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Eurythmy is an expressive movement art originated by Rudolf Steiner in conjunction with his wife, Marie, in the early 20th century. Primarily a performance art, it is also used in education, especially in Waldorf schools, and  as part of anthroposophic medicine   for claimed therapeutic purposes. [1] [2]


The word eurythmy stems from Greek roots meaning beautiful or harmonious rhythm. (“Eu” meaning “well”). [3]


Eurythmy was conceived in 1911 when a widow brought her young daughter, Lory Smits, who was interested in movement and dance, to 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. [4]

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. [5]

Rudolf Steiner

According to Steiner: "In eurythmy we present in the form and movement of the human organism a direct external proof of a man's share in the life of the supersensible world. When people do eurythmy they are linked directly with the supersensible world. Whenever art is formed from a truly artistic conviction it bears witness to the connection of the human being with the supersensible world." (Dornach, 12 September 1920). [6]

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.[ citation needed ]

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 1937/8. 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. [4]


The word eurythmy stems from Greek roots meaning beautiful or harmonious rhythm. The term was used by Ancient Greek and Roman architects to refer to the harmonious proportions of a design or building; [7] The English word eurythmy was used from the 17th to 19th century to refer not only to harmonious architectural proportions, but also to "rhythmical order or movement" and "a graceful proportion and carriage of the body". [8]

Movement repertoire

The gestures in the eurythmist's movement repertoire relate to the sounds and rhythms of speech, to the tones and rhythms of music and to "soul experiences", such as joy and sorrow. Once these fundamental repertoire elements are learned, they can be composed into free artistic expressions. The eurythmist also cultivates 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. [9]

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; [9] 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. [9]

Eurythmy with music

When performing eurythmy with music (also called tone eurythmy), the three major elements of music, melody, harmony and rhythm, are all expressed. [9] The melody is primarily conveyed through expressing its rise and fall; the specific pitches; and the intervallic qualities present. Harmony is expressed through movement between tension and release, as expressions of dissonance and consonance, and between the more inwardly directed minor mood and the outwardly directed major mood. Rhythm is chiefly conveyed through livelier and more contoured movements for quick notes, slower, dreamier movements for longer notes; in addition, longer tones move into the more passive (listening) back space, quicker tones into the more active front space.

Breaths or pauses are expressed through a larger or smaller movement in space, giving new impulse to what follows. Beat is conveyed through greater emphasis of downbeats, or those beats upon which stress is normally placed. Beat is generally treated as a subsidiary element. Eurythmy has only occasionally been done to popular music, in which beat plays a large role.

The timbre of individual instruments is brought into the quality both of the tonal gestures and of the whole movement of the eurythmist. Usually there will be a different eurythmist or group of eurythmists expressing each instrument, for example in chamber or symphonic music.

A piece's choreography usually expresses elements such as the major or minor key, the shape of the melody line, the interplay between voices or instruments and the relative dominance of one or another voice or instrument. Thus, musicians can often follow even the finest details of their part in the movements of the eurythmists on stage. Particular musical forms (e.g. the sonata) can have special characteristic choreographic expressions. [10]

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 'A' is open due to the position of the articulators during the vowel. A 'k' sounds sharper due to the manner of articulation of the consonant, that it is a plosive. Note that it is the audible sounds themselves, not the letters of the written language, that are expressed. [11]

Eurythmy as a performing art

There are notable eurythmy ensembles in Dornach, Switzerland; Stuttgart, Germany; The Hague, Netherlands; London, Järna, Sweden, and Chestnut Ridge, New York (near New York City). All of these groups both perform locally and tour internationally. Many smaller performing groups also exist (see list). High schools that have their own performing ensembles include the San Francisco Waldorf High School ensemble.

Pedagogical eurythmy

When the first Waldorf School was founded in 1919, eurythmy was included in the curriculum. [12] 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. It is taught to all ages from pre-schools through high school and into college. 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. [9] It is also thought to improve balance, coordination, concentration, rhythm, and form an awareness of patterns.

