Report by Christine Straumer
Translation: Nora Wellhausen
Some figures and facts
The fourth international rhythmic workshop took place in the Festspielhaus Hellerau from September 8th – 14th, 2003, having the motto „Dalcroze 2003 –
rhythmic and choreography“. It was organized by the Institute of Rhythmic
Hellerau (Institut Rhythmic Hellerau e.V.) and the Saxon Rhythmic Association (Sächsischer Rhythmikverband), and supported by the Saxon Music Council with the funds of the Saxon State Ministry for Science and Art, the Culture Office of the city of Dresden, the Culture Foundation of Saxony, the Deutsche Werkstätten Hellerau GmbH, the Society of the Friends and Supporters of the University of Music „Carl Maria von Weber“ Dresden, and the Stadtsparkasse Dresden.
Forty-two active participants from Poland, Czechoslovakia, Greece, the United States of America, and Germany took part in the workshop and its courses. A large regional audience visited the four public events, as well as the symposium. Especially the Day of the Open Monument, which was organized together with the Festspielhaus Hellerau, was well attended, and the rhythmic noticeably stimulated the former Dalcroze School.
Two articles about the workshop were published in the regional press, praising especially the connection between history and the present, which is one of the very basic ideas of rhythmic workshops since 2000. „It is impressive how Wolf Dohrn’s vision of the future, even though it was misunderstood and disregarded, becomes more and more significant today, and how vital Jacques Dalcroze’s idea is in combining the human creative power to a new synthesis, reanimating a sense of rhythm in education, in the formation of the personality, in art and also in life.“ (Dresdner Neueste Nachrichten 19/9/2003).
Contents and realizations


Choreography courses
Rhythmic and choreography -this theme came from the idea of presenting what is special and worth seeing about this art (which is often reduced to being solely pedagogic or musically pedagogic) in the unique place of presentation of rhythmic, the Festspielhaus Hellerau. The analysis of whether rhythmic or the „plastique animée“ can be a form of art on stage and which aspects are
important and relevant took place together with the lecturers and participants of the workshop – practically in the courses, and theoretically in the symposium.
The unique and historically rich Hellerau plays a special role, being a place of artistic avant-garde. The Festspielhaus ensemble was built specifically for the rhythmic – architect Heinrich Tessenow, set designer Adolphe Appia and the inventor of the stage lightening Alexander Salzmann were equally passionate about the idea of rhythmic. The elements that would later go down in theatre history (such as spatial design and light effects) were used for the first time in the unique hall, giving the performances that were characterized by the combination of music and movement plasticity and dimensions of impressive harmony and coherence.
A new aesthetic of the piece of art as a whole was forming. The work on historic paths in the original place, supported by the creative minds of a new generation of rhythmic, helps to prove the suitability of rhythmic for the stage. Question such as for example, „How does a musically pedagogic approach eventually lead to an individual form of choreography?“, „Are there general basic structures to be found, and how do they personify?“, „Is creation necessarily bound to method?“ and „Which roles do space, music, the body and light play?“ were the main points in the discussions with the participants and colleagues during the events and in countless conversations that took place in the studio left-hand of the stage, which was excellently run by Irmgard Wellhausen as a bistro and also used as an office with Gisela Löffel.
The workshop was organized in two different parts. In the A courses, the participants worked for one week together with three experienced choreographers on three pieces that would be performed on the following Sunday. The individuality and power of expression of the pieces, which in some cases were performed by the same dancer, were a lively expression of the possibilities people educated in rhythmic have to fulfil musical and
scenic standards (the participants were students of rhythmic, students with a musically pedagogic or musical education, teachers of rhythmic, educators
and dancers).
The choreography „In Silence“ by Susanne Jaresand (Stockholm) with the participants and the Sarabande-Bourree I and II to the English suite no. 1
by Johann Sebastian Bach was full of life, variation of creation, and special variability. Different group movements leading through the voices of
the music, the harmony of character and tempo in Bach’s music with the gesture of the movement and the musical precision, as well as the youthful spontaneity and various creative elements of movement clearly showed what is
unique about the rhythmic working method.
Isabell Drosdek (Karlsruhe) describes György Ligeti’s Aventures as unique event that evolved here in the Festspielhaus Hellerau from the examination of music, space, light, and the body. Especially fascinating was the synthesis of sound elements with movement. Individual characters – Ligeti himself wrote about 125 of them – were expressed by the dancers and supported by scenic use of light.
