“Even the Ears Must Dance”

I have always loved this quote, “Even the ears must dance,” by Natalia Makarova. Although it was said about ballet, it applies to color guard performers as well. It speaks to an understanding of musicality in choreography that goes beyond a mere count structure and involves far more than equipment/movement efforts. It is what every performer should strive toward.

Everyone has a different way of thinking about the concept of musicality; however, in an effort to define it specific to the activity of color guard, here are a few thoughts.

Know the Counts

We are often taught routines through the all-too-familiar 5, 6, 7, 8 count phrase. While counting helps us to be precise and synchronized, musicality in performance is expressed through more than just counting beats.

Fill the Spaces

When counting, it is easy to forget that a beat includes not only the sharp “tap” of a particular rhythm but also the space between those taps, just as all movements include transitions and shifts of weight between desired “shapes” of the body. Exciting and musical performers fill these spaces in the music and movement, not letting the energy or intent drop between shapes or between counts. Our eyes, ears, fingertips, toes and much more must dance if we are to realize the essence of musicality on the field and in the gym.

Harness Subtle and Robust Changes

If you perform to counts alone, you stand the very real chance of destroying the true meaning of the choreographic content. Successful performers harness both subtlety and robust expression in their musicality. Resisting “sameness” as they spin/ dance, they incorporate crescendo and decrescendo (sudden or gradual changes) that often reflect or work within the music surrounding them.

So you see, it is much more than just the rudiments of 5, 6, 7, 8. Superior performers not only understand musicality but are also able to fill the musical moments. May your ears dance!

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.