Technique & Tryout Tips
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Springtime means audition time for colorguards all over the country, and whether you're trying out for the first time or you're an audition pro, here are a few tips that will make you the perfect candidate!
All-Around Good Ideas
- Have "presence!" Keep your shoulders down and your head up. Your chin should be at about at 45 degree angle, and your eyes should be on that same plane. Have a pleasant look of confidence on your face! Looking confident makes you look like you know what you're doing!
- If the Director tells you to smile, then smile! Practice smiling throughout the entire routine -- your smile shouldn't droop or become a look of pain! Only if you practice looking genuine will you perform that way.
- Make sure that your hair is away from your face and that there is no chance of it coming loose and falling into your eyes.
- If you wear make-up, keep it low-key. A little color on your cheeks and lips is much better than showing up Tammy Faye style! Natural beauty is what's important!
- If you are to audition in a small group, get together with your group members and try to coordinate your audition day outfits. If your school colors are blue and white, try blue shorts and a white T-shirt.
- Beware of wearing a very loose, baggy T-shirt -- the rubber crutch tip / stopper could get caught in it, keeping you seconds behind in the routine. Wear a T-shirt that fits pretty well.
- Get a good night's sleep the night before. If you're too nervous to fall asleep, try taking a warm bath to relax you just before bedtime. Try slowing your breathing down or counting backwards from 10. If you still have trouble, count sheep!
- Eat something for breakfast the morning of auditions -- a bagel, some cereal, a banana, a glass of milk. Your body needs that energy to run on all day.
The Audition Clinic
Most auditions take place in the span of three or four days. Here are some tips and tricks that should make it as easy as possible to make the Clinic a breeze!
- As soon as you are able, bring a cassette and ask if you can tape the routine music. Then you can practice at home.
- And you should practice at home! See if your friends would like to practice after school. Practicing with a small group is always a good idea; if you forget some counts or an arm placement, you'll have someone there to ask. Spend at least an hour every day with your flag practicing!
- Keep your mind relaxed! If you don't get a piece of choreography right away, your first inclination might be to panic, which will keep you from learning the next few counts, which will put you behind. If you find yourself getting confused, ASK FOR HELP! There will probably be seniors there to help! If not, ask the director. No one will think you are stupid or slow; I guarantee you there are other people in the room who are confused too!
- If you have to reaudition for a spot on your guard, don't fall back on the assumption that all returning members will automatically make it. If there is someone auditioning who has real talent and ability, and you've been slacking off, you might find yourself replaced.
- Once auditions begin, keep away from anyone who repeats over and over again how nervous she is. She'll just end up making you nervous too. Besides, you need to focus on you during auditions, not anyone else!
- Visualize yourself doing the routine in front of the judges. See yourself performing flawlessly from start to finish. See yourself having terrific presence and making all your angles pop!
Basic Flag Moves
Here are the basic flag fundamentals that every color guard member knows (or should know). You always eat soup with a spoon, you put your jeans on one leg at a time. So it is with flag positions. Many guards across the nation have their own style, their own way of falling in at attention, but for the most part, there are fundamentals that we all share.
- Right Shoulder
- Your left hand is curled around the stopper, firmly in your belly button. All the fingers are together, not splayed apart. Your right hand is just above your head on the tab/tape/Velcro, and the fingers of this hand are the same way. Your flag is pretty close to your body, maybe three or so inches from your nose, which is at a 45-degree angle up along with your eyes.
Practice popping these presents! You'll know you're doing it right when your silk "pops" or "snaps" when you do it! Be sure to have presence, and watch your arms for proper placement! Get these basics down pat and you'll have a strong base on which to build!
- Front Present
- Keeping your left hand in your belly button, your right hand pushes straight out, locking your arm as you do so. Your right fist should be right in front of your face, but your head is still up at that 45-degree angle, which, by the way, is called your "presence."
- Back Present Keeping your right hand at the tab just above your head, pop your left hand straight out from your body. Your left arm should be parallel with the ground; your left fingers still curled around the stopper.
- Right Present
- Your left hand stays in your belly button, and your right arm pops out to the right, making your biceps and forearm form almost half a square.
- Left Present
- Keep your left hand on the stopper and in your belly button. Your right hand crosses your face and body as far as it will go to the left. Press your shoulder down so your face is still visible! Make sure your presence is visible!
- You'll know you are doing this correctly if your pole is right at your eye level. Pop out your left hand, and pull down with your left. Your biceps should be parallel with the ground, your forearms perpendicular with the flag cutting right across your eyes. Make sure your wrists are straight up and not pulling down, or "broken."
- Right Slam
- Pop out your left hand and pull all the way down with your right. Your left biceps should look just as they did with the horizontal. Your right elbow should be tucked into your waist, with your forearm parallel to the ground in front of you. Your right hand is still at the tab. Your left hand is facing front, holding the stopper. The pole should cut a diagonal line across your body.
