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Dalcroze Eurhythmics: bridging the gap between the academic and practical through creative teaching and learning

Résumé du projet

Les principaux points abordés sont les suivants : 

The body-mind as the locus of all perception and knowledge (Damasio 2000; Lakoff and Johnson 1999; Merleau-Ponty 1962; Seitz 2000; Sheets-Johnstone 2011) and the bodily constituted nature of music (Blacking 1965; Bowman 2000, 2004; Seitz 2005; Small 1998). In view of these points we assert that musical knowledge is incarnate and grows from the individual’s personal experience (Juntunen & Hyvönen 2004). We then review the literature on creativity in music (including Mialaret 1994; Webster 1992; Burnard 2012; Odena 2012) and draw out relevant concepts such as communities of practice, music as process, musicking and habitus/field.

Dalcroze Eurhythmics is a practice that invites students and teachers to engage creatively with various activities that develop musical understanding. It is a vast body of largely orally transmitted facilitation skills, developed and refined during more than a century of practice. The most common narrative about the origin of Dalcroze’s method relates to his own teaching at the Geneva conservatoire. In his classes of solfège (academic learning), he found the curricula and teaching methods fragmented and theoretical, too disconnected from the students’ emotions and sensations. In addressing this issue he developed an approach that recognised the fundamental role of the moving body in musical understanding and creativity.

Dalcroze is used currently in HE teaching and learning worldwide. It comprises three interrelated branches: rhythmic movement, solfège (aural training) and improvisation. It is active, using whole body movement, and is taught interactively and dialogically in groups. It aims at developing creativity and authenticity in students and teachers. For example, the Dalcroze teacher communicates with and responds to the class, largely through musical improvisation and in so doing models creativity.

We report experiences of students from three different disciplines: composition, musical analysis and aural training. These data come from three research projects (Greenhead 2008, 2012; Habron 2012; Mathieu 2013). We show that Dalcroze Eurhythmics encourages creativity and discuss the benefits that the students describe. Where possible we link these benefits to determinant factors such as flow, joy and play, and use literature on Dalcroze pedagogy, embodiment and music and the brain to support our findings. For example, neuroscientific research shows that body movement and emotion are the strongest determinant factors in learning (Hodges & Gruhn 2012).

Assuming that academic music studies are useful only in so far as they enable and develop various sorts of creative musical activity (composing, listening, analysis, performing and improvising), we discuss the notion of the academic/practical dichotomy and argue that this is after all another version of the mind-body split epitomised in Cartesian epistemology. Dalcroze insisted that theory, instead of determining practice, should emerge from it and so contributed to the dissolution of this split. Thus, Dalcroze Eurhythmics can act as a bridge between the academic and the practical: ‘I know and I think because I feel and I experience’ (Jaques-Dalcroze 1924).

Les communications ou les publications liées à ce projet

  • Greenhead, K., Habron, J., Mathieu, L. (accepté). Dalcroze Eurhythmics: bridging the gap between the academic and practical through creative teaching and learning. In P. Burnard, L. Haddon, (Eds.), Teaching for Creative Learning: Rethinking Creativities in Higher Music Education. London: Ashgate Publishing Ltd.
  • Mathieu, L. (2013). De la formation auditive et corporelle à l’expression musicale : une démarche de création et de formation artistique. Communication présentée le 10 mai 2013 au colloque Réfléchir à la formation artistiqueCongrès de l’ACFAS, Université Laval, Québec, Canada.


  • Louise Mathieu, Faculté de musique, Université Laval, Québec.
  • John Habron-James, Coventry University, UK.
  • Karin Greenhead, Royal Northen College of Music (RNCM). Manchester, UK.