Anthroposophy and George Gurdjieff’s mystical teachings gave birth, among many other things, to two movement arts: eurythmy and sacred movements. It comes as no surprise that dance—a primary and ancient way of expressing inner experiences through movement—became the language of choice for mystical and ritualistic practices, a means of activating the imagination, and a reliable channel through which to connect to the transcendental and the otherworldly. It also made perfect sense that the early twentieth-century syncretic theories “of spirit,” such as Steiner’s anthroposophy and Gurdjieff’s doctrine, worked to develop a new approach to dance and revive some of its archaic ritualistic and healing functions.
The first documented instances of Steiner’s interest in developing an art of movement date back to 1908. As he was preparing a series of talks on the Gospel of John, Steiner asked one of his students, the artist and author Margarita Sabashnikova (her work from the Rudolf Steiner Archive is featured in the exhibition), whether she believed that excerpts from the Gospel could be interpreted in dance. Sabashnikova answered: “one can dance anything one feels.”
Eurythmy is the anthroposophical art of movement, which combines dance with poetic texts or music. Steiner developed the theory and practice of eurythmy in conjunction with Marie von Sivers. Under von Sivers, eurythmy received further development as a performance art, a pedagogical practice integral to Waldorf education, and later—a contribution from Ita Wegman—as a form of therapy.
Eurythmy uses the movement of the human body to express relationships and patterns contained in language and music. Along with gestures, its means of expression include color and spatial arrangements. Eurythmic movements express particular sounds (phonemes). This enables the performer to dance a text in poetry or prose. Similarly, drawing on tonality, style, and intonation, a eurythmist can interpret a musical work. Unlike classical ballet, eurythmy is not composed of abstract and taught poses arranged to fit the music but is a “living visible language.” The basic unit of this language is “form:” through form, a poetic or musical work emerges in space. Form is created based on the experience of interpreting music and text and observing their inner dynamics.
Sacred movements were the building blocks from which sacred dances were composed, an essential practice taught by George Gurdjieff as part of his Fourth Way. According to the mystic, a system of movement like the one he taught helped those who practiced it to develop a will and brought them closer to liberation and disengagement from their own materiality, making them true masters of their physical bodies. The system developed by Gurdjieff consisted of a sequence of movements that ranged from special gymnastic exercises to complex dance schemes and structures.
As part of the exhibition, the Russian group VASYARUN will present the performance It Just Seems That Way, which was specially created for the project based on George Gurdjieff’s sacred movements The Swiss performer Martje Brandsma will present three eurythmic performances in the Museum’s East Gallery during the exhibition. Dates and times will be published separately.