Carrie Mass has been teaching eurythmy at PWS since 2008, primarily in grades 1-8. A former Waldorf student herself, Carrie completed four years of training at the School of Eurythmy in Spring Valley, New York, and spent several additional years exploring the artistic and pedagogical threads of the movement art. “Eurythmy is the best thing in the world,” she says. The movement art studied, practiced, and taught in Waldorf schools worldwide was developed by Rudolf Steiner to incorporate the artistic, pedagogical, and therapeutic into one all-encompassing movement practice.
But while there are myriad purposes or benefits to eurythmy, from physical or developmental therapy to performance art, Carrie says that the special quality of the movement is the moments where the experience transcends all those things. “When you’re really doing eurythmy, you become the movement and the sound, and in that way it’s a very selfless activity,” she says. “You have to be awake in such a different way. There are social aspects of moving in a group that can be very powerful, and you have to be able to listen and lead and understand each other in movement. I think if everyone did eurythmy,” Carrie says, “we would understand each other so much better.”
Carrie’s love for eurythmy and wish to see it practiced more broadly have led to her work with Portland Eurythmy, a local group dedicated to nurturing the development and growth of eurythmy in the Northwest. You may have seen stories and music from their performance troupe when they’ve toured area Waldorf schools in the past few years. In thinking about growing eurythmy as an art and practice, Carrie references a saying shared by one of her Spring Valley teachers, Dorothea Mier, from composer Gustav Mahler, who said “tradition is not to preserve the ashes, but to pass on the flame.” To pass on the eurythmy flame, Carrie and fellow Portland Eurythmy member Jolanda Frischknecht, who teaches at our neighboring Micha-el School and Micha-el Institute teacher training, have led the opening of a new eurythmy training initiative here in Portland. That initiative, Pacific Eurythmy, began its first year of classes this week.
Carrie and Jolanda have been teaching community classes for years now, attended by parents, alumni, and other community members who repeatedly asked how they could do more eurythmy and where they could learn more. In the meantime, Jolanda attended a conference where the hope for new training programs was shared, and both teachers had conversations with fellow eurythmists and teachers about starting a program that could support and sustain itself within the wealth of Waldorf community in the Portland area. From those classes, conferences, and conversations, Pacific Eurythmy was born. Carrie, Jolanda, and their working group are receiving mentoring from Spring Valley and curriculum from the Goetheanum, trying to connect Pacific Eurythmy to eurythmy programs worldwide so students can use training to open doors and build bridges to other opportunities for further study.
Students of the Pacific Eurythmy training will complete the first two “years” of a full four-year eurythmy certification on a part-time basis over a three-year period. In addition to many hours of movement study, they will take classes in other topics that support and enhance their understanding of eurythmy and of the human being. Anthroposophy, Rudolf Steiner’s study of the human being, is central and foundational to this study, but eurythmists also need a practical working knowledge of music, speech, and verse. For example, Carrie says, in music, or tone eurythmy, “you have to be able to understand music in a very practical, literal way—to read music, know the notes, have a basic understanding of harmonies—because eurythmy is not interpretive. You’re actually moving the music.” To that end, studies will include music theory, poetics, creative speech, and more.
These supplemental special topics classes will be taught by a variety of local teachers and experts, and are open to the community! Last week they began blocks of Anthroposophical Study with Don Marquiss, and Music Theory with Lily Breshears (who also plays piano for many of our PWS eurythmy classes). These classes are open to all levels of skill and knowledge, and you can come for one week or the full five- or six-week block. There is a modest fee to help support the offering, and any questions can be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org. Music Theory requires pre-registration (just send an email!), but Anthroposophical Study is open on a drop-in basis.
[Photo credit|Pacific Eurythmy]