A different order of therapeutic mysticism prevailed in the movement theory of Rudolf Steiner (1861–1925), whose ideas exerted little impact on the German dance scene as a whole but nevertheless sustained an enduring cult of "anthroposophy," the appeal of which has by no means diminished since his death. Steiner coined the term "eurhythmics" to describe his approach to the perfection of bodily expressivity, although this word, derived from ancient Greek, had long been in use among Germans (Herder, Goethe) to categorize the study of aesthetic movement; Steiner's longtime associate and eventual wife, Marie von Sivers (1867–1948), has sometimes received credit for introducing the name (Veit 46–49). Eurhythmics, however, was but a small facet of a vast, comprehensive philosophy that sought to identify the conditions of salvation in a modern world wherein old religious doctrines had lost their credibility. Anthroposophy was a sort of holistic, Christian-Nirvanic-Dionysian search for the forms of thought, feeling, and action that connected the body to a cosmic sense of purpose. Steiner left hardly any area of life unexamined by his thinking; his complete writings (1954–1984) spanned 350 volumes and covered science, medicine, education, art, social planning, architecture, anthropology, theatre, and literature. But despite its stress on mobilizing mystical forces within the body and the cosmos, anthroposophy always presented itself as a theory of consciousness rather than an expression of religious faith.
Born in the Croation region of Austria-Hungary, Steiner began his career as an academic, specializing in the studying and editing of Goethe's scientific writings; his doctoral dissertation (1891) constructed a philosophy of freedom. While a lecturer at Wilhelm Liebknecht's Worker's School in Berlin in 1901, he turned his attention to the problem of identifying a new spirituality as pursued by the Theosophical Society of that city. For the next twelve years Steiner gave an enormous number of lectures throughout
Europe in which he explained the affinities between Christian and ancient religions, the mystical significance of organic forms, and the reform of intellectual development. The lecture was his medium; probably no one ever gave as many lectures on as many subjects as he did. Like Laban, he was a prodigious teacher but a weak scholar who expended his mental energies on innumerable lectures rather than on impressive research. He always conveyed a sense of analytical authority by introducing categories, concepts, and definitions, but he did not apply them with any systematic rigor—he preferred to move on to a new topic rather than lose his audience, often naive, in theoretical complexities. In 1913 he broke with the Theosophical Society and formed his own anthroposophical cult, with headquarters in Dornach, near Basel, where he supervised (1913–1921) the building of the famous anthroposophical temple, the Goetheanum, a huge wooden structure set among woods and orchards and made up of cavernous rooms modeled after organic forms, such as caves, shells, and cellular tissues. He gained adherents throughout Europe, perhaps because he showed the compatibility of mysticism and scientific rationalism; indeed, he disapproved of submission to unconscious powers, arguing that spiritual renewal depended on full consciousness of one's perceptions, feelings, and actions. When in 1922 the Goetheanum burned down, he immediately launched plans to build a new one in concrete and succeeded in raising funds from adepts around the world. But he did not live long enough to see it (Kugler).
Steiner had no formal training in dance, and he did not begin his adventures in "eurhythmic art" until 1912, when, in Munich, he collaborated with a nineteen-year-old dance student, Lory Smits, on exploring relations between vowel sounds and movements. Eurhythmics, according to Steiner, revealed "harmonic" connections between sound patterns in speech and the movement of the body. Whereas Klamt and Woog emphasized breathing as the primal sign of the body's inner power, Steiner stressed words. He remarked in 1908, "the word, which intones the soul, the logos, was there in the beginning, and the word so guides evolution until finally being emerges which can also appear. What finally appears in time and space was first there in spirit" (Veit 42). Music derived from tonal and rhythmic principles already embedded in speech, so spoken language disclosed the deepest, most secret bodily responses to sound. Movement made sound visible, and eurhythmics treated language as a "cosmos" of sound units, beginning with vowels and consonants, then words, syntactic structures, punctuation, sentences, meter, rhyme, alliteration, metaphor, hyberbole, recitation, and declamation, all of which corresponded to specific movement choices or combinations of movements. An elaborate process of symbolism bestowed emotional values upon sound units and structures, which then became associated with particular colors, organic and inorganic forms, creatures, planets, and abstract conditions (e.g., active or passive). For example, the letter
U (indigo) signified a sinking or deepening motion (arms bending parallel before the chest), whereas the letter T (yellow-red) signified a striking or pushing gesture. Letters were elements of a sound "scale," and different combinations of letters—words—produced different "chords" and rhythmic "intervals."
