Cardboard or Clay?

Which one are you?

Cardboard performers are just that: cardboard. They understand what is expected of them and are able to deliver this expectation from both a technical and content perspective. Seems like an OK thing, right?

The challenge is that they perform within a “box” (sorry, I couldn’t help the pun). They are limited by their inability to reach outside the parameters of their self-imposed containers to truly elevate the choreography beyond the count structure. Not only that, but the very notion of inserting their own selves into a show feels uncomfortable and awkward for them.

In some circumstances, a cardboard color guard might possibly experience success in the competitive environment. However, I believe this type of performer to be “safe,” and true artistry rarely resides with safety.

In contrast, clay performers allow themselves to be fully open and available to all aspects in the process of performance. These individuals are molded, formed, fired, glazed and fired again. A designer’s and an audience’s dream come true?

Unfortunately, the medium of clay doesn’t have the ability to convey emotion, experience or believability as it sits in its space. Thus, color guard clay must be “sentient.” The word sentient means, “characterized by sensation and consciousness.”

Performers who are sentient clay step onto a gym floor with the knowledge and expectations of the show securely within, yet they also bring along their own history—where they come from, their family, friends, successes and failures. They intermingle their assigned characters with their own sense of selves to create unique and superior performances. Performers like this are fearless in their own humanity. There is a sensitivity and generosity exuding from within them as they spin and dance. They are real, and the audience and judges alike can sense and see it.

While cardboard may be a safe choice, true artistry can only exist in sentient clay.

About the Author

Chris Casteel has been involved in the color guard activity for more than 20 years. She is currently an adjudicator for Drum Corps International, Southern California School Band and Orchestra Association and the Winter Guard Association of Southern California (WGASC); she travels to many other circuits throughout the United States as a guest adjudicator. For the past several years, she has held the position of education coordinator for the WGASC. She has a master’s degree in education and currently teaches middle school language arts.

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