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. [9] These include metamorphosing geometric patterns and dynamic movement sequences, such as the Harmonious Eight and the Curve of Cassini. [13]

The Harmonious Eight form in eurythmy. Harmonious Wikipedia.jpg
The Harmonious Eight form in eurythmy.

Rods or balls are sometimes used in exercises to develop precision in movement, to expand the experience of space, develop precise balance, and to objectify the movement experience. The rods are usually approximately the length of an arm; the balls are of a size to fit comfortably in one hand. Both are generally made of copper, a material receptive to warmth.

Though there are some independent post-graduate trainings for pedagogical eurythmy, this aspect is frequently included in courses focusing on artistic work.

Therapeutic eurythmy

Eurythmy is a component of anthroposophic medicine, [1] a system of alternative medicine which has been criticised as unscientific, [14] pseudoscientific [15] and as "pure quackery". [16]

According to the precepts of anthroposophic medicine, a human has four aspects which need to be treated: spirit, soul, life and matter. [2] Eurythmy is one of the practices said to act on the "life" aspect, and is claimed to effect an "improvement of health related life functions". [2] A person receiving eurythmy therapy moves under the guidance of a eurythmy therapist, who will have been trained two years beyond the four-year fundamental course in eurythmy. The movements may be adapted to the condition of the person being treated; for example, they may be done while either sitting or even lying down. [17] Therapeutic eurythmy is claimed to bring about a "re-integration of body, soul, and spirit." [2]

A 2008 review in BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine said that eurythmy was a "potentially relevant add-on" to a therapeutic program, [18] but though the studies reviewed reported improvement in symptoms, limitations in the underlying data and in the review methods means these conclusions "warrant cautious interpretation". [19]

The name of the British pop duo Eurythmics derives from the word Eurythmy. Singer Annie Lennox, who knew Eurythmy from her time in school: “I took the Y off the end and put "mics" [in place]. I loved the word, because it had "EUR" for Europe and rhythm in the middle.” [20]

See also

Related Research Articles

Anthroposophy is a spiritual new religious movement which was founded in the early 20th century by the esotericist Rudolf Steiner that postulates the existence of an objective, intellectually comprehensible spiritual world, accessible to human experience. Followers of anthroposophy aim to engage in spiritual discovery through a mode of thought independent of sensory experience. While much of anthroposophy is pseudoscientific, proponents claim to present their ideas in a manner that is verifiable by rational discourse and say that they seek precision and clarity comparable to that obtained by scientists investigating the physical world.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Rudolf Steiner</span> Austrian esotericist (1861–1925)

Rudolf Joseph Lorenz Steiner was an Austrian occultist, social reformer, architect, esotericist, and claimed clairvoyant. Steiner gained initial recognition at the end of the nineteenth century as a literary critic and published works including The Philosophy of Freedom. At the beginning of the twentieth century he founded an esoteric spiritual movement, anthroposophy, with roots in German idealist philosophy and theosophy. His teachings are influenced by Christian Gnosticism. Many of his ideas are pseudoscientific. He was also prone to pseudohistory.

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Goetheanum</span> Building in Dornach in the canton of Solothurn, Switzerland

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Marie Steiner-von Sivers was a Baltic German actress, the second wife of Rudolf Steiner and one of his closest colleagues. She made a great contribution to the development of anthroposophy, particularly in her work on the renewal of the performing arts, and the editing and publishing of Rudolf Steiner's literary estate.

Sergei Olegovich Prokofieff was a Russian anthroposophist. He was the grandson of the composer Sergei Prokofiev and his first wife Lina Prokofiev, and the son of Oleg Prokofiev and his first wife Sofia Korovina. Born in Moscow, he studied fine arts and painting at the Moscow School of Art. He encountered anthroposophy in his youth, and soon made the decision to devote his life to it.

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Louisa Edith Church Maryon, better known as Edith Maryon, was an English sculptor. Along with Ita Wegman, she belonged to the innermost circle of founders of anthroposophy and those around Rudolf Steiner.

