At one point in my evolving understanding of Eurythmy as art, pedagogy and as a healing modality, I came to a thought space where I asked myself, if curative/hygienic Eurythmy is movement medicine, and medicine is often either a concentration or a dilution of a food source, then what is my daily movement diet? What movement activities do I do on a daily basis? Is there an abundance or a scarcity of certain movements? I wanted to find balance to my daily movements, just as one would do for their daily dietary intake. As a surfer I realized that the repetitive movements of paddling my surfboard had the same rotational motion of the sound/movement of “R”, this pulling towards my center when paddling. I wanted to balance out my movement diet with the opposite rotational movement. The sound/movement of “L” or rotating out from the center. So I took up twirling the staff, which naturally rotates in the opposite direction of paddling. I could have also taken up swimming the backstroke, which would also go in the opposite direction of paddling my surfboard. But curiously this then led me to naturally develop exercises in Staff Eurythmy. Most of the Eurythmy rod exercises can be done with the staff which is also a better match for an adult and or teenage body. Oddly enough surfing and fire dancing with a staff are both uniquely rooted in Polynesian culture which includes the concept of Mana, what anthroposophy would call the life force, the etheric. By making this connection through surfing it baptized me into thinking outside the traditional thought forms about Eurythmy. I began to broaden my world view of Eurythmy and so took myself to the task of examining any movement discipline or activity to find the architecture and underpinnings of this emerging more universal movement paradigm that I call Applied Eurythmy.
As an Applied Eurythmist, my experience and understanding of the Eurythmy Figures goes into mostly uncharted waters. The Eurythmy Figures for me are the periodic table of movements. These abstracted movement compounds are what make up the very substance, mechanics and chemistry of our body and hence our movement diet. So naturally this concept would include all movements human bodies make. From the most profound to the most profane. From sacred dances to pole dances. From conscious to unconscious movements, and all movements in between.
Over the years I have become quite the gadfly for the Eurythmy culture. I like to pose uncomfortable questions of the course and direction Eurythmy is headed. At present, I see Eurythmy at times as either out of gas, low on charge or just plain broken down on the cultural side of the road. My experience of Contemporary Eurythmy seems way too fixated on whether or not someone has “ensouled” their movements enough to be qualified as Eurythmy and yet still trying to be objective as possible. I feel that we are missing the whole point of Eurythmy.
The Eurythmy figures were not just given for artistic purposes, it is also given as a movement road map for us and future generations to examine and plan what direction we go, as the sun is high above illuminating us all on our collective Eurythmy road trip. Eurythmy, this Rosetta Stone sign post, this periodic table of movements, this mapped out organ of our Larynx and its associated organs that allows us to speak and sing is our tool box, our owners manual, indicated by Rudolph Steiner for people to actually apply in all their everyday movements. With that said and if rigorously applied, I believe a new organ of perception will arise. One that is wrought from observation and imagination to inspire us to be able to view this interplay of vowel and consonant, forming, dissolving and reforming in our everyday life.
The sheer chemistry and mechanics of how we move is reflected in the Eurythmy Alphabet. The “R” as the ability to flex our limbs inward and the “L” as the ability to extend our limbs outward is the Yang (air) and Yin (water) that allows us to bring fire (C,F,H,S,V,W,X,Z) and earth (B,D,G,K,M,N,P,T) sounds together. The sounds/movements of “L” and “R” are the fulcrum, the primal rotational vortex’s that bring heaven and earth into union within the consonantal realm.
So I feel that in order to get back on our collective journey we will have to plan out a pragmatic approach as to how we get back on the road. Our body, supposedly the most ancient saturnal aspect of our fourfold being, is a fully ensouled vehicle. We inhabit it, some people’s vehicles have more bells and whistles than others at time of delivery but nevertheless we incarnate into the most up to date designed vehicle that our evolving times has to offer.
