Dalcroze eurhythmics: interaction in Australia in the 1920s.
Official interest in Dalcroze Eurhythmics in Australia was considerable. The Director of Education in Western Australia (WA), Cecil Andrews, spoke at the first public demonstration in Australia of 'The Eurhythmics of Jaques-Dalcroze, in June, 1919. The patronage of the State Governor and the high level Education Department support for a 'novel educational method' must have pleased Irene Wittenoom who presented it ("Demonstration at Govt. House", 1919). Mr. F. L. Gratton, Supervisor of Music in the South Australian Education Department, spoke at a recital given by Heather Gell, in Adelaide in 1921, noting that 'the London County Council schools had introduced eurhythmics, and in WA good work was being done' (Gell Scrapbook, 1921). During the 1923-24 Australasian Tour by staff and graduates of the London School of Dalcroze Eurhythmics (LSDE), which commenced in Perth, before visiting Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney, Hobart and Christchurch (NZ), Andrews drew parallels with the work of Jaques-Dalcroze and the educational ideals of the ancient Greeks. He quoted Michael Sadler, later Sir Michael, Vice-Chancellor of Leeds University, and applauded the vision of Jaques-Dalcroze ("Nymphs of 1923", 1923). On the other hand, Thorold Waters discussing the tour in The Australian Musical News noted that, whilst 'some exponents of the Jaques-Dalcroze system' had recently arrived in the country, and that a number of enquiries about the topic had been received from as far afield as the Northern Territory, he feared that it 'will not be easy for it to find a way past the barriers of official stupidity, as in Australia music still has to beg to be fully admitted into education' (Waters, 1923, pp. 5-6).
The level of official interest was matched by more theoretical work. Professor Meredith Atkinson, Editor of Stead's Review in Melbourne, reprinted an article about the principles and philosophy of Jaques-Dalcroze, and mentioned he had interviewed 'the man himself' in Switzerland in 1922 (Atkinson, 1924, p. 29). The English Dancing Times (Einert, 1923, p. 87) concluded that
Dance must be linked with music and the link that joins them is Rhythm ... just as the games coach strives for agility, and the music teacher demonstrating eurhythmics aims at a remarkable measure of co-ordination, so the physical trainer teaching rhythmic dance encourages the child to think with his muscles on dance ideas, rather than steps, though with ideas under guidance and the imagination harnessed.
This article was one of many in this informative English magazine on the benefits of attaining rhythmic sensitivity in students of the dance.
In Sydney, A. L. Kelly, Lecturer in Music at the Teachers' College, wrote a series of articles for Withrow's Studio of Physical Culture about the Dalcroze approach which he described as a 'system of complete musical training which has music as its basis, and the body, the whole of the body, as its instrument.' He continued:
There exist excellent systems of physical training which employ exercises in rhythm, and yet they are by no means Dalcrozian. There should be no confusion of these with Eurhythmics. At once it will be seen that is it more than dancing, and it is more than gymnastics. It embraces both of these though not in the conventional sense, not for purposes of athletics, not the professional stage, not the stereotyped movements of the ballroom. (Kelly, 1923, pp. 7-8)
This is an insightful exposition of the Dalcroze approach and demonstrates significant interest from a physical culture viewpoint.
Lindley Evans, well-known pianist, composer and accompanist on the staff of the Sydney Conservatorium, attended a demonstration of Dalcroze Eurhythmics given by English-born Mary Whidborne at Frensham School, Mittagong, NSW in 1920. Whidborne had been impressed by a demonstration given by Jaques-Dalcroze in Berlin in 1910 and became a passionate supporter of his work. Whidborne had migrated to Australia at the end of WWI (Pope, 2006a, pp. 7-18) and her demonstration in the amphitheatre at Frensham was a revelation to Evans. In the Frensham Chronicle he praised the developed rhythmic sense and muscular control of the students, and perceptively singled out a key principle of Dalcroze Eurhythmics whereby students have to think out and work out their own ideas.
