The pedagogical landscape
In grade 6, there is a notable shift in the way children approach the world and other people. They probe into the nature of things more strongly and seek for causal connections. At the same time, they often have to deal with early growth spurts.
The previously more or less harmonious proportions of the body begin to shift. Because of this, sixth graders have to deal with the mechanics and sheer weight of their longer limbs They have to find a new relationship to their bodies.
Eurythmy lessons now take a new turn, in that more than before the students are invited to be involved in the planning of the work and are informed about the reasons behind the various exercises. In other words, there is a transformation in the way of working: whereas before things arose from doing, from the movement itself, now it becomes possible to devise things out of thinking. In addition, the practising of geometric forms involves a schooling in perception, precision and in awareness of the quality of one’s own movement.
The students experience and realise the discrepancy between what they can do and what they could be able to do, between present reality and the ideal of their own higher aim. Musically speaking, this refers to the experience of the intervals (developmental dynamics), especially in relation to the octave: therefore the comprehensive octave gesture, both in tone eurythmy and in the choice of poems, features large in eurythmy lessons. A prime example here is the ballad, where individual destinies are often brought into relation with higher laws.
When the students ask what the point of learning eurythmy is, they should be given substantial, well-informed answers.
The bodily process occurring at this phase of development often produces growing pains. They lead to physical discomfort, but also to a more conscious experience of the act of movement. Exercises in rhythm and counter-rhythm create security and grant the ability to trust the changes in the body’s way of moving. Geometric forms combined with exact, rhythmic steps make for exciting exercises, which present the students with a challenge, and at the same time provoke them into inventing variations.
Most suitable here are complex geometric forms that foster collective exploration: once a form has been shown on the blackboard, the children like to discover how to do it by figuring it out together. Forms based upon the triangle and hexagon are best suited to grade six. Once the principle has been grasped, it can form the basis for a variety of artistic work. The students arrange these dynamic spatial forms mainly with frontal orientation. Speeding up and slowing down are artistic effects that can be consciously applied.
It is still important for the students that at the end of a piece they should have returned to their starting places.
At this age students begin to be able to sense and express the inner qualities of eurythmy forms and gestures: they hear and experience individual intervals and are capable of putting them into movement, expressing their dynamic contrasts in a variety of ways. Experience has shown that it is good to begin with the octave. They often recognise intervals they have learnt in previous years (the fifth at the very beginning, the third at the Rubicon).
For the students the vowels give a clear structure, while the consonants are sculptural forms. Practising and experiencing them thus renders the speech gestures more differentiated: harder, softer, smoother, rougher, slower, faster.
The students’ ongoing struggle with their growing limbs is met, both in pictorial and practical terms, by exercises with copper rods. Working with these acts as an external corrective which aids precision, without having to say anything about how the young people are moving. Puberty generally makes speaking about such things very difficult.
Suggested lesson content
- hopping and jumping exercises with frequent changes of tempo
- the “high caper”
- rhythmic triangle forms (“Dance of energy and peace”)
- “simple triangle transitions”
- hexagon and six-pointed star with the polarity of the two triangles
- “Merry Up-beat”
- “Crown Form”
- “vowel forms”*
- rhyme forms
- grammatical (Apollinian) forms
- gestures for intervals
- major scales in the circle of fifths
- copper rod exercises
Pieces done in speech- or tone-eurythmy
- simple ballads
- poems to do with Roman history (main lesson topic)
- elementary dramatization
- seasonal poems
- poems in foreign languages
- time signatures, rhythms
- choral pieces, in which clear intervals occur
- fast pieces, e.g. Turkish March by Mozart, rhythmic pieces by Bartok, also from the classical period and early Romantics
*Group forms which correspond to the geometric shapes of the vowel gestures