We spend the bulk of our time working and playing, and then “go do Eurythmy”. The Eurythmy, the etheric fluidic world is not something to turn off and on. It lives in us consciously and unconsciously. Hence Eurythmist can experiment with their own movement diet! For example, go to a yoga class and open up your tool box you earned in your four year training. Apply it, deconstruct all the different asanas like you would do with a poem or a story. Go to a Martial Arts class, do the same with each kata, and on and on with whatever you like to do with your body, work or play, there is a goldmine of research and development, for future generations of Eurythmist to build these connections and in so doing keep this work of Eurythmy relevant in the society and the world at large.
If a child or adult is lacking in a particular movement in their daily movement diet then they don’t necessarily need to go to a curative Eurythmist, especially if the practitioner fails to ask you about their daily movement diet. I have been to the traditional western doctors who don’t ask about the food I consume. They just want to prescribe pills. The Curative Eurythmist could fall into the similar situation by just prescribing the traditional sequence of sounds for a particular illness but fails to ask the patient what their average daily movement diet is. For example, if a person lacks focus and is unable to concentrate and be present, then have them drive some nails into a piece of wood with a hammer. The “K” movement and its incarnating activity is archetypal. It doesn’t just need to be conjured up in a Eurythmy lesson, it is a universal movement/sound that is already embedded into our nature. The Curative Eurythmist could also suggest the patient take self defense classes as a way to supplement more “K” which is the stereotypical Karate chop.
Usually after a Eurythmy training or a casual interest in Eurythmy, the ensouling of gesture and movement with a mindful eurythmic consciousness is inevitable. And this is often followed by imbeding artistic Eurythmy into gestures of the everyday. What I would like to see is actually the opposite. Yes, the opposite. Instead of just actively slowing down and embedding what you know of Eurythmy into your gestures and movements, try also to see how they are already embedded through evolution, into our body and its ability to form gestures and move through space on a daily basis. It is not enough to just slow everything down into a typical Eurythmy style. Jumping, tumbling and touching are rarely experienced with traditional Eurythmy techniques. Yet doing a chart wheel is somehow acceptable as a traditional expression of the “R” sound. How is that so? Steiner said so, according to my teacher and I choreographed it into my performance. But I learned how to do a chart wheel years before my Eurythmy training. So if I hadn’t learned to do a chart wheel then I would need some instruction into gymnastics in order to do so. So why isn’t gymnastics taught in Eurythmy training? I hope you see the distinction here. Eurythmy is incarnating into our culture and we must provide an inclusive safe environment to do so. The understanding of Eurythmy and the etheric, this primal force of healing, movement, memory and procreation is objectively all around and within us, regardless of knowing about Eurythmy or not. In order to apply Eurythmy, an acknowledgment of the universality of the concept of Eurythmy is required. This is a task where consciousness soul objectivity is required.
Our gestures and movements have been ensouled over the arch of eons. This gradual evolution and incarnation of waking up to Eurythmy in our society is at a turning point since Steiner made humanity aware of his revolutionary idea of the wholism of our speech mechanism in the beginnings of Eurythmy. Aside from ensouling our everyday movements, which is totally understandable and natural, I encourage that we acknowledge the elements and principles of Eurythmy are already embedded in our bodies at birth and unfold throughout our lives. I think both aspects are important, the ensouling and the acknowledgment of our previously ensouled body we are given at birth.
If we develop a well rounded sense of the universal movement map that is our larynx, (as the part), to the temple body and how it gets around not just in a Eurythmy class but in our daily work and play states of movement, (as the whole), then we arrive at understanding what is meant by the definition of wholism. That in every part is the image of the whole. For example our foot is a part of our body, but written to its form and function is a map of the whole body. The same goes with our ears, our eyes, our hands, even in the single cell of our body is the DNA map. Steiner is the father of modern wholistic thinking. He more or less single handedly pointed to our organ of speech as the part and developed Eurythmy of the body as the expression of the whole, in collaboration with Marie Steiner who provided a nurturing environment for it to grow. Understanding this relationship of parts and whole, as above so below, frees up our possibilities of being more flexible with our overall concept of a movement diet and hence a healthy respect for all movement activities and disciplines around the world. How they are all linked by the phenomenological objectivity of our voice, the word.