Not surprisingly, this approach, when applied to all the variables of speech, led to enormous complexities, which neither Steiner nor any of his adepts was able to put into helpful charts or tables. But Steiner's aim was not to provide a rigorous system of correspondences; rather, he sought to suggest complexities that encouraged people to become highly conscious of sounds and movements and to realize that even the slightest utterance or movement could reverberate with significance. In reality, his approach was too complex for his lecture-style language, which suited a writer with so many interests besides the almost incidental theme of eurhythmics. But, as Laban eventually discovered with the Kinetographie, the lecture style became hopelessly inadequate in accounting for all the expressive variables of the dynamic body. Steiner therefore relied heavily on drawings, many done in colored chalk, to describe movement possibilities and correspondences, especially for ensemble pieces. A great many of these drawings traced the image of movement without showing the body or bodies and thus transmitted a powerfully mysterious level of abstraction (Steiner). Few images have ever conveyed so persuasively the perception of movement as a mystical phenomenon. But these chalk sketches on slate backgrounds were an extension of Steiner's lecture style, and they emblematized a metaphysical dimension that scarcely seemed to correspond to the physical reality of actual bodies moving in specific times and spaces.
In spite of the implied complexity of the cosmic-word concept, the dance culture of the anthroposophists consistently projected an aura of simplicity. Steiner never stressed virtuosity of movement, nor did he push toward any professionalization of performance. He promoted a level of performance that strengthened the cultic identity of those already initiated into the mysteries of anthroposophy; an appeal to the uninitiated audience for professional dance and theatre held practically no interest for him, although he did not hesitate to give public demonstrations of eurhythmics throughout Europe. He regarded bodily movement as primarily a lyrical rather than dramatic action, "song made visible," which is to say that he and his adepts overwhelmingly favored "flowing" bodily movements and movements of the body in space. The body curved; arms and shoulders undulated; rows of bodies pulsed and surged; groups swelled or rippled into spirals, serpentine coils, arabesques; circles metamorphosed into stars, flowers, anemones, swirling disks, and intimations of stirring cosmic and "organic" forms. Both bodily and group movement were dominated by the image of waves, cur-
rents of water. The welter of tonal and rhythmic tensions in speech and language implied by Steiner's invocation of the "cosmic word" actually had little counterpart in tensions within or between moving bodies. But this lack of rigorous correspondence between theory and practice hardly troubled his adepts, for the arcane, convoluted mysteries defining the sound-world of speech signified a motive for movement rather than a system of it: indeed, the more complex the system became, the more it signified a mystery to which the body responded with a pliant flow of energy rather than with a compatible or congruent manifestation of complexity.