There can be no such thing as copying others, or pretence, or insincerity. If you wait to see what someone else is doing it means a loss of time and puts you out of rhythm. Absolute attention is essential for the immediate 'realisation' of the mental effect produced by the rhythmical sounds from the accompanying piano. The brain must receive the message and send it with lightning speed to the various muscles of arms and legs. A feature of the demonstration was the mental alertness of the girls and the speed and ease with which they carried out various commands. (Evans, 1920, pp. 15-17)
Evans concluded that for young people contemplating musical study it would be invaluable. With all this enthusiasm the question arises: why did Dalcroze Eurhythmics not become a priority for music educators?
Emile-Henri Jaques, born to Swiss parents in 1865 in Vienna, assumed the name Emile Jaques-Dalcroze in the late 1880s. His musical training was variously in Vienna, Geneva and Paris. Following various engagements, including one as conductor with a touring opera company, he became Professor of Harmony at the Geneva Conservatorium in 1892. As a composer he took particular interest in the folk songs of the Suisse-Romande, and was involved in numerous original choral-theatrical pageants. He became known as a witty cabaret composer and improviser, and tried his hand at string quartets and other formats. In 1899 he married soprano Nina Faliero and wrote a number of songs for her and later, some hundreds of 'action songs' for young children. International audiences became aware of him around the turn of the twentieth century, not however, as a composer, but as a highly original presenter of a new approach to music and movement education. (Pope, 2008, pp. 63-68)
Jaques-Dalcroze was influenced by contemporary educators. He was attracted to the writings of Swiss piano teacher and theorist, Mathis Lussy who explored the nature of rhythm, and the relationships to be articulated between space and time. The views of Francois Del Sarte on the categories of gesture and use of space, together with acting lessons from 'Talbot' in Paris, awakened his interest in gestures with meaning. He was interested in the work of psychologist Edoarde Claparede, founder of the Institut Jean-Jacques Rousseau. These varied influences provided a well-informed basis for Jaques-Dalcroze's teaching. One might describe him as a borrower, but he was also a thoughtful blender who possessed the creative facility of taking known ideas and making new concepts. That he was no dancer or gymnast himself is clear from innumerable anecdotes and memoires from his students (Pope, 2008), yet he evolved movement challenges that produced both intellectual and physical feelings of delight and discovery in his adult students, and provided learning with joy and humour, in his classes for children.
Teaching adult performance students led Jaques-Dalcroze to consider aspects of musical training such as their rhythmic problems and lack of 'inner hearing.' Interested in movement studies, functions of the nervous system and the psychology of teaching and learning, he commenced experimental classes based on natural movement responses to the elements of music. Jaques-Dalcroze proposed that as movement is instinctive to everyone, it should be the starting point for the study of music. Walking steps, being the 'natural model of measure' could interpret the different duration of notes, while head and arms could 'keep order' and analyse the measures and pauses. He advocated regulated breathing to introduce the study of phrasing, and an understanding of muscular contraction to develop subtleties of expression. 'Doubtless', he said, 'all this appears very simple, and so I myself thought at the beginning of my experience' (Jaques-Dalcroze, 1910, p. 209).
Simple or not, its basic value was soon recognized, notably by an invitation, in 1910, from the Dohrn brothers to establish a College of Music and Rhythm, Arts and Education, Die Bildungsanstalt, at their factory producing high quality wood craft, in the new 'garden city' of Hellerau near Dresden, which led to an extraordinary burst of artistic and educational endeavour (Pope, 2005, pp. 117-125). The term 'eurhythmics' was coined by British Professors J. J. Findlay and J. H. Harvey, who attended Hellerau in 1911; they felt that it would be a way to describe, to English-speaking teachers and musicians, what they had observed. Until that time it was known as 'rhythmische gymnastik' in German or 'la rythmique' in French. Sir Michael Sadler, Vice Chancellor of Leeds University, observed after a visit to Hellerau in 1911 that, 'Dalcroze has hit on something which will influence all educational ideas, just as Pestalozzi did 120 years ago' (Sessions, 1988, p. 32). In 1913, George Bernard Shaw made his second visit to Hellerau and subsequently wrote letters (Dent, 1952) mentioning the classes and 'metric games', and the performances of Gluck's Orfeo, with Appia's and Salzmann's remarkable theatrical lighting installations. Professor Findlay in 1923, gave a more academic assessment in the Journal of Education (cited in The Record, 1943, p. 15).
