By Adam Adkins
Early dynamic movement across the twirling line on the tarp grabs the eye, as the George Mason University Winterguard (Gold – 99.000) performers move softly throughout the floor. The staging of their show “The Journey Back” makes solid use of it, at times with performers leaping and dancing all around, often with equipment phrases intertwined to full effect. The performers move with incredible grace and precision, flowing in and out of phrases like wind gently blowing. The flag sequences, which begin with unique partner exchanges, at times occupy a third of the floor while rifle work fills the rest. The precision of each movement, each segment, is unmistakable. The climax of the show is stunning.
Reach! Reach up, higher than before! Shapes of all sizes — tall shapes, flat shapes, robust shapes — provide a great canvas for the Paramount Open Winterguard (Silver – 97.450) performers to work with, bending and dancing their way around the floor in their show “Such Great Heights”. The orchestral tones on the soundtrack mix cohesively with the elegant yet deliberate staging, always moving, always giving the eye more and more to see. The green gradient costumes pair so well on the bits of blue and white in the corners and edges of the tarp, even more so as the equipment sequences build into a crescendo as the props combine at the end into one, completed structure. What a brilliant scene that creates, oh so powerful as it stands tall. As they build and reach, we find ourselves following their example.
What if an ending could be more? In Sensation Performance Ensemble’s (Gold – 95.600) show titled “Every Ending is a New Beginning” it makes us ponder that and more atop a striking white, tan and brown tarp marked with various shapes, providing the performers excellent lines to work with. The costumes — broken down into red, white, gray and brown segments — make the intricate movement all the more grabbing, in particular a flag sequence in the middle of the show. Red bands, pulled from each corner of the floor to the middle, shows just how the ties can bind, and clear sheets of plastic, at once covering the performers but later burst high into the air, show us that what was once a burden can later be a symbol of freedom.
FIU Winterguard’s (4th – 94.850) show “The Witching Hour” makes early and impactful use of its prop, a tall tree log atop a small platform. Performers dot around the floor with long planks of wood, using the angles to create unique sights and set pieces. The movement never stops, creating an addictive tension in the audience. The equipment work is dashing and impactful, amplified by the constantly evolving staging brought on by the props. Clad in gray costumes on a mostly dark-toned mat, the show creates several big moments, all built around the ominous center. The soundtrack and the unique way the performers move – they move with grace and yet also with a sense of menace — create a memorable visual experience that ends with a crowd-pleasing flourish. We are bewitched!
“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.” With these lines of scripture laced throughout the corners of their striking black, blue and white tarp, ORIGINS (5th – 94.750) opens with gorgeous staging that showcases the entire floor. The tension, the terror of the moment and yet the quiet resolve of faith can so clearly be felt in their show “Though I Walk…”. Strong flag sequences — some carrying pink-black silks with more scriptures on them — and the dramatic soundtrack grab the heart and mind of the audience. One notices immediately how effortlessly the space is used to deliver tense moments, including an extended and sophisticated rifle sequence.
The tinge of winter was felt in the captivating silks and moving tree-like designs on the black costumes on Allegiance’s (6th – 92.45) performers in their show “Frost”. The tarp, described as an “abstract snowflake,” provides a striking backdrop for the elegant staging while the performers move with such precision throughout the floor. Beautiful equipment work intertwined with gentle dance segments give the show a resonance and quite a powerful ending, with each performer laid intricately along the snowflake.
Excellent early staging in their show provides Vox Artium (7th – 91.85) with a great platform for an early, partnered dance sequence that sets the tone for the whole performance. The black and maroon costumes provide clean lines over the dark-red and black mat that peaks on the far end with a rose bud, overcome just a bit by cream. The elegant equipment work — spread from corner to corner — delivers an emotional crescendo to the heart-provoking “Will You,” as the song asks us over and over again, “will you still love me … tomorrow?” … culminating in the rose pedals tossed high into the air.