Eurhythmic dancers favored long, flowing costumes—robes, chitons, gowns, capes, veils—following images of ancient Greek maenads, sacerdotal Egyptians, or Romanesque-medieval figures, except that Steiner imposed a cryptic color symbolism on the fabrics. Steiner had staged "mystery plays" since 1889, when he directed his own adaptation of a Goethe fairy tale. He subsequently staged, for festival-cultic occasions, productions such as Eduard Shure's Eleusis (1907), scenes from Goethe's Faust (1915–1916), and Shakespeare's Midsummer Night's Dream (1923), in which he applied some eurhythmic principles. He also staged fairy-tale dramas of his own composition: Die Pforte der Einweihung (1910), Die Prüfung der Seele (1911), Der Hüter der Schwelle (1912), and Der Seelen Erwachen (1913). However, strictly eurhythmic performance evolved slowly. Steiner spent several years testing his ideas with Lory Smits, and during World War I, when the anthroposophists expended much of their energy on constructing the Goetheanum, resources for performance remained scarce. Thus, after an initial demonstration in Munich in August 1913, Steiner gave no more demonstrations of eurhythmic art until August 1918. The fantastically cavernous Goetheanum was able to provide a most appropriate setting to support Steiner's claim that "every artistic dance derives originally from the old art of temple dances, those cultic dances which were performed in the temples of the old high cultures" (Froböse 35). In the 1913 recital, featuring the movements of Lory Smits and two other women, bodies moved entirely to the sound of recited poetry by Goethe and Brentano. But by 1918, Steiner was including musical accompaniments, composed by adepts, that sometimes underscored the speaking of poetry by Goethe, Hebbel, Morgenstern, Meyer, or Nietzsche. From 1919 to 1923, Steiner gave demonstration recitals in Dornach, Zurich, Paris, Amsterdam, Oxford, Prague, and numerous German cities, with Tatiana Kisseleff as his star dancer and Marie von Sivers as his chief reciter.
It is difficult to determine how many people actually performed in the group dances or how the dances on any program differed from each other; most dances bore the titles of the poems that accompanied them, and most documentation of the concerts focused on the concept of eurhythmics
rather than on the execution of the concept. (Photo documentation is unusually scant in relation to the abundant documentation of Steiner's eurhythmic drawings and watercolors.) In her memoirs, Kisseleff recalled the initial—and not altogether friendly—reception of public (not cultic) audiences, which tended toward bewilderment, and she observed that even within the Anthroposophical Society many people disliked Marie von Sivers's portentous manner of reciting poetry (Veit 69–72).
Shortly before Steiner's death, Else Klink (b. 1907) began studying at the newly founded Eurhythmeum in Stuttgart under one of Steiner's protégés, Annmarie Dubach-Donath (1895–1972). After two years (1927–1929) at the Goetheanum, Klink accepted an invitation to work at the Steiner institute in The Hague; she remained until 1935, when she returned to Stuttgart to direct the activities of the Eurhythmeum (Veit 77–110). While Steiner was alive, male adepts apparently functioned as musicians and scenic artists on eurhythmic performances, and women did the actual performing. But when von Sivers and Klink assumed greater authority within the Anthroposophical Society, men became more prominent figures in the performance of dances, and music assumed greater significance than words as a motive for movement, although the "cosmic word" still retained theoretical primacy. The Nazis banned the Anthroposophical Society in 1935 but permitted eurhythmic instruction at the Eurhythmeum until 1941, during which time enrollment at the school rose from twenty to eighty students. The Gestapo was ever suspicious of eurhythmics and of Klink, whose dark, "un-Aryan" features led to a scheme in 1937 to replace her with a former Wigman student, Martha Morell, who refused to cooperate. In 1941 the Gestapo finally shut down the school and assigned Klink, her associate Otto Wiemer, and her students to factory labor for the duration of the war. In the immediate postwar era, Klink revived the school at the Eurhythmeum and carried on the cultic performance tradition into the 1980s, by which time Steiner's philosophy had returned to the German cultural scene with perhaps even greater popularity than it enjoyed in the 1920s.
Eurhythmics was obviously more important than nearly all dance histories suggest. Though it did not exert substantial influence on German dance culture or produce any powerful dance personalities, it did establish bodily movement as a redemptive mystery accessible to all people as long as they believed in the anthroposophical philosophy as a whole. Neither an elaborate technique nor a powerful expressivity bestowed value upon eurhythmic dance; rather, eurhythmic dance bestowed an aura of exclusivity upon its humble performers. Such dance always functioned within the context of the temple, of a grandiose synthetic doctrine that separated the initiated from those who were blind to a mystery that transcended the banality of the physical world. Through eurhythmics, dance allowed mystery to become a visible feature of ordinary, daily life.