Academic journal article Australian Journal of Music Education

Dalcroze Eurhythmics: Interaction in Australia in the 1920s

Academic journal article Australian Journal of Music Education

Dalcroze Eurhythmics: Interaction in Australia in the 1920s

Article excerpt

In Australia, the interaction between Dalcroze Eurhythmics, physical education, movement and dance as well as music teaching in the years before and after World War I is puzzling. Although musical, rhythmical and aural training aspects are at the heart of the Dalcroze approach it was physical educators rather than music educators in Australia who showed more interest in it. International sources such as The School Music Review and The Times Education Supplement carried descriptive material by and about Jaques-Dalcroze for many years and subscribers could be relatively well informed of overseas educational ideas and. For example, Kathleen O'Dowd, the first certificated British Dalcroze teacher, translated a lengthy article for The School Music Review (Jaques-Dalcroze, 1910, p. 209) about Jaques-Dalcroze's 1906 publication, Gymnastique rythmique. Australian educational journals and gazettes frequently reproduced articles from Great Britain by eminent educators such as Professor J. J. Findlay, a supporter of the work of Jaques-Dalcroze. Findlay (1917, p. 8) asserted that if the child learned 'to embody music and thus unite in one subject of the curriculum all that is needed at this stage for physical training, voice and ear training, musical notation and the delight of song, a universal reform in the curriculum of young children would be achieved'.

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).

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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. …

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