Shape Relationships: Eurhythmics Pedagogy

Eurhythmics is considered by many to be the most unusual school subject in the world. Clichés, such as that “dancing your name” thing, are a recurring object of mockery. How do you describe to someone with no previous knowledge of the subject what eurhythmics classes are about?
Ulrike Langescheid: The movement subject of Eurhythmics is based on the movement art of Eurhythmics. It pushes physical stamina and coordination to certain heights. In addition, you do, however, likewise learn, through Eurhythmics, to put into action your impulses, irrespective of whether they are of a spiritual or a mental nature. We all know how difficult it is not to just think “one should or one ought to”, but to actually proceed with it! Eurhythmics creates a link between the body, mind and spirit. This points to one of the main differences compared to other forms of movement, or even sports. Eurhythmics is, moreover, the art of shaping relationships. By means of Eurhythmics we practise and shape the most diverse relationships, on an ongoing basis: relationships with our feelings, the body, space or even time. This is what I try to impart to students.

What do proper Eurhythmics classes involve?
Ulrike Langescheid: Above all, maintaining good relationships with the children and young people. This is most essential. You can be as well-versed as it gets methodically. However, if you fail to maintain good relationships with students, you will never get the opportunity to put your methods to good use. Managing relationships properly is quite a bit a more relevant than the question of what to teach students. If the relationship is healthy, you can teach the children anything. In any age group.

How do Eurhythmics classes evolve in the course of the various stages of development of children and young people?
Ulrike Langescheid: In kindergarten and in the first few elementary school classes the children’s eagerness to move about comes to the fore. Generally, they do not reflect upon the matter at all. We move about in stories, fairy tales and short pieces of music, in which they can get immersed. In Middle School, an actual examination of Eurhythmics and its principles begins. We find these rules in the world, however also need them when working together – that is a key experience during puberty, where the young people do in fact actually sometimes feel as if they ought to be able to let go, and should be allowed to do so. They can, however, experience in these courses that certain things are only a joy to do if they are the real thing. Another thing: “I have my place in the Whole, find my way around, and so I shall proceed.” In high school, sixth formers are ultimately given the option to apply the rules they have learnt and discover freedom therein to shape their world. Actually, they discover how to do some of that world-shaping themselves.

Quite a few students find the school subject of Eurhythmics hard. Why is that?
Ulrike Langescheid: In the past, that was certainly often due to the lack of pedagogic competence on the part of the colleagues, who taught Eurhythmics classes without having the corresponding training. It would be a major fallacy to think that Eurhythmics classes are about Eurhythmics! This concept is difficult to grasp, in particular for all those to whom the artistic side of Eurhythmics is of import, so that they wish that students could love Eurhythmics and would make it nice. They are reaching their limits there. For it is, rather, the adolescents who are concerned! Eurhythmics Pedagogy means transforming what I have learned in four years of study for the sake of learners and to their benefit. As a teacher I now need to put it there for learners, making it available to them - identifying with it in a different way, that is.

Who is it that chooses to take a degree course in Eurhythmics Pedagogy? What type of motivation do you find in students?
Ulrike Langescheid: Well, actually, many of our students graduated from Waldorf schools – even including some who did not know what to make of it during their own school years, but, years later, somehow come back to it. We currently, however, have students, too, who learned about Eurhythmics on the Internet, students with no previous knowledge of it. There are more students than before who come to it in unusual ways. The biographies are very individual, often characterized by strong search movements, seeking the right place in the world for themselves, and the question of what means are required to shape the world in a positive way. Many people experience Eurhythmics as something beneficial – in the social sphere, at the individual level, even at the therapeutic level. See, I even already notice that with the school students. You can find, more frequently than before, students who plan, from the outset, to work with children and young people, and to go into the schools.

Are the degree courses that you offer ready to stand up to these changes?
Ulrike Langescheid: We are at the moment in the middle of working on the curriculum, in order to review it. What do students really need and want these days, so that they are well equipped to live up to their tasks in the world? We basically need to take a look at that, every few years, because society is meanwhile changing so quickly – and so are the students’ questions. My present students were raised on a quite different type of media use and digital facilities. On the one hand, they can always be reached, and actually stay in touch with others continually, on the other hand encounters sometimes, as a result, feel less personal, or their personal commitment in contact with others is less present. And everything is happening at a tremendous speed – everything can, and must, be done very rapidly. Such developments are changing society and people. In addition, there is the aspect of physical alienation: If I can change such a lot with a single click, whether it is on the screen or with a message sent, this means that a lot of movement is no longer necessary for me.

How do you prepare your students for school practice?
Ulrike Langescheid: Already during the Bachelor’s degree course, we are looking at a total of ten to twelve weeks’ internship in the field of imparting eurhythmics for these young people. This may well be in the field of social eurhythmics or even in the therapeutic field. Five to six weeks of the internship take place in schools. We get these young people ready for such internships and follow up on them. The studium generale, too, covers topics such as “Anthropology in Childhood”, which lay an important foundation.

Ulrike Langescheid, born in 1964, is a Eurhythmist, and has, since 1989, been a Eurhythmics teacher for all age groups, from kindergarten to high school graduation or pre-Scholastic Aptitude Test stage, at various Waldorf schools. Since 2007 she has been working as a Eurhythmics Pedagogy lecturer at the Alanus University. In that context, she is responsible for the basic “Eurhythmics Pedagogy” qualification as part of the “Eurhythmics” Bachelor’s degree course, and for the pedagogic topics as part of the “Eurhythmics at School and in Society” Master’s degree course.