Two Reviews of the Work of Jack Stevenson
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Exuberant and infectious dynamism. Excellent contact with the students.
A well-structured lesson that developed progressively. Fascinating musical improvisation. And there you have it, the essential ingredients of a lesson in eurythmics by Jack Stevenson.
His warm, vibrant personality adds yet another dimension to his teaching.
Although Jack Stevenson has made his lessons his own, the experience enabled me to reacquaint myself with the basics of true Dalcrozian eurythmics, namely that music and bodily expression are intimately linked. This is the fundamental principal on which the Jaques-Dalcroze method is based.
I am pleased to say that the torch is in safe hands, and that his legacy is ensured by competent successors who will carry on the work of the founder of eurythmics by bringing to the fore their own knowledge and personalities, yet ensuring they remain faithful to the original idea.
This is what Marie-Laure Bachmann, former director of the Institut Jaques-Dalcroze, Geneva, Switzerland.
Visit by John Stevenson to Geneva
by M.L. Bachmann
At the end of November 1981, the Geneva Institute had the pleasure of welcoming professor John Stevenson, and some of his students, for one week. Let us remember that J. Stevenson, graduate in the Jaques-Dalcroze method (1975), is the head of professional eurythmics teaching at Ithaca College, USA. He also teaches eurthymics to music students at the same college. The students, who accompanied him to Europe and who, with him, form Ithaca's l'Ensemble Jaques-Dalcroze fall into this latter category (instrumentalists and vocalists).
This American group's journey to Geneva gave us a dual opportunity to get to know and experience the work of this professor. Firstly, J. Stevenson gave several eurythmics lessons to students at the Institute. The participants loved these lessons, which were eminently Dalcrozian in spirit and in nature.
Special mention should be made of the lesson given to students in the fourth year of their professional studies on the well-known yet difficult subject of syncopation. Starting from the sensation—and then the sequencing—of the natural rhythmic movements using power and resistance (exercises in pairs, chaînes anglaises, feet and hand exercises, etc., during which participants experience the relationship between a fluid tempo that is conducive to movement, and a rhythm that momentarily opposes and resists this flow), J. Stevenson, with his lively yet precise improvisation on the piano, progressively introduced the students to syncopated passages, for them to appreciate aurally. Then, in their pairs, the students translated fragments of syncopated musical works into movement as duets (notably Invention No. 6 in E major by J.S. Bach).
Secondly, after having explained and demonstrated his working methods during a private session, J. Stevenson presented the results of his long-term work to a wider public, by way of a plastique animée performance (a delightful term borrowed from original Dalcrozian vocabulary). This time, his own students, each with heightened musical talents, produced three-dimensional translations, or rather incarnations, of musical works by composers as diverse as Prokofiev Sarcasmes, Four Songs by Ned Rorem, Franck Choral en la mineur, Schumann Scenes from Childhood, and Debussy Sonata for cello and piano. Whilst this last piece of work produced a remarkable plastique performance, all of the pieces presented enabled the students to give incredibly precise performances that accurately represented the musical score within the confines of the stage. The audience was able to enjoy watching the music come to life before their very eyes, a near perfect representation of how they heard it on the piano or in song.
The members of Ithaca's l'Ensemble Jaques-Dalcroze are not dancers, and they are certainly not professional eurythmists — they are musicians who, by way of translating the music with their bodies, have found a way to gain a deeper understanding of the music, and therefore share it with others. This was Jaques-Dalcroze's sole aim in inviting his students to harmonize bodily movement with music, and it is thanks to John Stevenson and his coworkers that we have been able to re-immerse ourselves in Jaques¬Dalcroze's system, despite the geographical distances involved!
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