The Letter Gestures of Eurythmy

eurythmy Feb 14, 2023
Eurythmy online for Waldorf Education

When you think about eurythmy, your first thoughts probably go the eurythmy letter gestures. And you would be correct in thinking that! The letter gestures make up most of what we do. They have such an effect on the children… of every grade and age! They can calm or excite. They can paint a picture and bring it to life. They help in producing an emotion that cannot be expressed with words. These letter gestures represent the sounds of language, which aid in the creation of all these feelings. Rudolph Steiner called it, “Visible Speech.” When doing eurythmy, our bodies become instruments of speech and creation! I always tell my students, “It’s OK that you didn’t get your letter to Hogwarts. I am going to teach you some magic here!”

In the younger grades, we “play" with the letter gestures. The children are not told what each gesture is as we do them. Yet we use them in stories and poems. We bring them to life through these stories! As the story is told, a picture is painted in their heads. Then, the gestures are used to bring that picture out of their heads and into the very room they are standing! We use the letter gestures in such a creative way that it depicts the scene as the story or poem is played out. Because these gestures are presented in such an amusing way, the children love to do them over and over again. This helps to build and strengthen not just their etheric bodies, but the organs of their physical bodies as well.

In the middle grades, the children expect exactness, honesty, and truth. And we give that to them through the gestures! In these grades we teach the letter gestures exactly for what they are, “This is the A gesture…” I always present it to my class as a secret code that only few people know. They find pure delight in this and work hard to memorize them all so they can “speak the language.” Then we do just that; we learn to spell and move words to forms with the gestures. We learn to spell their names and make the letter gestures their own! Presenting the gestures in this way helps to build their trust and respect.

In the older grades, we go a bit deeper. We learn the colors and meanings behind each gesture. We explore what they mean through studying the elements, the evolutionary sequence, and as they get into the upper grades of high school, the planets and the zodiac. We learn how they relate to musical gestures, therapeutic exercises, and the planet and Zodiac gestures. It is a whole new world that is opened to them. This is when their etheric is really allowed to stretch and expand even more. They take control and learn to command their etheric! 

There is so much depth and meaning lying in a single gesture. It is one of my favorite things to watch unfold through the years. Light bulbs come on as they learn how these gestures relate to themselves and the earth and space around them  We work hard to teach the letter gestures carefully and slowly, presenting them as fun movements in the younger grades, to their exact definition in the middle grades, and gradually building to their profound eloquence in the older grades.

“The eurythmy figures… do not reproduce just one moment, one stage of the sound. Rather than being simple replicas, they are real images of truth in that they show, not one moment, one stage of the sound, but simultaneously the origin, the existence and the disappearance of a sound. They challenge us to live into them. We must ‘put them on,’ for only then do we recognize each individual sound in its multiform unique existence.” -Sylvia Bardt.

~By Tiffany ~ Eurythmy Inspired Movement Teacher

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