By Haley Moore
Pacificaires certainly made their trip from British Columbia worth it as they swept Independent A Finals this afternoon. The Canadian group (Gold Medal – 97.465) presented a narrative show told from the point-of-view of a rocking chair. “A Chair for Mom” traces the story of the chair, beginning with his arrival in the home, following a young mother rocking her babies, and ending with those children, now grown, visiting home to rock in the chair again. The elegant guard in navy and ivory dresses with full skirts could have been the young mother or the adult children returned as they took turns rocking in the chair and using it for equipment stunts.
Black Gold A (Silver Medal – 95.445) was the only Texas guard in Independent A finals. They also snagged the coveted Fan Favorite award for their show “Bach in Black,” a new version of their 2004 show of the same name. With an elegant black and white floor and costuming, the group maintained a level of sophistication throughout the performance, even as traditional Bach pieces had a modern edge with some rock influences. This modernity continued to their props, large, ornate music stands with an edgy neon border, and the pops of color continued in their flags and weapons.
Blue, white, and silver abounded in “The Winds of Change” by Virginia’s JMU Nuance Winterguard (Bronze Medal – 95.410). The lovely swirled floor included a refined compass rose motif complete with three-dimensional weather vane that was not only a visual reminder of the winds of change for which their show was titled but also doubled as a prop dancers climbed and draped from in elegant, intricate poses. The show ended with the words, “Sometimes in the winds of change we find our true direction,” and Nuance certainly found their destiny with this classy show.
Charles Towne Independent (4th – 94.050) entered finals in 7th place, but an amazing run let them jump ahead three places. Juxtaposing a lyrical music with the rhythmic beat of a typewriter’s key strokes and carriage returns, “My Type” turned the floor into a large typewriter, and adorable benches completed the picture with round “keys” mimicking typewriter letters and symbols. Guard members in monochrome bodysuits enacted their part as the type hammers with mechanical precision.
Mythical creatures took the floor in “The Last Unicorn” by Georgia State University Winterguard (5th – 94.035). A gray floor with rainbow border and a unicorn silhouette set the stage for members, clad completely in white, to prance, pose, and paw in a most equine manner throughout the show. In what became a hallmark of the performance, members would bend their arm upwards and place the heel of their hand on the forehead, thus creating their own unicorn silhouettes with the elbow as the nose and hand as the horn. The quality of movement was excellent as members kept character throughout their performance.
Ohio’s Artistry IN BLUE (6th – 93.625) had us traveling the globe. Their floor sported an antique globe split into hemispheres, and the ladies’ blue dresses with floppy-brimmed traveling hats (gentlemen in trousers with suspenders) complete with suitcases and traveling trunks were definitely ready for a trip around the world. However, the point of “The World Is Round” was that as you travel in a circle, sometimes what appears to be an ending is also a beginning. Hence what could have been a sad good-bye instead became a story of hope in the hands of Artistry IN BLUE.
“A Candy Overture” by Smithfield-Selma Independent (7th – 93.320) was certainly sweet. The floor looked like bins of candy, cotton candy and lollipops were utilized as props, and the guard members themselves could have been part of Willy Wonka’s crew (in the original, colorful version, that is). Their neon uniforms and flags continued the theme, making the entire show a veritable Candyland. A pulsing soundtrack completed the fun, colorful performance.
In “A Better Place,” 3rd Legend (8th – 90.170) presented a show about moving on after a loss while still remembering. Their black floor highlighted one small wooden patch holding an armchair, lamp, and table. A vase and picture frame sat on the table. Performers started in gray skirts with black cardigans, but as they gained distance as perspective, they discarded the black to reveal pink shirts beneath, which matched the pink roses being added to the vase and pink petals strewn across the floor as symbols of remembrance.
Based in Nashville, TN, Eklipse (9th – 88.660) told the story of the 2010 flood that decimated that city’s downtown in their show “Music City Rising.” The floor perfectly captured Nashville’s skyline, and voiceovers of Nashville’s news anchors explained how the city banded together to rebuild flooded areas without national help or attention. In a beautiful ending, guard members lied down on the floor along the river’s edge creating a barricade to keep the water out of the downtown area, a visual reminder of the community members who worked together to restore Nashville’s legacy.
A tree is used to describe different types of people in “Leaves, Branches, Roots.” California group i-Squared (10th – 88.360) used a tree, shown in three horizontal panels on their floor, to explain how some people are attention-seeking like leaves, others are connectors like branches, but the strongest are deep, nourishing, and supportive like roots. Uniforms continued the tree theme with branches twisting across their bodysuits. The guard ended in a build reminiscent of a tree’s root system, showing how strong and connected this guard is.
