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Hellerau Institute

The School established at Hellerau was called the Bildungsanstalt, Jaques-Dalcroze Hellerau. During the first year thirteen courses were run, including two for student actors and one especially designed for members of the Dresden Royal Opera. In addition, a course was offered both for the adult inhabitants and for children at Hellerau. The normal course included improvisation, anatomy, choral music, dance, gymnastics and eurhythmics. In all, over five hundred students participated.

Dalcroze constantly sought advice from Appia, particularly in regard to using the 'practicables' – rostra, platforms, stairs, podia – which made up his designs for rhythmic spaces. In addition, Appia advised about the crucial role of lighting and the influence it should have upon the expressive quality of the musically co-ordinated exercises.

Hellerau was animated and energised by an almost palpable sense of mission, as its students, inspired by Appia and Dalcroze, explored an aesthetic 'New World'. As one observer remarked, "each person saw himself not as a mere participant, but as a co-creator and founder of something new. Obviously, it’s scarcely possible now to comprehend or recover that atmosphere. It radiated from Dalcroze himself, and his pioneering spirit seemed to fill every last person present, including the stage carpenters, lighting personnel, and stage hands."


Who was Adolphe Appia?


Who was Emile Jaques-Dalcroze?


Jacques-Dalcroze recognised the problems that many trained musician had with rhythm and pitch, and led him to seek solutions through the use of the whole body in movement. His researches resulted in the development of a unique approach that he termed eurhythmics (good rhythm). The fundamental belief is that the experience of music should come from within the individual and through it the whole person is developed, not just certain faculties.

Appia wrote of eurhythmics that it "accords a natural harmony to the body, that will benefit the purity and flexibility to acting and give it the sensitivity necessary for any style. It will make the actor especially sensitivity to dimension and distance in space, corresponding to the infinite variety of sound. Involuntarily he will bring these to life on the stage, and will be bewildered by the injustice done to him, three-dimensional and living among dead paintings on vertical canvasses. But the author, the poet and the musician too will stress the importance of the body, which has been neglected for centuries. This is its great significance for the theatre.. the awakening of rhythm in ourselves, in our own flesh, is the death knell of a great part of our contemporary art, particularly the art of the theatre."

Basically, eurhythmics is aural training in movement, active listening, through the use of body and voice. The results of such study can be both practical and profound. Not only does it improve rhythmic accuracy, pitch awareness and response but the whole field of musical sensitivity and aesthetic appreciation is developed more fully. In addition, creativity and imagination are stimulated and the student is encouraged to participate as creator/composer, conductor and performer. The Dalcroze method has had a profound effect upon those working in related fields. In addition to his highly important collaboration with Appia, his ideas influenced many of his contemporaries, including Orff, Kodaly, Laban and Marie Rambert.

picture Photograph of eurhythmicists

picture Photograph of eurhythmicists

Rhythmic Spaces

In the spring of 1909 Appia created about twenty designs which he termed 'rhythmic spaces'. He perceived that the way to bring these settings to life was by contrasting them with the human body. Their rigidity, sharp lines and angles, and immobility, when confronted by the softness, subtlety and movement of the body, would, by opposition, take on a kind of borrowed life.

The spectator himself could imaginatively sense the designs’ physical quality as the body of the performed moved amongst them; and moreover, because of the qualities of architectural harmony and proportion with which Appia imbued them, though lacking any element of time or movement themselves, as the eye surveyed them they could nevertheless visually provide a strong sense of rhythm.

They also suggested a setting for a series of eurhythmical exercises. As some of the very earliest examples of abstract stage setting, they have had a profound influence upon stage practice and design of the modern era.

picture Rhythmic space Escalier

picture Rhythmic space Clair de lune

picture Rhythmic space Scherzo

picture Rhythmic Space La ronde du soir

picture Rhythmic space Les trois piliers