The piece „Hunting: Gathering“ (a string quartet by Kevin Volans) was created under the guidance and coordination of Johannes Bönig (Dresden). „In this work I present to the participants a range of my different chorographical methods. It was important to me that I myself realize as little as possible, so that the participants of the course would use their own ideas for the movements and how they would perform them. The main points were different ways of handling the work close to the music, and the emotional balance between choreography and musical interpretation as well as the interpretation of the dancing.“
The result of this work was very convincing, as the participant‘ s individual body language was full of expression, and the group pictures were very lively and carried a lot of symbolism. One was able to feel and see the music in the room in all its variety.
Overall, I figured that the identity of rhythmic on stage depends on the
following factors:
1: Musical education and the work close to the music as event expressed solely through the performer, little plot (stories) apart from the music.
Instead, using the movements of precise feelings (such as tension within the body, weight, momentum, balance, contact to the Erath, and polarisation).
Differentiated use of the body with polyrhythmic elements.
2: The use of elements of spatial design, as well as the variation between group movement, different forms expressed by the group, and the solo in the
musical context.
3: Minimalism achieved by giving up illustrative and decorative elements.
Music that is heard and felt through the performer’s individual perception.
This becomes apparent in the work with other performers.
4: Making use of spontaneous individualistic forms of expression in the professional dancer’s moves, making use of the dancer’s talent for improvisation. In this, the human as action figure (which can be individual
or in a group), plays an important role using his body language and energy of action.
5: Supporting the effect of space and sound through the use of light. This is done using Appia’s innovative idea of the stage: the space’s decorative element is replaced by part of the stage being highlighted by the stage lightening.
6: Non-existent or minimalist costumes, which leaves enough room for movement and give clearness to it. The costumes allow figures that represent structure.
Workshops and thematic evenings
Work in the workshops
Prof. Reinhard Ring (Hanover) worked in his courses under the motto: „Who does not know foreign methods, does not know his own“ (according to Goethe).
Examples of exercises coming from other methods of music and movement were actively worked with. Impressive images with a dramatic effect that comes
from the exercises in Dalcroze’s rhythmic were created this way.
Using her own choreographies for children of different ages and the „Aquarium“ (from German author Erich Kästner’s book „Animal’s carnival“), and also examples from songs using gesture and rhythmic plays by Emile
Jacques Dalcroze, Prof. Christine Straumer (Dresden) introduced ideas for contemporary performances with children and young people that are nevertheless orientated towards rhythmic tradition. (The video of the
performance of the „Animal’s carnival“ involving 120 children of the 84.
Grundschule could be seen on the twelfth in the lunch break in the foyer.)
Prof. Dr. Katja Erdmann-Rajski (Stuttgart) worked with solo choreographies in rhythmic. The two-day work process to find an approach to solo choreographies was started with a collective warm-up. In a very short time, short solo choreographies evolved, which were very persuasive because of the performers‘ presence on stage. Please check the program for some performances that were shown on the final performance. On Sunday morning, Klaus Dreher gave an insight into the possibilities concerning the work with improvised percussion music.
Arila Siegert (Berlin) worked with two choreographies by Mary Wigman to find out more about ideas, inspiration, visions and their realization in movement in space and time. The combination of theory, demonstration and practical work was unique and fascinating. The participants were inspired for further brainstorming and improvisation to Prof. Dr. Peter Jachow’s improvisations on the piano. The participants were expected to show presence, the will toexpress themselves, and dedication to dancing as a form of expression forthe most intimate feelings.For example, after having worked successfully with the elements of a witch dance, Mary Wigman set the following exercise which was to be realized in a short solo choreography with or without piano music: „As I looked into the mirror, I saw my face and was disgusted by myself“. The participants used self made masks similar to those Mary Wigman had used in her witch dance.
Dierk Zaiser and Isabell Lorkiewicz worked with the theme of the prevention of violence, using thematic work in the rhythmic theater. Starting with the performance of „Kanakenjagd“, they elaborated an unusual yet exciting concept that shows rhythmic’s fundamental competence in the prevention of violence among young people. The stage presence made these useful for educative purposes.
The third and very important part of the concept was the symposium on Saturday night, which was opened with a solo choreography by Katja Erfurth. Participants, course teachers, theorists, guests and interested people met to collectively analyze rhythmic. Guido Vorhoff translated simultaneously for the English-speaking participants, which was a great accomplishment.
