This class, recorded live at the 2020 DSA National Conference in Miami, FL, was led by Cynthia Lilley, Dalcroze License.

The full lesson on how the Theme and Variations form can be especially useful in the Dalcroze classroom. Haydn’s “Surprise” Symphony, Copland’s “Appalachian Spring,” and Stravinsky’s Suite from “Pulcinella” illustrate the possibilities.

Variation on a theme is a concept central to the Dalcroze approach. The “tempo and dynamics follow” is in essence a theme (the rhythmic pattern) and variations (which evolve from the teacher’s improvisations on the theme enabling students to physically experience these variations in movement). In Dalcroze Solfège, students vary themes in myriad ways, such as improvising interlocking tri-chord scales and singing themes in different modes and meters; the Do-to-do scale exercises are a kind of theme and variation on the C scale. Dalcroze Improvisation often involves variation of a theme or a children’s song. When class members present their individual harmonization of a children’s song, they are, in effect creating variations on a theme.

Cynthia Lilley
Excerpt: “Lord of the Dance” Anacrusis with Cynthia Lilley

This video is also part of an upcoming DALCROZE LAB session, in which Cynthia will lead a discussion on this lesson. That’s coming up this weekend—register today! (Or if you missed it, you can still register to view the recorded discussion.)

The entire class can be viewed in the DSA Video Library.

You can go deeper with our lesson Study Guide, which outlines the session and includes Cynthia’s own melody transcriptions.


Members of the Dalcroze Society of America can watch this video and dozens more in the Video Library. Not a member? Join instantly online.

About Alex Marthaler

Alex Marthaler is a composer, pianist, and educator in Pittsburgh, PA. He is a pianist for modern dance and ballet classes at Point Park University and Carnegie Mellon University. Alex also teaches children's musical storytelling and improvisation classes.