Rudolf Hauschka was an Austrian chemist, author, inventor, entrepreneur and anthroposophist.

Oskar Schmiedel was a pharmacist, anthroposophist, therapist, Goethean scientist and theosophist.

The American Eurythmy School is a four-year eurythmy training in Weed, California, near Mount Shasta. It was founded in 1984 by Karen Sherman McPherson, who studied under Ilona Schubert in the 1970s in Dornach, Switzerland, and is the second largest four-year eurythmy training in North America. The first graduation from the four-year program was held in 1990. There are many graduates of the School teaching in Waldorf schools and performing in the United States.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Jörgen Smit</span>

Jörgen Smit was a Norwegian teacher, teachers teacher, speaker and writer, mainly in the context of the Anthroposophical Society and the Waldorfschool Movement. He was the general secretary of the Norwegian Anthroposophical Society, co-founder of the Rudolf Steiner Seminar in Järna, Sweden and member of the Executive Council of the General Anthroposophical Society at the Goetheanum in Dornach, Switzerland.

Peter Selg is a German psychiatrist. He was born in Stuttgart and studied medicine in Witten-Herdecke, Zurich, and Berlin. Until 2000, he worked as the head physician of the juvenile psychiatry department of Herdecke hospital in Germany. Selg is director of the Ita Wegman Institute for Basic Research into Anthroposophy and professor of medicine at the Alanus University of Arts and Social Sciences (Germany). He lectures extensively and is the author of numerous books.

Francis Edmunds was an educator and Anthroposophist and the founder of Emerson College, Forest Row.

Marguerite Lundgren was a British/Swedish eurythmist and anthroposophist.

George Adams Kaufmann, also George Adams and George von Kaufmann, was a British mathematician, translator and anthroposophist. He travelled widely, spoke several languages and translated many of Rudolf Steiner’s lectures into English. Through his studies in theoretical physics, he contributed to the expansion and development of the natural sciences as extended by the concepts of anthroposophy.

Else Klink was director of the Eurythmeum Stuttgart, the first training centre for Eurythmy founded by Marie Steiner in 1923, from 1935 until 1991. In 1945, she established the Eurythmeum Stage Group, which she also led until 1991. Her work contributed centrally to establishing Eurythmy as a performing art within the culture of Europe and internationally.

Rudolf Steiner wrote four plays that follow the initiation journeys of a group of fictional characters through a series of lives. These plays were intended to be modern mystery plays. Steiner outlined the plot of a fifth play to be set at the Castalian spring at Delphi, but due to the outbreak of First World War, this remained an unfulfilled project.

Johannes Tautz (30 September 1914 in Koblenz am Rhein to 13 March 2008 in Dortmund, was a historian, religious scholar, Anthroposophist, author and Waldorf teacher. He concerned himself with a better understanding of National Socialism and with questions of education in the twentieth century.

Frederik Willem Zeylmans van Emmichoven, was a Dutch psychiatrist and anthroposophist. From 1923 until his death in 1961 he was chairman of the Dutch Anthroposophical Society. He was a familiar figure in public life and had a considerable influence on the anthroposophic movement, particularly through his numerous lectures and his work as an author, which included the first biography of Rudolf Steiner.


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  7. Matila Ghyka, The Geometry of Art and Life, Sheen and Ward, NY 1946, p. 5.
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  11. [ non-primary source needed ] Steiner on eurythmy.
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  13. aids!, A. non-profit committed to publishing authentic Waldorf enrollment materials, books, and teaching. "Leaving Room for the Angels". Retrieved 2024-03-01.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
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  16. Jump, Paul (11 May 2012). "Aberdeen decides against alternative medicine chair". Times Higher Education Supplement.
  17. Hübner, Jutta (2008). Komplementäre Onkologie: supportive Maßnahmen und evidenzbasierte Empfehlungen. Schattauer Verlag. pp. 13–14.
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  20. "Annie Lennox on "Larry King Now" - Full Episode in the U.S. on Ora.TV". YouTube (in German). Retrieved 2022-02-14.