Backstage Pass: Pre-Performance Rituals

Backstage Pass: Pre-Performance Rituals

By Michael Reed

Have you ever wondered what your favorite color guard does before a show to calm the nerves and get focused? Have you ever been within earshot of a warmup area and heard an excited troupe do an enthusiastic chant? Do you know if your favorite group has their own special, unique traditions?

Almost every guard has longstanding rituals before a performance, in some cases going back longer than the performers have been alive. Captains of a number of guards competing at the recent World Championships in Dayton, OH shared some of the special customs their guards do during those exciting and tense minutes leading up to a competition.

There’s something about singing together that can unite even complete strangers. For Allegoria, the Wilson Phillips hit ‘Hold On’ provides momentum. According to member Katie Adams, “We all sing it together. When we go out to perform we’re fully energized.” Pride of the Netherlands keeps it fun. Member Andrea Boot explains “We have a remix of Queen music and we sing along and dance with it and just go crazy. We sing ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ and try to sing all the voices at the same time.”

Chants have been used by mankind for centuries. Likewise, they are also used by guards to help focus. Matt Bence of Vox Artium said “We chant ‘No Day but Today’ from the musical ‘RENT,” while Rommel Getico of Intensity mentioned “We have a chant titled ‘Poof.’ It started 20 years ago with the original Intensity team. It changes from year to year.”

Many guards utilize varied forms of the spoken word. According to Stephanie Nelson of Aria, “we take turns saying the key word that we feel is most important to us at the time.” Americas Independent and Marvin Ridge HS incorporate prayer into their pre-show rituals. Others use poetry, as explained by Seton Novack of Park Vista HS:  “We say this poem that we learned as freshmen. At the end we say ‘we can, we will, we won!’ It gets us really pumped up.”

Movement is one of the judged categories, and a number of guards move to help prepare to perform.  Tiffany Culver of Juxtaposition said her guard does Zumba songs to get their blood pumping, while Georgia State University member Laurie Ballard explained her guard has their own special dance tradition called the “Panther Prowl.” Michael Villa of BriA noted “we start in a block, stretching and warming our bodies up and it eventually leads into this glob of people in the middle.” 

Some units have very “touching” traditions. Both Irondale HS and Solstice circle up and hold hands in warmup. Emma Adcock of Etude and Abby Atwood of Centerville HS shared that their respective guards hold pinkies before taking the floor. Then there is Scholastic Open Silver Medalist Greenfield Central HS, who, according to co-captain Brooke Glover, “when we’re walking to a performance, we pass down a butt tap.”

The phrase “take a deep breath” is appropriate for many guards. AMP’s JJ Aponte states “We breathe together as a unit because that translates out on the floor.” For Mill Creek HS, according to Anna Gerald, “We breathe in with the good and out with the bad, then in with the good and out with something randomly silly.” Irondale HS member Devin Webster noted “We take a deep breath and smile it out three times.”

Some traditions are unique and others are just quirky. One way Aria makes things fun, according to Nelson, is to do the Hokey Pokey. “It’s a great way for our bodies to be active but it’s also a lot of fun.” Candy seems to be popular warmup option. Vox Artium, Marvin Ridge HS and Greenfield Central HS use Jolly Ranchers, Starbursts and mints respectively. 

There is really no limit to the creative ways guard get focused, relax, and bond during that special time before taking the floor. Whether your favorite guard sings, dances, prays, or eats candy before the show, the important thing to remember is they are doing whatever works for them to help give the best performance possible so they can bask in their favorite post-performance tradition:  a standing ovation. 

About the Author: Michael Reed provides online and print media content for WGI, Bands of America, and Drum Corps International. 2016 marks his fifteenth year of writing for WGI. He is an active music arranger, composer, and all-around avid pageantry fan. Michael was a member of the Cavaliers Drum and Bugle Corps and holds a bachelor’s degree in music composition and music education from Ball State University. He currently works in the health care field and resides in Fishers, Indiana.