AskDefine | Define eurythmy

Dictionary Definition

eurythmy n : the interpretation in harmonious bodily movements of the rhythm of musical compositions; used to teach musical understanding [syn: eurhythmy, eurythmics, eurhythmics]

User Contributed Dictionary


Alternative forms


  1. The harmony of features and proportion in architecture.
  2. Graceful body movements to rhythm of spoken words.

Extensive Definition

Eurythmy is an expressive movement art originated by Rudolf Steiner in conjunction with Marie von Sivers in the early 20th century. Primarily a performance art, it is also used in education -- especially in Waldorf schools -- and as a movement therapy.
The word eurythmy stems from Greek roots meaning beautiful or harmonious rhythm; the term was used by Greek and Roman architects to refer to a harmonious balance of proportion in a design or building.

Movement repertoire

The gestures that build the basic movement repertoire of a eurythmist are connected to the sounds and rhythms of language, to the tonal experience of music, to fundamental soul experiences (such as joy and sorrow), and so on. Once this fundamental repertoire is mastered, it can be composed into free artistic expressions. The eurythmist also works to cultivate a feeling for the qualities of straight lines and curves, the directions of movement in space (forward, backward, up, down, left, right), contraction and expansion, and color. The element of color is also emphasized both through the costuming, usually given characteristic colors for a piece or part and formed of long, loose fabrics that accentuate the movements rather than the bodily form, and through the lighting, which saturates the space and changes with the moods of the piece. are used in various eurythmy exercises, including therapeutic exercises.
Eurythmy's aim is to bring the artists' expressive movement and both the performers' and audience's feeling experience into harmony with a piece's content; eurythmy is thus sometimes called "visible music" or "visible speech", expressions that originate with its founder, Rudolf Steiner, who described eurythmy as an "art of the soul".
Most eurythmy today is performed to classical (concert) music or texts such as poetry or stories. Silent pieces are also sometimes performed.

Eurythmy with spoken texts

Eurythmy is often performed with spoken texts such as poetry, stories or plays. Speech eurythmy includes such elements as the sounds of speech, rhythms, poetic meters, grammar and mood. In speech eurythmy, all the sounds of language have characteristic gestural qualities: the sound of an 'Ah' is formed by raising your arms over your head in a v-shape, designed to show the open quality of that sound. A 'n', however, uses a sharper, jerking movement, again complementing the sound of the letter. Note that it is the audible sounds themselves, not the letters of the written language, that are expressed.


Eurythmy was born in 1911 when a widow brought her young daughter, Lory Smits, who was interested in movement and dance, to the Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner. Due to the recent loss of her father, it was necessary for the girl to find a career. Steiner's advice was sought; he suggested that the girl begin working on a new art of movement. As preparation for this, she began to study human anatomy, to explore the human step, to contemplate the movement implicit in Greek sculpture and dance, and to find movements that would express spoken sentences using the sounds of speech. Soon a number of other young people became interested in this form of expressive movement.
During these years, Steiner was writing a new drama each year for performance at the Anthroposophical Society's summer gatherings; beginning in 1912, he began to incorporate the new art of movement into these dramas. When the Society decided to build an artistic center in Dornach, Switzerland (this later became known as the Goetheanum) a small stage group began work and offered weekly performances of the developing art. Marie Steiner-von Sivers, Steiner's wife, who was a trained actress and speech artist, was given responsibility for training and directing this ensemble. This first eurythmy ensemble went on tour in 1919, performing across Switzerland, the Netherlands and Germany.
Steiner saw eurythmy as a unique expression of the anthroposophical impulse: "It is the task of Anthroposophy to bring a greater depth, a wider vision and a more living spirit into the other forms of art. But the art of Eurythmy could only grow up out of the soul of Anthroposophy; could only receive its inspiration through a purely Anthroposophical conception." - Rudolf Steiner
In 1924, Steiner gave two intensive workshops on different aspects of eurythmy; transcripts of his talks during these workshops are published as Eurythmy as Visible Speech and Eurythmy as Visible Singing.
Eurythmy ensembles in Stuttgart, Germany and at the Goetheanum soon became established parts of the cultural life of Europe. The Goetheanum ensemble was recognized with a gold medal at the Paris Expo of 1938. The Stuttgart training and ensemble, led by Else Klink, had to close in the Nazi period but reopened shortly after the close of World War II. There are now training centers and artistic ensembles in many countries. It was quickly recognized as a successful complement to gymnastics in the school's movement program and is now taught in most Waldorf schools, as well as in many non-Waldorf pre-school centers, kindergartens and schools. Its purpose is to awaken and strengthen the expressive capacities of children through movement, stimulating the child to bring imagination, ideation and conceptualization to the point where they can manifest these as "vital, moving forms" in physical space.
Eurythmy pedagogical exercises begin with the straight line and curve and proceed through successively more complicated geometric figures and choreographed forms, developing a child's coordination and concentration. An extensive set of special exercises has also been developed for pedagogical purposes. These include many geometric or dynamic movements (such as form metamorphoses), exercises with (usually copper) rods to develop precision in movement and expand the experience of space, and exercises with (usually copper) balls to objectify the movement experience.
There are post-graduate trainings for eurythmy teachers; however, pedagogical trainings are increasingly being incorporated into many colleges of eurythmy.

Therapeutic eurythmy

There are post-graduate trainings in the therapeutic use of eurythmy. Therapeutic eurythmy aims at helping in conditions of illness that have both psychological and somatic components.



  • Kirchner-Bockholt and Wood, Fundamental Principles of Curative Eurythmy , ISBN 0-904693-40-6
  • Poplawski, Thomas, Eurythmy: Rhythm, Dance and Soul, ISBN 0-88010-459-7
  • Siegloch, Magdalene, How the New Art of Eurythmy Began, ISBN 0-904693-90-2
  • Spock, Marjorie, Eurythmy, ISBN 0-910142-88-2
  • Steiner, Rudolf, Eurythmy as Visible Speech, ISBN 0-85440-421-X
  • Steiner, Rudolf, Eurythmy as Visible Singing
  • Steiner, Rudolf, An Introduction to Eurythmy: Talks Given Before Sixteen Eurythmy Performances , ISBN 0-88010-042-7
eurythmy in Bulgarian: Евритмия
eurythmy in Danish: Eurytmi
eurythmy in German: Eurythmie
eurythmy in Spanish: Euritmia
eurythmy in Esperanto: Eŭritmio
eurythmy in French: Eurythmie
eurythmy in Italian: Euritmia
eurythmy in Hungarian: Euritmia
eurythmy in Dutch: Euritmie
eurythmy in Japanese: オイリュトミー
eurythmy in Norwegian: Eurytmi
eurythmy in Polish: Eurytmia
eurythmy in Romanian: Euritmie
eurythmy in Russian: Эвритмия
eurythmy in Finnish: Eurytmia
eurythmy in Swedish: Eurytmi
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