Limber, coordinated, expressive, flexible bodies busily learning and experiencing the possibilities of rhythm and space in a free, yet organized fashion. Rhythms is the place where everything happens!-Joan Zuckerman Morgan, City and Country School Rhythms Teacher, 1968–2001
Rhythms is a unique movement program developed at City and County in the 1920s by Ruth Doing. In Rhythms class, the children run, leap, and skip to live piano accompaniment, portraying through motion the new worlds they are exploring.
Children are guided by the Rhythms Teacher and carefully chosen music—the “glue” that fuses the challenge of physical prowess with creative impulse. The children move with spontaneity and freedom, with fantastic invention and skill. The program develops movement and coordination skills and enhances harmony of mind, body, and spirit. Children come to better understand themselves and their own environment. To quote Ms. Doing, “every child has their own inner rhythm.”
Today, more than 100 years later, Rhythms continues to be an integral part of our school’s curriculum when children ages 3 through 13 enter a spacious, empty room, to explore the building blocks of movement, dramatic play, skills with materials, and group dynamics.
In addition to gross motor activities, rhythmic awareness, and relaxation techniques, Rhythms opens the door to responsive, reflective interaction with materials, such as balls, hoops, ropes, scarves, and balloons, while dramatic themes emerge naturally from the core curriculum of each classroom. Here, “learning by doing” takes on new meaning as each child learns to “express through action” by engaging the senses, the reflexes, and critical thinking.
For example, children in the Lower School often fill the Rhythms Room with flora, fauna, things-person-made, or any other burgeoning topic that arises from group study or upon return from a class trip. Middle and Upper School Rhythms becomes the central place where students work out their research — historical events and scientific phenomena — as open-ended material to be shaped by their dramatic aptitude. Scenes for the Group Play are developed through movement improvisations, making creative decisions alongside their teacher, who is trained to channel this process. During Rhythms, students become playmakers, scene painters, costume designers, musicians, dancers, authors, and actors as they internalize their learning by embodying and projecting the people they study.
Read an issue of Currents on Rhythms and learn more about our unique program that focuses on developing strength, flexibility, non-verbal communication, dramatics, and a well-rounded sense of self and spirit.
Rhythms Then and Now
Produced by Jennifer Marck Moran