Émile Jaques-Dalcroze (āmēl´ zhäk-dälkrōz´) was born Émile Henri Jaques in Vienna, Austria on July 6, 1865 the son of a middle-class businessman and a schoolteacher. Throughout his life, however, it is said his friends affectionately referred to him simply as "Monsieur Jaques".
His mother, Julie Jaques, was a teacher in a Pestalozzi school. These schools emphasized giving a child opportunity to make discoveries. Dalcroze’s later assertion that experience should come before theory and conclusions, like his fundamental approach to teaching, is linked to his mother’s early guidance.
Young Émile’s introduction to music began with piano lessons at age six. In 1875 his family moved to Geneva where Émile finished secondary school and continued his study of music. He subsequently traveled to Paris. There he studied under Léo Delibes, tragedian Denis-Stanislaws Talbot, comedian François St. Germain, François Jules Edmond Got, Mathis Lussy (who was already well known for his writings on musical rhythm), and also attended lectures given by François Delsarte. In addition, he traveled to Vienna where he was a student of Anton Bruckner. He reportedly wrote his first opera, "La Soubrette," at age sixteen in 1881.
Émile worked in Algiers from 1886 to 1888, reportedly as assistant conductor and chorus master at a theatre, as well as notating much Arabian music. Delcroze himself at one point suggested that Arabian drumming had some influence on his development of eurhythmics (see below). Émile Henri Jaques also became known as Émile Jaques-Dalcroze during this period, although the reasons for the name change remain uncertain.
Returning to Europe, Dalcroze became better known with his orchestration of Hugo de Senger's Humoresque in 1891 and especially by his oratorio La Veillée. Critics praised his comic opera Sancho in 1897, and in French Switzerland people were learning his name from a number of popular songs he wrote.
In 1892, he was appointed Professor of Harmony at the Conservatory of Geneva. There he taught until 1909, and developed his system of eurythmics or eurhythmics (both: yoorĬth´mĬks) as an aid to his teaching.
Apparently confounded by some of his student's lack of rhythm, his observations and experiences led him to pursue a method of teaching, which took a “kinesthetic awareness” of music into account. Eurhythmics (translated as "good rhythm") is sometimes described as a system of rhythmic gymnastics that allows students to gain physical awareness and experience of music so learning takes place through all the senses and is not just focused on the mind. Eurhythmics strongly encourages cross-fertilization between art forms and evokes the philosophy “feel first, express afterwards”. This type of approach has been incorporated not only into modern techniques of musical instruction around the world but also methods of teaching dance and even into fields outside of musical study.
While teaching his classes, however, Dalcroze found that the style of dress of the day was not conducive to the type of movement necessary to fit his new teaching style. He requested a larger classroom equipped with changing rooms, full-length mirrors, and showers for his students. The Conservatory’s “conservative” administration, found his having students dance barefoot and wear less restrictive clothing shocking and termed it "monkeyshines." Dalcroze reportedly responded, "Pure-minded people do not harbor impure thoughts, and that if anyone is incited to evil thoughts by the sight of a naked leg, it is not the leg that must be blamed but rather his own mind, so ready to offer hospitality to unwholesome mental associations." Dalcroze thus left the Conservatory and started his own school.
Dalcroze had been publicly demonstrating the basic elements of eurhythmics as early as 1903. As his development of the technique progressed, he often traveled to different locations and gave demonstrations. It was through these that Dalcroze had attracted the attention of German magnates Harald and Wolf Dohrn. The Dohrns wanted to establish a new community and offered Dalcroze an attractive contract to help develop a program in and teach at its school.
The new community was located near Dresden and was called Hellerau. The Jaques-Dalcroze Institute (Bildungsanstalt) rapidly acquired an international reputation. Here was produced a series of opera selections as part of “town festivals” arranged for the workers and to display the town to guests. These performances attracted the attention of (among others) Prince Sergei Wolkonsky, Superintendent of Russia’s Imperial theatres and Susan Canfield, a music teacher from the U.S.A. These two would later bring eurhythmics home to their own countries. Sadly, Hellerau was devastated in 1914, when in quick succession came the death of Wolf Dohrn, the departure of Dalcroze to Geneva, and the outbreak of World War I. Dalcroze signed a letter protesting the German bombardment of the Reims Cathedral, and was banished. Dalcroze and Harald Dohrn later attempted to restore the institution, but were unsuccessful.
Dalcroze’s subsequent endeavors remained mainly in Geneva. The l'Institut Jacques-Dalcroze]], Geneva was founded in 1915, and today still remains his legacy. Soon after, Dalcroze Eurythmics schools opened in London, throughout the British Empire, Paris, Berlin, Stockholm and New York. His teaching methods have since become integrated throughout western musical culture.
In his time Dalcroze composed more than 1,000 songs for Eurhythmic classes as well as solfège (ear training and sight singing) exercises. He was the 70th recipient of the bourgeois d’honneur of Geneva, an important Swiss civic award. The French government bestowed on Dalcroze the title of "Officer of Public Instruction" and the medal of the Legion of Honor. In 1947 the city of Geneva also awarded Dalcroze with a cash prize, for his outstanding work, and he received an honorary Ph.D. from the University of Clermont-Ferrand in France.
After a long life rich with exploration and effort Émile "Monsieur Jaques" Dalcroze died in Geneva early in the morning of July 1, 1950, a few days before his 85th birthday. He left behind a legacy that endures to this day, enriching the lives and education of students and teachers of his methods around the globe.
1. Encyclopedia.com • Jaques-Dalcroze, Émile Related: Education Biographies • eurythmics Related: Education
2. Excel-ability Learning • Dalcroze Method
3. Institute Jaques-Dalcroze Geneve' • Dalcroze Online Biography
4. Dalcroze Society of America • Dalcroze Online Biography