Historically Eurythmy has mainly been characterized as being threefold in nature which goes nicely with the threefold descriptions of the Eurythmy figures. Artistic Eurythmy has been associated with thinking/spirit, Pedagogical Eurythmy with feeling/soul, and Curative Eurythmy with willing/body. I found that there is little to no representation of the actual phenomena of movement of our modern everyday life, the work and recreational moments, free of the trappings of tradition and clairvoyant perception that Steiner describes. I can’t claim to be clairvoyant so I must rely on basic logic and common sense to research Eurythmy. I do believe in the power of faith, but I prefer to look at Steiner’s indications as a working hypothesis. After reading, observing and practicing Curative Eurythmy exercises I do find that the practice of Curative Eurythmy comes very close to what I have experienced as applied or phenomena based universal movement archetypes, yet still falls short of the inclusive universal standard that I believe is yet to be achieved.
The physical therapist in the regular world uses very concrete terms and phenomena based language to describe movement. Like the terms extension and flexion which describe the “L” and “R” archetypes. The sound “B” as another example is the activity of griping or holding on to something in the external environment or the self. Try to form the “B” sound with your mouth without letting it sound. Pucker your mouth and lips closed pushing and holding back the sound, it goes all the way down to your diaphragm wanting to explode into whatever vowel comes after. Form the sound “M”, then try to do it by pinching your nose closed. It disrupts the push pull flow of the sound. Rock climbing has this inherent push pull dynamic, pushing with the feet and pulling with the hands, a full body “M”. The same goes with rowing a boat. Pushing and pulling meet in the core of your body. I believe the wholesome future of Eurythmy will depend on the marriage of understanding the threefold and the fourfold expression of its nature.
The Fourfold nature of Eurythmy
Fire - Self Expression - Artistic Eurythmy
Air - Self Education - Pedagogical Eurythmy
Water - Self Healing - Curative Eurythmy
Earth - Self Care - Applied Eurythmy
I wish you all fruitful explorations with Eurythmy Alphabet and most importantly, I encourage you to enjoy the movements that move you!
January's blog was authored by Dean Pollard (born October 29, 1959); a native Californian, US disabled military veteran, graduate from Rudolf Steiner College foundation year and Waldorf teacher training studies in 1989. Four year speech and tone Eurythmy diploma at the Zuccoli Schule Dornach in 1994. Full time pedagogical Eurythmist for six years at Sacramento Waldorf school and also creator and director of the Sacramento Waves Eurythmy Theatre group, a three year consecutive California state award winning collaborative high school performing arts theatre touring group. He went on to teaching pedagogical Eurythmy at the Santa Cruz Waldorf school for five years with an emphasis on all school Michaelmas performances for grades K-8. After that he went on to Site management of the Waldorf school facility in Santa Cruz for seven years as he began to develop Applied Eurythmy. He is now retired, living in the Sierra Nevada mountains of California developing the “Boulder Farm” a six acre natural granite outdoor rock climbing gym with his oldest son. For more info about Dean's workshops and lectures visit his website: http://www.appliedeurythmy.com/
The 2021-23 year blogs will all carry a theme: "Eurythmy & Mindfulness". Eurythmy Channel Helsinki has asked 12 different eurythmists to reflect on the topic from their own experience. Blogs allow us to gain an understanding of how eurythmy develops awareness skills and what eurythmy and mindfulness have in common.
Vuoden 2021-23 Blogit käsittelevät teemaa: "Eurytmia & Tietoisuustaidot". Eurythmy Channel Helsinki on pyytänyt 12:sta eri eurytmistia pohtimaan aihetta omasta kokemuksestaan käsin. Blogien avulla voimme saada ymmärrystä siitä, miten eurytmia kehittää tietoisuustaitoja ja siitä, mikä eurytmiassa ja mindfulnessissa on yhteistä.