The centre of attention were themes that Daniel Zwiener described as follows in his text: „What is special about Dalcroze’s way of working, as opposed to other musically pedagogic methods that work with movement? How can it be explained that a musically pedagogic method achieved relevance on stage, and influenced the history of dance? Which aesthetic concept did the famous performances in the Festspielhaus between 1912 and 1913 follow, so that they could attract large masses of audience similarly to the Bayreuther Festspiele? What exactly can be seen as the inspiration that artists such as Mary Wigman or Rosalia Chladek received from the Festspielhaus? What were their won views that would eventually lead to a more or less dramatic split with the „master“? And finally: To what extent are Jacque Dalcroze’s methods of that time and today’s rhythmic capable of initiating art on stage?“
The informative, well-researched speeches (that were interesting also for the media) were followed by a discussion, which aimed at uniting different opinions, experiences and sympathies of experienced choreographers in the tradition of German expressional dance, such as Prof. Hanne Wandke (veteran of the „Neuer Künstlerischer Tanz“ in the tradition of Gret Palucca), Manfred Schnelle (scholar of Marianne Vogelsang), Katja Erfurth (Palucca scholar and expressional dancer), with those of the choreographers in the workshop.
Considering that German expressional dance is strongly influenced in its stage presence by rhythmic – especially by the events in Hellerau – it is important to see that these personalities are being educated by their masters according to specific ideals concerning music, movement and space, which influenced their entire work and also that of future generations.
When I chose the topic rhythmic and choreography, my thesis was that art consists of what is unique and new (also improvised) about the quest for oneself between music and movement (plastic) at one specific point in time. I was interested in the way choreographers that are educated in the tradition of rhythmic, but do have their artistic identity, would handle the set topics.
Manfred Schnelle says about the main point of discussion (which is the combination of music and movement) that when listening to music, he sees images of movement that change into different positions within space in front of his inner eye: „Depending on whether I sit or stand, the images that I see when listening to music change.“ He says that the work with Wolfgang Zeibig in the Palucca School were decisive for his education (that aims at strongly influencing the scholars musically) which he says he has internalized completely.
To Katja Erfurth, who effectively demonstrated in her dance at the beginning of the event her relation to music, it is essential to strictly follow the music. She describes that she takes her artistic ideas from her experiences with elements from music, rhythm, harmony and tempo. The examination of these she says brings a different experience when listening to music, not only to her, but also to the musicians that work with her.
Johannes Böning describes the effect of music as the heart of dancing. He himself took rhythmic lessons during his studies in Rotterdam and takes his basic knowledge of musical structures from this experience.
According to Hanne Wandke, „music is the partner of dancing“. She especially appreciates the effect of music in the improvisations that – in the combination of music and movement – achieve a new quality of fascinating correspondence. In her opinion, musical education helps to communicate when working with different topics and allows analyzing common points. The exercise „Doubling or halving of the tempo“ can only be understood in terms of an improvised exercise with a basic musical knowledge.
Susanne Jaresand explains different approaches to create choreographies that have been used in the history of dancing, using three main points. Firstly the expression of the material of music, secondly the expression of different moods, and last the telling of stories. Even if these categories cannot always be strictly distinguished, Susanne Jaresand prefers the direct expression of musical perception through movement, and sees this as a kind of inspiration that comes from the tradition of rhythmic.
A summary of this very personal perception was nearly impossible considering the short amount of time available, but the theoretical opinions and historical facts that were mentioned in the speeches could be clarified by some vivid experiences and images.
All participants of the discussion agreed that undoubtedly, the identity of rhythmic consists of a way of working with dance and choreography on stage that is very orientated towards music. It is a way of working with music, and with music and space, that is identical to rhythmic and has its origins in it.
The expression of feelings dominates the movement. The dancer uses individual movements, gestures, spatial forms, rhythmic elements, and often difficult and complex forms. Spontaneous changes between music and movement in the improvisations play an important role in the work on stage. The dancer achieves a sense of persuasiveness by not playing a role, but by showing his own expression, being performer and creator united in one person.
In the public events, a large variety of choreographers, alumni and students could be seen, which came from different European schools (Poznan, Lodz, Katowice, Dresden), but also independent people working with rhythmic (Dierk Zaiser, Isabell Lorkjewicz, Katja Erdmann-Rajski) were present. (For detailed information see the calendar of the workshop.)
The participants were eager to compare the outcomes of the different courses with choreographies that were prepared for stage performance in a longer time span in a continuous professional manner. Even if there were many different opinions and tastes, common points clearly became apparent. Common points could especially be found in the style of movement, which does not have precise features, but follows the performer’s intuition and is entirely individual.
I would like to thank the technicians of the Festspielhaus Hellerau, Ulf Neumann and Frank Jäger, who professionally managed the performances.
Calendar of the workshop September 8th: After everybody had arrived with their luggage from their exhausting over night journey, the work began punctual at 10 am with the opening, the presentation of the choreography courses, and some formalities. Every day, sandwiches were available at lunchtime, there was a dinner at 4:30 pm, and in the evenings the participants worked from 6-9pm. Everybody was very exhausted that first night, and we also had to get accustomed to the many different languages that were used for communication.
