New Juniatian - Spring 2017

Eurythmy at Juniata College

By Mary Boggs

Eurythmy, a form of movement art, will now be taught by Juniata orchestra professor Rebecca O’Brien in Halbritter on Wednesdays.

O’Brien defines eurythmy as “harmonious movement and rhythm. It’s thinking about what would require a person to move harmoniously through the world.”

Rather than teaching the technique immediately, O’Brien began the first class with the traditional opening of every eurythmy class. It is a form of meditation, focusing on the heart and the body’s connection with the earth and itself. O’Brien said that eurythmy is about “learning the ability to think one’s place in the world. In a vibrant way, can I think about my own life?”

Eurythmy joins movement and sound into one art. “All my life, I was basically looking for an art that would bridge dance and music,” said O’Brien.

There are two types of eurythmy: spoken and tone. Spoken eurythmy puts movement to spoken word such as poems and prose, while tone eurythmy combines movement and classical music. O’Brien said that eurythmy is “living art,” and performances require live musicians, a present audience and no technology.

She demonstrated the way eurythmists step during performances: toe first and followed by the heel. After that, she had the students form a circle with her, and they gracefully ran back and forth.

Their arms were outstretched like they were ready to hug each other, and suddenly Rebecca O’Brien started to recite a poem from memory. “A wind’s in the heart of me, a fire’s in my heels, I am tired of brick and stone and rumbling wagon-wheels; I hunger for the sea’s edge, the limit of the land, where the wild old Atlantic is shouting on the sand.” This is an excerpt from a poem, “The Wanderer’s Song” by John Masefield.

The students finally learned eurythmy movements in the last quarter of the half hour class. Eurythmy has a movement for each sound in the English language. The students learned movements for “ca,” which is present in words like “cut,” “ph,” which is present in words such as “fire,” and “mm,” which is present in the word “mother.”

O’Brien discovered eurythmy in 2005 through her sister who was attending The American Eurythmy School in California. She was invited to attend the school, but had already accepted a position in a master’s program for conducting. She wasn’t able to fulfill her dream of studying eurythmy until 2012.

She said, “I asked someone, ‘What is the purpose of tone eurythmy?’ and the person said, “to make visible the music,” and I remember thinking, that’s what I’ve been looking for my whole life, and I don’t believe you.”

Joseph Steiner is considered the father of eurythmy. It is based on his philosophy of anthroposophy, a belief centered on inner development. Steiner also created Waldorf schools. O’Brien teaches eurythmy to young students at a Waldorf school in Pennsylvania.

Rebecca Murgo, a sophomore who attended the class said, “I think eurythmy is a great way to get in touch with yourself and feel your surroundings. I would take the class again because I would like to learn more about it and it is a relaxing thing to do in your week.”

Image credit to Rudolf Steiner: https://www.rudolfsteinerweb.com/…/Eurythmy_Figu…/index.html

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