Melanie (crouching right!)
with the weekend foundation group

My first experience of Dalcroze Eurhythmics was with Karin Greenhead at the old Trinity College in London. I cannot remember much but have a vivid memory of running across the floor with my friend to ‘America’ by Bernstein.   Years later, I saw Dalcroze inspired work in action in a workshop for young string players.  Penny Stirling was leading workshops for the Menuhin Foundation.  It was fun and effective – a game called ‘Pooch and Master’ comes to mind – and the children very much engaged.   I decided to put Dalcroze Eurhythmics on my to-do list.

I spent a week at the IJD summer school in Geneva last year and returned home inspired.     I spent hours staring at the Dalcroze UK website, looking at all that was involved, and wondered if I could get myself down to Croydon once a month to undertake the intensive training.   The course content looked good to me – I loved rhythmics and had a good grounding in Kodaly.   My experience of improvisation was very limited, and my piano skills were limited – but I wanted to develop both, and here was a great way of doing so.  I decided to apply, and the practicalities fell into place quickly.   After a night on the sleeper train, I was excited to arrive for the first weekend early one Saturday morning in September.

A warm welcome awaited us.   There were six of us in ‘the Croydon group’, all at different ages and stages and each with a reason to be there.   The weekends consisted of rhythmics, aural and improvisation classes.   The first class was rhythmics and looking at the brief notes I took helps me to recall the class – ‘…contact with the floor…weight transfer…tilt…energy…forward and release’.

We moved to a track by ‘The Swingle Singers’ finding a pulse, showing the music in a way that was faster and slower, and found ways of moving in the space.   We were encouraged to take notes throughout the year, which were crucial for our written work and show me not only what we did, but also my own progress.  I have better understanding than I did a year ago.  Whole body conducting was new to me.  I found it physically demanding but quite exhilarating, and altogether a new way for me to experience music.   We worked with materials individually, and in group work.  Learning with and from scarves, hoops, balls, and beanbags was new to me, and the simple games I use in my teaching I can now do better.  I enjoyed the vocal warmups, and my understanding of the Kodaly method is much improved.

Our group had a good supportive atmosphere.  By February, we were exploring ‘Bruitages’ and left any remaining inhibitions at the door before creating a piece based on a poem ‘Seagull’.  Collaborative work is not always easy, but we worked well together and later created pieces for our Foundation exams.  A WhatsApp group allowed us to communicate and share ideas and resources throughout the year and online classes between weekends helped keep our focus.  Jacqueline Vann and Kaye Barker were our main tutors, and Monica Wilkinson was tutor on two weekends.   The spring course at RNCM was a great opportunity to learn from other teachers, as were the Zoom Café sessions online.

I have thoroughly enjoyed the Foundation course over the past year in so many ways.   I am moving better and with increased confidence, hearing more, experiencing, and expressing music in different ways, and feeling more connected to that music.   I can share ideas confidently with colleagues and have started to use elements of what I have learned in my own teaching – and yes, having a good time with it!

Friends had asked ‘what will you do at the end of the course?’.   I am hoping to continue with the Intermediate year.  Who knows what opportunities may lie ahead, but along the way my work in music will be all the better for this Foundation year in Dalcroze Eurhythmics.