With teachers in Great Britain the term eurhythmics has come to stand for the special mode of treating music invented by Monsieur Jaques-Dalcroze. While the world outside the school is seeking for expression in the arts, our curricula are still concerned with the processes and products of reason. Life to the artist is movement, the expression of the inner self through the bodily organs. M. Dalcroze has invented a system which turns children's dance into a serious study, using limbs and trunk as an instrument by which music may enter the mind with lively but also ordered expression.
The problem of perception identified by Findlay was to be important in Australia because it hindered the growth of the work in musicianship and creative general education.
Bringing the news to Australia
State Directors of Education and Teachers' College Principals, from time to time, attended overseas and interstate meetings. Lillian de Lissa, inaugural Principal of the Adelaide Kindergarten Teachers' College (KTC), on one such overseas trip, specifically mentioned the work of Jaques-Dalcroze, noting the 'very scientific and many-sided system of musical and rhythmic training' (Lissa, 1915, p. 3). She stated that:
One of the most inspiring institutions visited was in Hellerau near Dresden, where Jaques-Dalcroze, a Swiss, has his world famous Eurhythmic School. I spent some time there studying and I saw the work of some of his teachers on my return to England.
As a result of this visit to London, it appears that Agnes Sterry, a triple medallist graduate of the Royal Academy of Music (London, RAM Archives, 1900-1916) with knowledge of the Dalcroze method was invited to Adelaide where she became a significant teacher.
In addition to distinguished educators in senior positions, there was considerable movement of Australian school teachers taking advantage of their 'long leave', to undertake study trips abroad. An example from WA will suffice, although a similar pattern is found in other States. Jessie Horton (WA State Records) wrote about her 1913-1914 trip in the WA Teachers' Journal, and held meetings with colleagues about eurhythmics, folk dance, physical culture and the educational benefits deriving from such activities. These views were welcomed at Highgate School in North Perth, where she was the deputy principal, and able to cultivate a responsive climate for such initiatives. Some ten years later, in 1922-23, Horton was one of two WA teachers to be awarded a year-long exchange position in Great Britain, through the League of Empire. Once again, on her return, she presented displays of the latest rhythmic work she had observed in England. The author's mother, Ethel Venus, teaching at the Claremont Teachers' College and Practising School recalled these vividly many decades later (Personal communication to author, 1956).
As well as general educators voicing their support, there were opportunities for contemporary physical educators to explore the work of Jaques-Dalcroze. The International Physical Education Conference in Paris in March, 1913, (L'Illustration, Paris, 1913) invited him to present several lecture-demonstrations where he pointed out that in his view (Jaques-Dalcroze, 1913, no page numbers), education 'for rhythm and through rhythm' was an indispensable complement to all gymnastics and sport:
Probably, some of you who are specialists in corporal movement do not perceive the difference that exists between the really inspiring music that I use, and the merely 'accompanying' music which is irrelevant to so many choreographic presentations and modern calisthenics. Many fail to notice the value of rhythmic exercises where each according to my method (and I sincerely hope, according to all those pedagogues who will not fail to develop it in the future, and who are anxious to link the corporal and the intellectual), will fill the gap which exists today between calisthenic and athletic sports, mental and physical development.
His work was visually appealing and the photographs of striking movement studies, and the range of reviews appearing in journals and magazines of the time, generated much interest.
Edith Clarke, (1886-1984) a full-time lecturer in dance and games at the Bergmann-Oesterburg College of Physical Education, Dartford, England, became convinced that such training in music through movement would help her own work (Clarke in Tingey, 1973, pp. 4-8). Clarke found itan exhilarating experience. The freedom of expression eliminated posturing and selfconscious gestures, and she was impressed by the concentration and alert listening demanded, and the high standard in both music and bodily movement. In the ensuing years, she and others who studied with Jaques-Dalcroze were active in educational and inspectorial positions, and generated a wave of change. Graduates from the Oesterburg training system were quickly engaged by new specialized physical training centres being established in England and overseas. There were dramatic changes in women's physical education from the stilted 1909 Drill Curriculum used in English, Australian and New Zealand schools, to the syllabus in use several years later where flowing, musical, rhythmic movement was promoted.
