negligible, the remainder taking the very greatest delight in their Eurhythmy lessons. I say without hesitation that Eurhythmy develops in children something that is really needed; and that is initiative of soul and of will, which gymnastics, as such, cannot do.
We ask everybody to remember that we ourselves are the most severe critics of what we are attempting to do. Eurhythmy is still at its most elementary stage; but while we realise that we are only attempting to make a beginning, we yet can affirm from association with this work that, by further development brought about either by ourselves or by others, Eurhythmy will become ever more and more perfect, and will one day take up its rightful position as a young sister-art among the older and fully established ones.