Eurhythmics (the study of good rhythm) is a critical tool with which musicians can better understand and interpret music. A central goal of the eurhythmics lesson is to use the body and the space around it to gauge divisions and durations of time. In eurhythmics, the concept of time is addressed in both large (meter or pulse) and small (specific rhythmic vocabulary) scopes.
Much of eurhythmics is taught through games or exercises of play. One of my favorite activities involves students standing in a circle and determining an order among themselves in which a beanbag will travel between them. Once the order has been created, the group establishes and maintains a steady pulse on which to rhythmically throw and catch the beanbag as it travels around the circle. Students learn to make eye contact with their respective throwing and catching partners, to multitask in their maintaining of the pulse throughout the activity, and to stay aware of all the members of the group as they move and interact with and around them. Depending on the age group of the students, multiple bean bags may be introduced throughout the exercise to further strengthen the students’ skills of awareness and nonverbal communication; the pattern in which the bean bag travels around the group may also be reversed or expanded upon as the activity progresses.
Eurhythmics encourages clear and conscious communication within the individual (between their mind and various body parts) and in a group setting (between the individual, the people surrounding them, and the space which they share). For example, in a more advanced setting of studying and ingraining cross-rhythms, after mastering the simultaneous clapping and stepping of differing (contrasting) meters, eurhythmics students will work in small groups, each taking responsibility for the division of a single measure in differing meters; one student claps an even division of the measure in three, against their partners’ even divisions of that same measure in two, or four, or five. In this exercise, the students must not only remain aware of their partners’ movements and rhythmic presences as they contrast with their own, but also be prepared to shift from division to division, trading numbers of sounds with their partners at the verbal command of the instructor. This fosters an instinct to communicate and engage with one another and remain aware of multiple musical elements in their minds, preparing them for impactful ensemble playing and meaningful human interaction in general.
Eurhythmics ultimately provides musicians of all ages and levels with methods of and approaches to understanding music. An understanding of rhythm through the lens of eurhythmics allows performers to convey rhythmic content with confidence, strength and integrity. Through the development of skills such as musical cue recognition (being able to consistently associate and express aural information with a predetermined physical movement), musical inflection embodiment (being able to display strong and weak beats in varying meters using different movements), and more, eurhythmics promotes an awareness and alertness that is essential for the complete development of artists, chamber musicians and human beings everywhere.