An Oesterburg influence in Australia is provided by Miss Heyford-Smith who arrived in Melbourne in 1915, after training at Mme Bergmann-Oesterburg's College (School Staff Archivist Records, accessed 2007). Photographs of students from Merton Hall (now Melbourne Church of England Girls' Grammar School) under the direction of Heyford-Smith, show a natural style of movement and the choice of music described suggests a classical musical taste ("Eurhythmics girls", 1923, p. 19). These images are in marked contrast to other newspaper photographs of the same years where rigid, 'squad-like' drill formations, or posed nymphs and fanciful fairies costumed like a stage show, were also proclaimed to be showing eurhythmics. Heyford-Smith could well have had contact with Clarke during her training and it would be interesting to locate other such examples of the transmission of particular physical education ideas and practice.
The spread of music education and movement education to Australia and New Zealand in the early decades of the twentieth century through exchange of staff between schools within Australia, and from the British Isles, was beneficial. For example, Cernon (1992, p. 3) records that at St Margaret's Girls' High School near Devonport, Tasmania, Mrs. Margaret Walpole joined the staff in 1910-11 and taught Grecian dancing and 'eurythmic [sic] movement' although, as Petersen (1967) noted the work can not be identified specifically as Dalcroze Eurhythmics, and is more likely to have been the interpretative dance form favoured by Isadora Duncan. In 1923-24 Sylvia MacConkey, a music teacher at a private school in Melbourne was on exchange at this Tasmanian school, and on her return, she incorporated rhythmic movement in her teaching. Such interchange indicates the attraction of including something seen to work elsewhere, into one's own teaching.
Two high profile teachers, Lillian Mills and Ella Gormley, albeit without formal Dalcroze Eurhythmics qualifications, contributed to the spread and general awareness of the benefits of Dalcroze Eurhythmics in Australia. Mills, originally from Broken Hill, NSW, had been teaching in WA, at Highgate School, since 1902 and was a skilled physical educator (WA State Records). She experienced practical Dalcroze Eurhythmics with Perth-based Irene Wittenoom, who gave adult classes attended by a number of school teachers (Pope, 2008, pp. 106-116). Mills was also the instructor at the Claremont Teachers' College for women students, and the WA Teachers' Journal (1913, p. 152) records that:
The new Physical Culture, with its dancing and organized games should have a pronounced effect on the physical and mental development of children. The Dance and Games are the natural impulse to play and imitation in all thing young, and the children throw themselves heartily into the new work.
Mills became the inaugural Physical Instructress for the WA Education Department in 1919 (Stewart, 1957), and is credited by Rikkers, (c. 1985, p. 6) with 'spreading the work of eurhythmics far and wide' during her years of considerable influence throughout WA.
Ella Gormley, a New Zealand-born graduate of Sydney University, was influenced by the New York Dalcroze School, as well as the London School of Dalcroze Eurhythmics. She had entered the service of the NSW Board of Public Instruction in 1904 and by 1916 was Instructress of Physical Training for girls and women (NSW State Records). In 1919 she applied for, and received permission to study for a higher degree in Physical Education in New York. Whilst attending prestigious Columbia University she became convinced of the value of the Dalcroze work, and attended as many short courses as possible at the New York School of Dalcroze Eurhythmics. Gormley supported her letters to the NSW education authorities with others from, for instance, the Commonwealth High Commissioner in the USA, who stated that 'out of her own money she is taking an extra course in the Dalcroze method which has a very high repute here. In fact, it is the system that is recognized as being superior to anything else existing in the country.' Successfully completing a Masters degree in Physical Education, and a Diploma in Health and Hygiene, Gormley travelled to England in 1920 to gain a taste of Dalcroze Eurhythmics there, and gather additional experiences and resources. In requesting approval to stay away a short time longer, she wrote from London that:
The Dalcroze System in Physical Education is very excellent and far reaching and is the most valuable asset to my work that I have come into contact with. It can be graded to suit all ages and in visiting some children's classes I have seen wonderful work and results through its operation.'
