Gia van den Akker
Berpke van Oers
In this combination of teaching and performances she has found a ‘fruitful balance’ that suits her. In a very relaxed and open interview, Chantal talks about how all this came to be.
Love of movement
Chantal says: “I have always been a very active person. I loved sports and took great pleasure in dancing. I attended a Waldorf school until I was 18, and most of the time I very much enjoyed the eurhythmy classes there. Even then, I experienced a certain beauty in the gestures and movements of eurhythmy. I remember being told one time to move like a swan, and thinking it felt magnificent. After finishing Waldorf school, I took a year of formative classes for young people in Stuttgart, which included a lot of art, music, speech formation, drama, philosophy and anthroposophy – and eurhythmy. It was a very intense and indeed a formative year, not in the least because I was living on campus with a group of young people from different countries. Back in the Netherlands, I started working in a pottery and in a glassblower’s studio for a year. I absolutely loved it. To make ends meet, I also took up all kinds of temp jobs, in a restaurant kitchen and in home care, things like that. Meanwhile, I became increasingly aware of the extent to which the Stuttgart eurhythmy classes had made an impact on me, and the speech formation classes, too. In the end, my Waldorf school eurhythmy experiences proved a determining factor in my career choice and I decided to go into eurhythmy professionally. I looked for training options and ended up in Dornach, in Switzerland, which is more or less the ‘international anthroposophy capital’. It has a rich cultural life and in those days – as now – there were always eurhythmy performances being staged by visiting eurhythmy companies from all over the world. Anybody who works in performance eurhythmy will stay in Dornach at some point. Such an educational experience, such an inspiration! Some of the subjects I took during my studies were speech formation, music theory, tone eurhythmy and speech eurhythmy. I had a wonderful time in Dornach, much of which was spent practicing eurhythmy.’
The pure movements of preschool children
When Chantal was 24, she graduated from her eurhythmy studies and was offered a position as a dancer with the Goetheanum Eurhythmie-Bühne, a eurhythmy company. She accepted, thus adding three more years to her time in Dornach. When she returned to the Netherlands, she found a position as a replacement eurhythmy teacher with the Werkgroep Kunsten arts foundation. Shortly after, she started teaching eurhythmy at the Wageningen Waldorf School, followed by an additional position as a eurhythmy teacher at the Driebergen Waldorf School not long after that. Eventually, Chantal found she enjoyed working with preschool children most of all. She says: “Seeing a 4- or 5-year old mimicking the movements of eurhythmy for the first time holds such mystery! Some children do nothing but watch and listen at first. Then comes the moment they join in with a single tiny hand or foot – it’s so exciting! I feel a deep connection to fairy tales, which is another reason why I love working with this age group. They are still so pure and receptive to everything. I enjoy that immensely.’
Art and healing
‘Because teaching preschoolers comes easily to me, it leaves me enough strength and energy for another passion of mine: artistic eurhythmy. I work as a director with two amateur companies, Curach in Driebergen and Peronniek in Haarlem. Curach was founded ten years ago, the Peronniek company five years ago. Mostly, we focus on fairy tales and we perform regularly. Both companies have built up their own core audience over the years; on average 40 to 80 people come to see a performance. I think that’s wonderful.’
In addition to the performance preparation courses, I teach individual eurhythmy classes. I always offer a great variety of content. We work with classical music, but with something a bit more modern, too. Seeing the people in my classes learn and grow always moves me deeply. By working with the same individuals for longer periods of time, I can truly see the healing power of eurhythmy. Students whose movements may be a little wooden and jerky when they start, can become much more fluent and soft in their movements by the end of a eurhythmy lesson. And quieter, too.’
As a child, Chantal Heijdeman (46) wanted to become a chef, and dreamt of “cooking great food for people and giving them a good time.” But as she grew up, her professional choices took her in a very different direction: she became a eurhythmist. Instead of preparing tasty dishes for guests, she now ‘composes’ colourful eurhythmy performances with amateurs and teaches eurhythmy classes to preschool children.
An interview with Chantal Heijdeman
Her own movement
To create a clear platform for launching her artistic eurhythmy activities, Chantal set up the Uit Eigen Beweging (“A move(ment) of my own”) foundation some ten years ago. The foundation serves as the base from which she works on doing what she loves to do: staging eurhythmy performances with amateur eurhythmy groups. When asked about it, Chantal reflects on the foundation’s name: “My attitude in life is to try and listen to the direction and movement I feel inside. Also, I try to express this connection to my ‘inner drive’ in my eurhythmy choreographies. Hence the name.”
In order to advance her artistic development, Chantal recently took the Master’s degree course in Fine Arts at the Alanus Hochschule near Bonn. “I have just received my diploma!” she adds radiantly. “This course proved to be the perfect addition to my prior training in Dornach. There were nine separate modules, each with a clear theme. For example, one of the modules dealt with the development and performance of a eurhythmy solo. Similar modules dealt with working with a company, or with directing. Until now I mostly performed with a company. But my graduation project for this course was a solo performance with which I toured several Dutch theatres for the past few months.* It was an incredibly inspirational and educational experience for me, and one that is opening new doors. I would love to continue making and directing performances – I’d love to create a children’s musical some day. And I would like to pass on my experiences to my students.”
Education in holism
When asked whether students considering eurhythmy studies should have certain qualities or meet particular conditions, Chantal says: “I think the study of eurhythmy will suit people who have a strong desire to move and enjoy being active. People who just can’t sit still. Eurhythmy allows you to experience things through movement. Your entire human existence is addressed through your movements and sensations. Only at a later stage do you start thinking about things. It is exactly the order of that process, which is completely opposite to that of most other fields of study, that makes working with eurhythmy so profound to me. Eurhythmy can be quite confrontational too, for example when you find something inside you that refuses to move. You will feel how that affects both your movements and your soul. So, eurhythmy has the power to stir things up inside. And, as you work so closely with your fellow students, eurhythmy is a very social art, too. Your fellow students are very important because you create so much together. You get to know every fibre of each other’s being, which can be intense and hard sometimes. Eurhythmy hones your powers of perception, causing you to become more sensitive over time, which can be difficult. How to deal with that is another of the areas you focus on during your eurhythmy studies. During your studies you will learn much about music and language, such as poetry. Experiencing ‘in the flesh’ what kinds of music or poetry move you, or do not move you, helps to learn more about yourself at the same time. What appealed to me in both my eurhythmy studies was the underlying holistic human image, the concept that a human being is not just a physical body but additionally made up of an etheric body, an astral body and the spirit self, the ‘ego’. This human image has broadened my perspective and enriched my life.’
Text: Petra Essink
Photography: Hapé Smeele
As the masterpiece project of her Master’s degree course at Alanus Hochschule, Chantal created a solo eurhythmy performance entitled ‘Isthar, Eurhythmy in Diaologue’. The performance reflects encounters and inspirational work processes relating to two stories from the life of Ishtar, a goddess from Assyrian and Babylonian cultures. The texts used in the performance were translated from Cuneiform script. Information about Ishtar and other performances by Chantal Heijdeman can be found on: www.uiteigenbeweging.nl.