September 9th: at 9am, the day began with a collective warm-up, which was lead by Susanne Jaresand and Johannes Bönig. Even though it was terribly cold in the Festspielhaus – we do no have a heater yet – everybody was well spirited.
September 10th: No special events
September 11th: the B courses start. In the morning there were some problems, as I thought that the room where performances should take place was build up wrongly. The stage was build up crosswise, which destroyed the room divisions. Also, the piano had to be transported a couple of times in and out the room. Luckily, this was very well managed. 1pm: There was an assemble of the members of the Institut Rhythmik Hellerau e.V., which organized the courses. It is thanks to the voluntary work of members of the institute that many free services and the accommodation of the participants in private homes of families here in Hellerau worked so well. I would like to thank the institute for that. 4:30pm: The participants of the workshop welcome the participants of the event to honor Tessenow in the foyer. (See the events in the calendar on September 12th at 9pm). Also, the participants inscribed themselves for the B courses and at 2:45pm, Christine Straumer welcomed the participants and introduced them to the organization of the courses, before the real work could begin. New information was available on the board in the foyer. 9pm: „Kanakenjagd“(realization: Dierk Zaiser. Acting/dance/piano: Dierk Zaiser/Isabell Lorkiewicz).
September 12th: After the warm-up with Katja Erdmann-Rajski, the course began, on that day with Arila Siegert and Peter Jarchow in a three hours long course phase, and also with Dierk Zaiser, which worked on the evening performance.
Choreographies and participants of the Academy of music in Lodz (Poland): Jazz Sebastian Bach – Canon Choreography: Ewa Wojtyga Dino Saluzzi – Gorrion Choreography: Monica Derda Chick Corea – 20 Children’s Songs, no. 19 Choreography: Ewa Wojtyga Leo Brouwer – fantasia de las ecos Choreography: Alexandra Tokarz Edgar Meyer – Indecision Choreography: Katarzyna Doborz Concert for piano improvisation and not only that. inspired from „Expressions Plastiques“ One spot Sabina/Iwona Two spots Isabela The points Iwona The dialog of the points Sabina/Isabela The portraits Barbara/Sabina Improvisation of jazz Sabina
September 13th: As time was short on that day, there were the first complications in form of some rather unorganized warm-ups, which were later organized by Monica Kabacinska and Isabella Czerny. Other than that, everything went well, although it was a „13th“. 4pm: symposium Emile Jacques Dalcroze in Hellerau and his influence on art on stage Katja Erfurth (dance), Daniel Thiele (cello) Johann Sebastian Bach: Suite for cello solo BWV 1012 Daniel Zwiener (Dresden): Sensitivity and abstraction. About the aesthetical (not) understanding of the famous performances during the school festivals of the Jacques Dalcroze School in Hellerau, 1912 and 1913. Reinhard Ring Hanover: Emile Jacques Dalcroze and art on stage 7:30pm: Round table Katja Erfurth, Manfred Schnelle, Prof. Hanne Wandke, Prof. Reinhard Ring, Daniel Zwiener, Susanne Jaresand, Isabell Drosdek, Johannes Böning, Dierk Zaiser, presentation: Christine Straumer. 9pm: „Balance“ Susanne Stanicki „The Bed“ Alexandra Rzepka „Sleep Save And Warm“ „Kwartet Jorgi“ Beata Bablinska/Monika Kabacinska „Variation“ Isabela Czerny „Parallel“ Dance/choreography: Katja Erdmann Rajski, percussion: Klaus Dreher, light: Doris Schopf
Late in the evening, there was a little snack in a nice atmosphere.
September 14th: The public was welcome all day as it was the Day of the Open Monument. About one hundred rooms were open to the public. There was much interest in our work and many questions asked. Visitors frequently told me that it was wonderful to see the rooms filled with music and movement, and also with vital people that work passionately, and that it was an unforgettable impression of a monument brought back to life. Is there a nicer way of showing appreciation for the rhythmic in Hellerau?
3pm: final performance „In Silence“ Choreography by the participants English Suite no. 1 / Johann Sebastian Bach Sarabande – Bourree 1 and 2 Piano: Henrike Enger choreography: Susanne Jaresand „3+1=4″Music: Meredith Monk „1×1=1“ Music: Sylke Täubrich „1+1+1+1=4“ Music: Beka Beyond Approaches to the solo work from the courses of Katja Erdmann-Rajski György Ligeti: Aventures Choreography: Isabell Drosdek Hunting: Gathering Music: string quartet by Kevin Volans Choreography: Johannes Bönig
After this, long saying-goodbye scenes, taking advantage of the warm sunlight shining on the entrance of the Festspielhaus, exchanging addresses, conversations, thoughts about the future. Shall we meet again next September here in Hellerau?