In pre-school, we have 4 and 5 years olds doing Eurythmy. Enormous changes take place in the course of those 10 years and it is, in part, the role of Eurythmy to accompany and support the children as they move through their stages of development. How is this reflected in the structure of work, the relationship between Eurythmy teacher and the class?
In broad terms, the beginning and ending of lessons remains unchanged from pre-school to high school. We begin in a circle with an opening verse (often related to the season or to the content of the current main lesson); we end in a circle with a closing verse and a moment of complete STILLNESS (hard to achieve!) and SILENCE. A well-shaped, even spaced circle is a cooperative form; it requires equal input from everybody. At the same time it is a living picture of the class as a whole where a sense of unity and brother/sisterhood reigns.
This is the form we keep for most of the lesson in pre-school. Together the children imitate the teacher, taking on each role in stories, doing rod exercises and other simple coordination and dexterity sequences. Children are not expected to work alone, they are not expected to “know” intellectually what they are doing, but the repetition and rhythms mean they come to “know” with their whole body and soul.
Up to class 2, most of the work is by imitation although by now small groups will be asked to demonstrate things that have been practised, and some forms (the “choreography” of Eurythmy) will require particular numbers. For example, the square pattern:
From each corner, the same path is followed.
From class 3, children begin to learn consciously the Eurythmy gestures for the sounds of speech (not always to the letters). They now do various exercises and learn forms for stories, poems or music which they can do without the teacher’s help. At this stage also, they are ready to perform for the other classes. They have learned by copying largely but perform independently.
Come class 4, they start to work facing the front i.e. without the support of the circle. The strength of individual responsibility is called upon.
By class 5, children are expected to follow verbal instructions without demonstration by the teacher. They will also work out for themselves the gestures to accompany the text in hand.
Class 6 and on
Then in class 6, rod* work, we begin rhythmical throwing an exercise which demands both a strong sense of self and the ability to be awake to the other.
The Eurythmy forms are drawn on the blackboard and children need to translate the lines into movement like a map. There is a gradual distancing or separation from the teacher, an increasingly intellectual grasp of the work and stronger individualisation. This process continues through into high school. Now, students are expected to work in small groups to begin devising their own forms (to understand therefore, some of the principles at work), and to master complex group choreographies. Eventually, they will present solo works in performance too.
So, the evolution of the child can be traced and supported through these quiet steps. The content of their work mirrors directly the class work; the structure and the relationship with the teacher influence more discreetly their development.
(We work with 80mm long beaten copper rods for which Rudolf Steiner gave a series of exercises. These are practised, at first in simplified form from pre-school onwards).