We all hate to get bad news, and that’s the point of “Impossible Times,” performed by Tampa Independent (11th – 87.805). The floor was collage of faded newspapers, and newspapers continued on the guard’s uniforms and flags. Actual newspapers were used as props and confetti at different points throughout the show as songs like “Impossible Year” and “Sign of the Times” underscored how negative most news items have become. Tampa Independent didn’t end on a downer, though. Their final line—“We are the change!”—focused the audience on hope for the future.
Anesidora (12th – 87.390) entered finals in 14th place but moved up two places after a riveting performance. The opening was very unassuming. Guard members in dark gray leggings with lighter gray tops huddled around a small, white box on a solid black floor. Once the box was opened, however, we saw it contained blue shirts, which eventually each performer donned. “In This Shirt” felt like the story of an old relationship—one where all mementos have been carefully packed away and forgotten until they ran across the box in a closet. As the memories flooded and emotions overcame, the passion emanated through the flag and weapon work the members completed. Eventually, all shed their blue shirts, perhaps hinting that they no longer needed the security of an old shirt and could move forward.
“Big White Room” had the refrain, “I’m going crazy in this big white room,” and National Avenue (13th – 87.000) portrayed this feeling of being trapped within four walls by using their bodies to create rectangular frames symbolizing the four walls of a room. The Missouri-based guard embodied the loneliness and separation of the song not only with their staging on the floor but also with their gray costuming and solid colored silks. The haunting performance perfectly fit the soundtrack.
Reverie A (14th – 85.940) personified the song “Little Girl Blue” in their lyrical show “Blue.” Their white floor created a canvas for the performers in blue tunics, and a solo dancer in a long, turquoise split dress added another layer to the performance. The work often rippled as it followed the ebb and flow of the music. The guard ended their show by laying indigo silks in the shape of a heart.
From Chicago, IL, SSJC—South Shore Jr. Cadets (15th – 85.075) used the story of a playground basketball game to speak to the larger issue of violence that steals the lives of our nation’s youth in their show “The Untold Story.” The floor resembled a playground basketball court surrounded by chain link fence props, and members used basketballs, even score a two-pointer. One member wore a maroon hoodie, definitely invoking images of Trayvon Martin. When in the narrative of the show a member died, sirens screamed on the soundtrack, and members hit a cross formation in a moment of heart-stopping reality. SSJC’s finals performance earned the first standing ovation of the day and rightfully so.
Florida State Winter Guard (16th – 84.280) chronicled the pitfalls of being trapped in a dead-end relationship in “Foolish Games.” The soundtrack utilized the song of the same name and incorporated the “Downton Abbey” theme and voiceovers. The blue and white floor reflected the lyrics with its female silhouette and raindrops resembling nooses, perhaps intentional to invoke how playing games can choke a relationship. A bench and light post prop also added ambience as “you stood in the rain, / you’re always crazy like that.”
The first half of “Cult: Deprogrammed” portrayed the brainwashing nature of sects while the second half highlighted one member’s successful break from the cult as she eventually brought all of the other members with her. Ovation (17th – 83.825) masterfully used costuming to help convey this break as performers began in hooded tunics on black benches on a black floor with black flags and shed the tunics for sequin bodysuits and pastel flags. A clean performance allowed the Michigan group, which entered finals in 18th place, to move up a spot.
Malachi Independent A (18th – 83.730) presented “Dissolution.” Three black gates symbolized the barriers that keep people separated in relationships. The vines and bars of the gates were mirrored on the floor, and performers had cowls covering the lower half of their face for the first half of the show, yet another barrier causing separation. Luckily, throughout the performance, the cowls came down, and the gates were repeatedly opened and walked through. This dissolution of the barriers helped the guard come together in a solid performance.
An iconic movement section on risers opened the show for Pegasus A (19th – 83.595). The risers continued to be integrated props throughout the performance of their show “On the Edge,” allowing multiple levels and stunts through their creative uses. The ombre floor darkened from white in the center to blue and black at the edges which allowed bold flags to stand out in contrast. The Florida-based group’s final trust fall at the end certainly had the audience on the edge, too, but of their seats.
Carolina Visual Productions (20th – 80.795) began their show with black bowler hats belying their upbeat show title: “Smile.” The floor, too, hinted at a happier theme with its calming pastel clouds. Eventually, the iridescent flags and white umbrellas gave way to a yellow umbrella and yellow bowler, exemplifying how happiness permeates and bringing smiles to the faces of the guard members and audience alike.
About the Author: Haley Moore is an educator, supporter of the arts, and former WGI member.