With their performers sparkling in dark green costumes and orange sashes, Legacy presented by Carolina Gold’s (8th – 90.55) show is immediately a visual treat. Once the show opens — with a gentle song and such tender movements — the emotion of it all grabs hold of the audience. “Bound to You” grapples with the push-pull, give and take of human relationships and uses constantly flowing lines to illustrate the struggle and grace of it all. Nothing is simple, not a single step wasted. The closing flag sequence, buoyed by the impact of the soundtrack, is nothing short of stunning.
A starry night. The moon, flashing across the vista. Wings, flapping everywhere the eye can see. Black Gold Open’s (9th – 88.40) show “Night Flight” has no lack of movement or applause-earning sequences, making use of its gorgeous tarp with unique staging. Who else wants to fly through the sky? As the show develops, a sense of elegance takes hold, a reminder of just how stunning the night can truly be, a message driven home by such a strong, memorable performance. Take us with you high into the air, let us feel that free too.
Graceful movement and soft tones highlight the early sequences in Alta Marea Winterguard’s (10th – 88.15) show. Using a small sphere near the heart of the black, blue and white tarp, “The Good Stuff” makes great use of creative partner work toward the middle of the show to keep the eye focused. Often sequenced in memorable lines the performers in their blue costumes help us to, as the voice over says, “live life in a redeeming way” and that “the foundation of a very being is the good stuff.” A truly heart-moving flag sequence across the entire floor uplifts the audience, spreading joy as wide as the smiles on the performers’ faces.
Every breath has a tempo all its own. Working off a tarp with a tree adorned with lungs, Georgia State University Winterguard’s (11th – 87.20) show begins with a sophisticated, elegant dancing sequence that uses its space to ample effect. Clad in nude to dark brown tones, the performers in “A Breath of Fresh Air” use the tremendous staging to set up beautiful flag work and an extended rifle sequence to close the show, first in partners and then solo, all throughout the floor in concentric circles. The pacing builds from a gentle, slow breath at the beginning to a rolling boil at the end, leading to a climatic – and yet, elegant — finale.
Is one generation, one age group, better or worse than another? Is it better to be millennial or a baby boomer? Sitting in the diamond shapes aligned throughout their gradient tarp, Eklipse’s (12th – 86.60) show opens with elegant movement across the floor, using the space to develop excellent lines throughout the floor for dance segments. Dealing with the joy and challenge of one’s generation — in this case, millennials — “Only” reveals moving flag and equipment sequences. The beautiful staging allows the performers, clad in costumes from the era they were born, ample room to deliver the impactful message. In the end, no one age is perfect, but they all got soul.
With striking silver and black costumes atop an eye-catching black/silver tarp with a flowing coat zipper and a zipper pull for a prop, James Madison University Nuance Open’s (13th – 86.15) show begins with an almost foreboding orchestral piece and immediate weapon work. Appropriate given such an important topic in today’s society. Given the lack of symmetry on their mat, “Consent” is able to make use of the angles to add a unique feel to the movement of the performers across the floor. The purple silks give the eye quite a contrast as the music changes and the message hits home, a powerful performance.
Clad in violet costumes over a tarp with the eye-grabbing image of a camera lens — and an actual upright film camera in every corner — Phoenix Independent (14th – 85.70) opens the show within that large lens, dancing and ultimately throwing challenging tosses that drew large applause. The performers move carefully and deliberately, ever aware of those watching. Wrestling with the pressure and burden of fame, “Exposed” delivers an extended flag sequence — the silks adorned with that same lens — that seems to ask the question: in today’s world, who can hide from the spotlight?
Working over a beautiful red and black tarp made all the more eye-catching by their gray costumes (with red sashes tied to the upper arms), the opening movement of Tampa Independent’s (15th – 83.70) show “This Is My Protest” grabs the heart and mind. Each member of the team proceeds from the far edge of the mat and marches forward, an arm raised in the air. With tense movements and presentation, marked by chants of “this is my protest” throughout, the staging uses the entire floor, only adding to the overall theme. This message had to be shared.
George Mason University Winterguard
Alta Marea Winterguard
About the Author: Adam Adkins is a freelance writer and editor, web developer and social media specialist located in Dayton, OH. You can read his sports writing at www.AdkinsonSports.com or follow him on Twitter @RealAdamAdkins.