Dalcroze Eurhythmics, also known as the Dalcroze Method or simply eurhythmics, is one of several developmental approaches including the Kodaly Method, Orff Schulwerk and Suzuki Method used to teach music to students. Eurhythmics was developed in the early 20th century by Swiss musician and educator Émile Jaques-Dalcroze. Dalcroze Eurhythmics teaches concepts of rhythm, structure, and musical expression using movement, and is the concept for which Dalcroze is best known. It focuses on allowing the student to gain physical awareness and experience of music through training that takes place through all of the senses, particularly kinesthetic.
Eurhythmics often introduces a musical concept through movement before the students learn about its visual representation. This sequence translates to heightened body awareness and an association of rhythm with a physical experience for the student, reinforcing concepts kinesthetically. Eurhythmics has wide-ranging applications and benefits and can be taught to a variety of age groups. Eurhythmics classes for all ages share a common goal – to provide the music student with a solid rhythmic foundation through movement in order to enhance musical expression and understanding.
Émile Jaques-Dalcroze and the Origins of Eurhythmics
Jaques-Dalcroze was appointed Professor of Harmony at the Conservatoire of Geneva in 1892, early in his career. As he taught his classes, he noticed that his students deeply needed an approach to learning music that included a kinesthetic component. He believed that in order to enhance and maximize musical expression, students needed to be trained early on to listen and appreciate music using both their minds and bodies. This coordination of mind and physical instincts formed the basis of his method.
Ready to develop and employ an improved, integrated style of music education at the Conservatoire, Dalcroze discovered some obstacles. He found that students with innate rhythmic abilities were rare, just as those with “perfect,” or absolute pitch are. In response to his observations, he asserted that in order to develop rhythmic ability in his students, he must first, and as early as possible in their development, train them in exercises that utilized the entire body. Only when the student’s muscles and motor skills were developed could they be properly equipped to interpret and understand musical ideas. As he mentioned in the foreword of his “Rhythm, Music, and Education,” he sought the “connection between instincts for pitch and movement…time and energy, dynamics, and space, music and character, music and temperament, [and] finally the art of music and the art of dancing.”
Because of the nature of his goals in expanding music education, his ideas are readily applicable to young students. An objective of his was to “musicalize” young children in order to prepare them for musical expression in future instrumental studies. He believed exposure to music, an expanded understanding of how to listen, and the training of gross and fine motor skills would yield faster progress later on in students’ musical studies. Related to this was his goal to sow the seeds of musical appreciation for future generations.
As stated concisely by Claire-Lise Dutoit in her “Music Movement Therapy,” successful eurhythmics lessons have the following three attributes in common:
“The vital enjoyment of rhythmic movement and the confidence that it gives; the ability to hear, understand and express music in movement; [and] the call made on the pupil to improvise and develop freely his own ideas.”