Her request was grudgingly approved by the NSW Board of Public Instruction.
Upon her return to Sydney in late 1920 she resumed her duties, but found herself working at the same salary level as previously, less than that of a full-time high school teacher. This, she pointed out, was unrealistic given her prestigious overseas MA qualification and experience, and the fact that she was preparing entirely new curriculum material and syllabus content to benefit teachers in the entire State, in addition to her teaching role. She was unsuccessful in her appeal, but for some time continued planning and delivering intensive six-week teachers' courses covering folk dance, rhythmic movement and gymnastics in NSW. In 1921, her services were requested by no less than the Acting Prime Minister, E. J. Russell, to conduct a special national course for selected interstate physical education women teachers to be held in November and December in Sydney. Amongst them, Rosalie Virtue, Physical Instructress of the Victorian Education Department, and five other Melbourne teachers including Vera Hopton, Nida Cheeseman and Jessie Burnett. Two women were selected from South Australia, May Cleggett, soon to be appointed to a similar position there, and Annie Berrigan. From Western Australia, the two chosen to attend were Lillian Mills and Emily Ware, Mill's successor. There were two from Tasmania, one of whom was a Miss Buckney.
No information has yet been found regarding attendees from Queensland. Returning to their home States they conducted similar intensive courses for their fellow teachers. One of them (Hopton, in Haywood, 1995, p. 18) spoke afterwards about learning 'the new craze of eurhythmic dancing from Miss Gormley, an American Dalcroze-trained physical culturist', but this created an erroneous impression that Gormley was American, as well as being a somewhat unfortunate description of the Dalcroze work!
Unsurprisingly, the employment and remuneration difficulties put in Gormley's way, including some reimbursement for new books she had purchased for the Teachers' College Library, quickly led to her resignation. The loss of such a well qualified person was a major set back for the development of Dalcroze Eurhythmics in Australia. A comment from a senior government bureaucrat, to the effect that in the future it would be unwise to allow any provision for females to receive assistance for study-travel purposes makes astonishing reading today (Physical Education File, NSW State Records). Thorold Water's earlier remark about 'the barriers of official stupidity' was only too well exemplified in Gormley's treatment.
The significant initiatives in Dalcroze Eurhythmics taken by enthusiastic physical education teachers were not matched by similar initiatives by music supervisors in the various State Education Departments of the early 1920s. Although it is clear that all the descriptions involve women there is one instance of a well qualified male school teacher, a former lecturer at a Teachers' College, who wished to pursue the Dalcroze training course overseas. His name was Claude Maximilian Rutter, (Max) an active member of music societies and cultural organizations in Perth and a well-known pianist and choral conductor (WA State Records). Rutter, a Claremont College graduate of 1905, had been granted leave to accompany the WA Young Australia League boys choir on a 12-month tour of Australia and the United States. He almost certainly had attended the evening Dalcroze classes given in Perth by Wittenoom in 1919 and 1920 and, with Mills, had presented examples of eurhythmics to fellow teachers. A letter from Irene Wittenoom in 1920 (Institut Jaques-Dalcroze, Archive) addressed to Percy Ingham, Director of the LSDE, introduces Max Rutter, and states that:
he is thinking of taking up eurhythmics. I have several times heard him improvize for improvized exercises and his playing is exceptionally good and his teaching ability above the average. One of my students has been applying Eurhythmics in her physical work but was unable to play so Mr Rutter was her pianist.
His application to the London School was supported by a glowing reference from the Director of Education, Cecil Andrews (WA Education Department, 1920). Rutter included some of his musical compositions, and began arrangements to take his long service leave to pursue this study.
