Liesl van der Merwe: Reflections on upcoming ICDS5


Anticipating the reunion with friends and colleagues fills me with great joy. I remember the collective effervescent experiences we shared in Coventry, Vienna, Quebec, Katowice, and now we have the unique opportunity to meet virtually. We have all experienced some loss during the pandemic. Therefore, ICDS5 will be a special event where we can meet virtually and share our common interests. The Dalcroze community is resilient and creative.

I look forward to learn from colleagues and find new ways to engage in Dalcroze workshops and engage in stimulating conversations. At ICDS5, we get the opportunity to celebrate Dalcroze in diverse cultures, communities and contexts!


I like joy for it is life. I preach joy, for it alone gives the power of creating useful and lasting work. 

(Jaques-Dalcroze, 1912/1920, p. 31)

In a world plagued by a pandemic, joyful experiences might be more important than ever before. Joy is a golden thread that runs through Jaques-Dalcroze’s work (Habron & Van der Merwe, 2017). An analysis of the notion of joy in Rhythm Music and Education (1921); The Eurhythmics of Jaques- Dalcroze (1920), and Eurhythmics, Art and Education (1930) gave rise to a number of ideas. Jaques- Dalcroze explains that moving rhythmically to music with others, feeling and expressing music corporally, and aesthetic experiences are all ingredients of joyful experiences in the Dalcroze class. He describes causal conditions for joyful experiences as energy and activity; free play; improvisation; individualistic interpretation; self-awareness; aiming at the same goal; plastique animée; balancing mind and body; sequential learning; and progress. Joyful experiences are possible when there is no fear of embarrassment and in the absence of self-criticism. Jaques-Dalcroze elucidates that joyful experiences make learners optimistic, curious and interested in learning. Furthermore, joy promotes courage, creativity, communication and gives learners bonds with and respect for each other. Once one has experienced such joy, one has the desire to impart it to others.

The dilemma we are faced with is that neither the conditions for creating joyful experiences in Dalcroze Eurhythmics sessions nor the consequences of these experiences for diverse cultures, communities and contexts, are clearly articulated in focused research studies. Therefore, the purpose of this meta-synthesis is to integrate the findings from qualitative Dalcroze studies to generate a theory encompassing the joyful experiences generated during Dalcroze Eurhythmics sessions. In this theory, I will highlight the causal conditions for creating joyful experiences and the transformational consequences of these experiences. Using a constant comparison analysis to synthesise the data, I selected 138 Dalcroze studies from diverse contexts, cultures and communities, and analysed them in ATLAS.ti 9.

For the discussion of the findings, and to move from the descriptive to the conceptual level of analysis, I will draw on theories from positive psychology (Csikszentmihalyi, 2013; Seligman, 2011; Wiking, 2019), education (Noddings, 2003) and micro-sociology (Collins, 2014). Preliminary findings indicate that joyful experiences during Dalcroze Eurhythmics sessions are the central phenomenon and catalyst in facilitating social interaction, building relationships, collective effervescence, conflict resolution, social cohesion, learning, wellbeing and transformation. Supporting these findings are my own stories of my joyful Dalcroze journey under the guidance of Dalcroze teachers Eva Nivbrant Wedin and Bethan Habron-James.

In this keynote address, I argue that joyful Dalcroze Eurhythmics experiences have the power to bring about much needed intrapersonal, interpersonal and social transformation in diverse cultures, communities and contexts.

The more joy we inherit, the more we are tempted to impart it among those to whom it has been denied

(Jaques-Dalcroze, 1915/1967, p. 100).

*This abstract comes from the complete lecture which will be given during the upcoming ICDS5.