- Left Slam
- Let go with your left hand as you bring your right hand at the tab down to meet one another at your left hip. Your left hand should form a "mitt" in which your right hand should fall. The end of the pole will get tucked up under your right arm, and the silk will be toward the ground.
Flag Technique Tips
Some thing the judges will be looking for when you audition is good technique. Here are some basic things to do or to correct before the big day.
- When you're at Right Shoulder, make sure the bottom stopper is in your belly button, and your left hand is curled around it. Keep your fingers together, not splayed apart. Your right hand should be at the tab/tape/velcro, and your fingers should be together, not splayed apart.
- Really pop your angles; you'll know your flag "pops" because the silk will make a "snap" when you've done this correctly.
- Keep your arm muscles taught, as if anyone tried to pull the flag out of your hands, they couldn't. This will also help you "pop" those angles.
- If you find your silk is wrapping all the way around your pole when you are doing drop spins, you may be spinning with your fists closed around the pole. Try keeping your thumbs along the pole, like a hitchhiker's (or the Fonz!). This will keep your pole from twisting in your grip as you spin.
- If the routine includes a toss, watch where your left hand is going while your right is busy with the release. Unless the choreography calls for something different, your left hand should be against your left side during a toss.
- Your flag should never get caught up on your pole during flagwork. To prevent this from happening, keep your flag moving; don't allow the silk to settle on top of the pole.
- Should your silk get wrapped up on your pole, don't shake your pole violently! This draws the judges' eyes right to you! Instead, try very gently twisting the pole in your hands; gravity will slide the silk right off of your pole!
Going out for Captain?
- You'll probably need one year of experience on that particular guard in order to qualify. Not only that, but your grades will have to be above average. If your GPA is less than stellar, find other ways in which you'd make a great candidate. Are you an officer of any other clubs or activities? Have you done any volunteer work or assisted any charitable causes?
- You may have to choreograph a short routine on order to be an officer. If you're really good at tosses, throw one in there! To use up some time, try 8 full counts of drop or double-fast spins. Windmills, butterflies and coffeestirrers are all easy, you say? Not if you cut one in half and finish with another, right into a toss from a right slam! Thirty or forty seconds is quite a lot of choreography and you'll have plenty of time to cover all the basic bases!
- On to that interview! This is probably the scariest part of the process, where the judges or the Sponsor will ask you a question and you'll have to answer it intelligently and to the best of your ability. A good tip: after the question is asked, take a few seconds to think it over. This is okay, and sometimes wins points in your favor, since it shows you think things through and don't rush into anything.
- Common interview questions are, "Why would you make a good captain?" or "What do you have that the other 8 don't?" Before your interview, list all the good qualities you can think of about yourself, like you are honest, and fair. Try to mention one of the good things you did for the guard in previous years, like came up with the idea for last spring's fundraiser, or you were left in charge one week while the officers were away at leadership camp. Anything that is positive and would set you apart from the other candidates is good!
- There are also tricky interview questions, ones that don't have immediate solutions but demand you to have excellent answers. "One of the other guard members has been spreading totally false rumors about another guard member. It's causing some members to take sides against one another. What do you do to squelch the gossip and restore guard unity?" Yikes! This is a two-partner: stopping the rumor and then team building. First, does your guard have a constitution that may help you answer this? As captain, it will be your job to know that document front to back. Try a sleepover or a pottery playhouse or a movie to get everyone smiling at one another again.
- You may have to write an essay as part of your captain application. You might get a topic, such as "What ideas do you have for next year?" Or you might have to make on up for yourself. But get this one thing clear: spelling and grammar always count. Your should type your essay on computer if possible, neatly handwritten if not. Use black or dark blue ink on white paper. Answer the question as thoroughly as possible, stating your good qualities and your leadership experience.
- One thing the Director/Sponsor is looking for in a captain is someone who has followed directions all season long unfailingly. Someone who has complained a lot or had not been an example to follow will probably not get the bid for captain. There's no reason to be a brown-noser, but being generally friendly and fun to be around is always a good idea.
- If for some reason, you don't get the bid for captain, try and be a good sport. No matter how hurt or "gypped" you may be feeling, show everyone what class you have by remaining cool and positive until you are alone, where you can yell, scream, cry to your heart's content. Don't feel that it was something you did personally, or that the Sponsor "hates you." That is rarely the case. As in everything in life, there was one applicant who had more experience than you did. That doesn't make you a terrible person, nor does it mean you have no talent. Volunteer to be the guard historian or secretary.
Above tips courtesy of Shanon Pollock, writer of DanceSpirit's InMotion colorguard articles, DanceCheer.NET's SpiritU instructor, and former Colorguard Director at Tuscaloosa County High School (Tuscaloosa, AL).
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