TWYRL TYPE ARCHIVES
The following articles, originally featured in specific issues of Twyrl Type, have information that remains significant throughout the years. By popular request, we have gathered them here for all to access.
WHAT IS TWIRLING UNLIMITED?
As more and more twirlers “discover” Twirling Unlimited and TU competitions expand to other areas of the country, more people ask “What IS Twirling Unlimited?”
Twirling Unlimited is NOT just “another organization”. It is a consortium of twirling teaches and judges who are united in their efforts to promote baton twirling. It has long been recognized by those attempting to promote public acceptance of baton twirling that one of the things hindering us is the splintering within the ranks of baton twirlers themselves. In other words—we are our own worst enemy! Members of each specific twirling organization find it hard to “cross-over” to participate in another organization’s events. Sometimes it is the difference in performance rules, sometimes it is the lack of welcome, and sometimes participation is even specifically restricted to “members only”. The sad thing is that much of this “exclusionary” attitude originated from long-ago political differences between a few individuals.
Recognizing this atmosphere of distrust, Twirling Unlimited was formed over 30 years ago to try to provide “neutral ground” for twirlers to meet and participate without fear of being considered an “outsider”. With no specific ties to any of the major twirling organizations, TU attempts to serve as an “umbrella” - providing events where all twirlers are welcome—regardless of organizational affiliation. Hence our motto: “Where Twirlers Meet”.
This philosophy is the driving force behind most of the decisions that govern TU. Our penalties are minimal and are limited to those recognized by all major organizations. Time limits are broad enough to incorporate all organizations’ requirements. Participation is open to any interested twirler, regardless of organizational affiliation and there is no membership fee required. Judges certified by all major organizations are used to adjudicate TU events.
The result has been an unprecedented “sharing” and intermingling of twirlers and teachers from all organizations. The most common compliment we receive at TU competitions is how much people enjoyed the event because of the friendly atmosphere. Our competitions regularly have twirlers who are members of NBTA, USTA, WTA, DMA and many other smaller organizations. They appreciate the opportunity to perform their routines as they are normally accustomed, and have the benefit of different judges and new competitors.
There are positive signs of change in the twirling world. In recent years, we have seen some new events offered that attempt to provide competitions open to all contestants, not one specific organization. Many of these have focused on the elite and collegiate levels of competition, but it is gratifying to see their acceptance and success. Some states are doing an excellent job of encouraging mutual support of different organizations’ competitions (Colorado and Michigan come to mind).
By contrast, we are disappointed when we see continuing evidence of the “old school” view, as represented by a recent phone call to our headquarters. A twirler who had entered a TU competition called to withdraw her entry as she had been told she “wasn’t allowed to twirl with anyone else”. This narrow-minded type of thinking will continue to hinder the expansion of twirling and ultimately the growth of public interest in baton twirling.
Twirling Unlimited will continue to foster a spirit of friendly competition, encourage the development of twirling, and welcome twirlers from all organizations to come together. We hope you’ll join us!
The philosophy of Twirling Unlimited has always been to bring twirlers from ALL organizations together for friendly competition—and to promote baton twirling. To this end—our rules encompass the rules of all organizations, and our time limits are broad enough so that twirlers can perform their routines as they do in their own organization, without having to make changes. The only exception to this is the restrictions Twirling Unlimited places on the tricks performed in the developmental levels of twirling (Levels 1-4 or “Special Beginner” through “Intermediate”).
In some cases, it seems that teachers and twirlers have lost perspective when it comes to the purpose of the developmental levels of competition. Originally, there were NO levels of competition. All twirlers of a certain age competed against each other! As participation in twirling competitions grew, gradually various levels were added, so that there are now commonly 5 different levels of “progression”. These are designed to make new twirlers comfortable—and to give all twirlers a chance to have some success as they gain experience and progress step-by-step to higher levels of competition. However—we sometimes forget that the levels are designed for just that: progression. They were NOT designed for twirlers to remain at a level long enough to achieve a state or national “win” at each level before moving on.
Because some twirlers “hold back” until they win what they consider a “big” title, we sometimes find twirlers labeled “Beginner” (or Novice or Intermediate) who are doing tricks that most certainly do not reflect a “Beginner” (or Novice or Intermediate) status. Some twirlers and teachers seem to have lost the perspective that these are levels to gain experience (not titles) and that pride in achievement should come with improvement and progression to higher levels, more than first place trophies at developmental levels. It is sad to see that most feel more pride in an Intermediate “state” win than in achieving the level of an Advanced competitor and placing in the top 5 of her state competition.