The reply from London was disappointing. Ingham (Institut Jaques-Dalcroze, Archive) stated; 'We are unable to accept him here owing to the fact that in our present building we have no facilities for men students. I have explained the situation carefully to M. Dalcroze who is willing to accept Mr Rutter at Geneva.' Sadly, Rutter did not take up the offer in Geneva and resigned from the Department in 1924 at the end of his leave. He continued 'outside' the Department, as a visiting teacher of eurhythmics, singing and music at several Loreto Convent schools (P. Why, personal comment, October 30, 2006, and unpublished memoir, E. Holland). As an experienced school administrator, a highly regarded teacher, a composer and conductor, the musically experienced Rutter would have been an ideal head of a Dalcroze training school 'down-under'. What an opportunity lost! A keen musical man, accustomed to collaborating with women in physical education, he would surely have made a difference to the future training of teachers in Australia. In comparison with the bureaucratic treatment received by Gormley in NSW, Rutter seems to have received every encouragement from the Education Department in WA, but the inability of the LSDE to consider a male student inhibited the advancement not only of his own musical career but that of the work itself in Australia.
Dalcroze Eurhythmics enjoyed 'in principle' support in official education circles, and significant practical exploration by physical educators in the early 1920s in Australia. Similar initiatives, however, were lacking in the music education field. Why this regrettable situation pertained invites further investigation. Was the length of time, and the cost, needed to obtain Dalcroze qualifications, by overseas study in England or Europe, a major inhibiting factor? Were music teachers in schools of the day hampered by prevailing expectations and conditions suitable for static massed choral singing, and not for movement, while the physical culture teachers at least had some access to spaces for folk dance and gymnastic movement as well as confidence in managing large groups of active children? Yet even if Australian universities and teacher training colleges had wished to include Dalcroze Eurhythmics, there was, at the time, a lack of suitably qualified staff, world-wide, to meet such demands. Regrettably, a similar situation pertains today, a century after the Dalcroze approach gained so much admiration and attention.
Acknowledgement is made to the specialist holdings from which material has been sourced:
* Archives of the Institut Jaques-Dalcroze. Geneva.
* Archives of the London School of Dalcroze Eurhythmics (1913-1956). Held at the National Resource Centre for Dance, University of Surrey.
* Gell, H. (1921-1923). Student notebooks, later journals, diaries, photos in author's possession.
* Kirsner, N. (1926-1960). Student and class notebooks, journals, photos, in author's possession.
* Wilson, J. (1924-27). Student notebooks, photos, letter precis books, in author's possession.
This paper was delivered, by invitation, to the Australian Society of Music Education (ASME) XVII Conference, Musical Understanding, at Launceston, Tasmania, 10-14 July 2009 on the occasion of the presentation of the Callaway Award for a Doctoral Thesis to the author. Her thesis was entitled Dalcroze Eurhythmics in Australasia: The first generation from 1918.
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West Australian Joan Pope is one of the few practising Dalcroze Eurhythmics teachers in Australia and regularly invited to conduct courses in Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, Japan, UK and Switzerland. She completed her PhD (Monash) with a survey of the pioneering teachers of the method in Australia and New Zealand. Earlier degrees include the Licentiate & Diplome Superieur (Institut Jaques-Dalcroze, Geneva), MEd, BE, (ECU); BA, Dip Ed., (UWA), LRAM [Mime] LRAM [Speech & Drama] (London) and qualifications in Dance, Ballet, Art and Design. Joan is well-known in Australia for her dynamic approaches to community arts, creative children's holiday arts festivals, participatory recreational activities for all ages from playgroup toddlers to seniors' reflections, and part-time lecturing in a range of educational institutions in WA and interstate. She has served on numerous festivals, theatres, arts and education boards, panels and committees and in 2001 was honoured with the Medal of the Order of Australia and the Medal of the Centenary of Federation. A former Warden of the Convocation of UWA she received the UWA Chancellor's Medal in 2006. Dr. Pope is a Fellow of ACHPER and Hon. Life Member of AUSDANCE, ASME (WA) and Dalcroze Australia, of which she is the current President.
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|Publication:||Australian Journal of Music Education|
|Date:||Jul 1, 2010|
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