(Originally posted November, 2005.)
Here’s an interesting exercise from Jaques-Dalcroze’s Rhythmic Movement, Vol. II (Novello, 1921), with a complex floor pattern. It requires a lot of preparatory work in executing and remembering the rhythms, and carefully measured use of space. I confess I haven’t tried this, but I’ve deciphered it below.
The letters in the diagrams indicate spatial starting points for the rhythmic phrases notated above.
The people in lines 1 and 3 begin with the top rhythm of phrase “A,” traveling in a half circle or oval. Meanwhile, the people in line 2 begin with the lower rhythm of phrase “A,” centered between lines 1 and 3.
Lines 1 and 3 turn around to perform the top rhythm of phrase “B,” essentially returning along the same path. Those in line 2 don’t turn when the others do, but continue on to complete the circle or oval, performing the lower rhythm of phrase “B.”
The three lines meet up again to begin phrase “C,” with line 2 facing toward a counter-clockwise path, and lines 1 and 3 facing their clockwise path. They pass each other, as lines 1 and 3 perform the top rhythm of “C” as if to begin another half circle, and line 2 performs the lower rhythm of “C” in the opposite direction.
Lines 1 and 3 turn around again to step the top rhythm of “D,” traveling with as much space as possible, in a nearly complete circle that catches them up to the people in line 2. Meanwhile, line 2 continues in their same counter-clockwise direction, performing the lower rhythm of “D” to complete another half circle or oval.
Note that there’s a great deal of difference in the amount of space the lines need to travel in the fourth phrase. It looks as though all groups should conserve space in the third phrase so they don’t get too far apart, and then in the fourth phrase, line 2 should continue to travel with as little space as possible while lines 1 and 3 will need to cover a lot of ground in order to catch up. Looking at the respective rhythms they’re stepping, this looks like a real challenge! (One way to conserve space, for example in line 2’s last “D” pattern, is to take some of the steps backwards, sideways, or turning.)