To maintain the integrity of the developmental levels of twirling, TU has the following restrictions:
Level 1 (Special Beginner), No more than a 1 turn and no more than 2 consecutive elbow rolls.
Level 2 (Novice): No more than a 2 turn and no more than 4 continuous elbows.
Level 3 (Beginner ): No more than a 3 turn and no more than 6 continuous elbows
Level 4 (Intermediate): No more than a 4 turn and no more than 8 continuous elbows.
Obviously there are many things that contribute to a twirler’s expertise and these restrictions only limit a few tricks, but it is a start at recognizing the purpose of the developmental levels of twirling. As twirlers gain expertise, they should be encouraged to move on to higher levels of competition to challenge themselves, and the achievement of moving up to a higher level of competition should be celebrated as much as (if not more than) a “first place” win.
DO YOU REALLY WANT TO PROMOTE TWIRLING?
In numerous conversations over the years we have heard many people lament that the number of young people involved in twirling is falling and that they would “really like to promote baton twirling.” Then, at least 75% if the time, they launch into a discussion of how twirlers should get more air time on TV, more press coverage, more recognition, etc. etc.
Of course we would all like the public to understand how much dedication goes into becoming a top twirler, but if you REALLY want to promote baton twirling, consider thinking about promoting from the bottom up – instead of from the top down. While the total number of twirlers may be declining, twirling participation is actually up in some areas – due to strong programs at the “grass-roots” level of twirling. To grow the numbers of twirlers, we have to go to the public – and introduce the magic of the “silver stick” to large numbers of youth, instead of focusing just on the competitive level.
There are many terrific twirling programs out there. Here are a few suggestions from some of them:
1) Do a clinic! Local High School majorettes (or older members of a local corps) can teach a 2 or 3 hour clinic for any youngster who wants to try twirling. Have old batons available for the students to use, so anyone can come – and keep the clinic fee very affordable. An added plus would be if the clinic participants could be included in an appearance at the halftime of a basketball game. T-shirts from the clinic (or even plain white shirts) along with a pair of dark shorts is all that is needed for a “uniform” - and the students need only march on the floor, do a few figure 8s or flat twirls and pose while the older girls perform. What a thrill for a youngster to be part of a performance!
2) Start classes through a recreation center. Rec programs are often looking for new activities to offer and, with an established set-up for facilities and finances, this is an easy way for a new teacher to get started.
3) Approach a dance studio. Dance studios that don’t currently offer baton instruction are often interested in expanding their class “offerings”, and might be willing to add baton twirling as an individual class or a part of a “combo” class.
4) If you already have a group – get out and perform! Visibility brings more “recognition” for your current twirlers and more “advertising” for new members. While it is sometimes hard to get permission to perform at a high school football or basketball halftime, it is much easier to be invited to do a halftime at a girl’s basketball game – or a JV or middle school basketball game. Local, small colleges are often looking for halftime entertainment for football and basketball, too.
5) Do parades! There isn’t any activity more associated with baton twirling in the public’s mind than parades. One clever teacher has parents hand out free “batons” (actually inexpensive plastic tubes with streamers on the end) with the name and phone number of the twirling corps attached. Many a youngster has been “bitten” by the twirling bug while watching a parade!
So often, teachers only want to teach competition twirlers or twirlers who already have some experience. Bickering between teachers over existing students does nothing to expand the number of twirlers involved—and hurts the image of baton twirling. If you really want to promote baton twirling – invite a little girl to become a majorette – and see the sparkle in her eyes!
Share the fun!
WHAT IMAGE ARE YOU PROJECTING?
Twirlers often lament that a band director will not allow majorettes with their marching band. This is especially disconcerting to those twirlers who have worked hard to perfect their craft and have not even been allowed to tryout or show the band director what skills they possess. It is easy to criticize a director for being “narrow-minded” or “unwilling to change”, but sometimes a director’s reasoning has validity.
Consider these 2 examples: (these are true stories, but the names have been changed)
1) Like many universities, a major midwestern school recently had a “band clean-up day”, where marching band members all pitch in to help clean up the band room and equipment in preparation for the fall marching season. Like the rest of the band members, the girl holding the feature twirler position helped wash equipment and scrub floors. At the end of the day, the director made a special point of commending the girl and announced to the entire band “This is the first time EVER that a feature twirler has participated in band cleanup day.”
2) Another well-known university had a single feature twirler (Barbara) last year. This year, a second girl (Alice) was added and the two are considered co-features. Only a few weeks after Alice started, a band member was heard to comment to another member: “It’s a good thing we knew Barbara last year, otherwise we wouldn’t want anything to do with twirlers.”
Like it or not, every twirler or majorette carries with her the reputation of ALL twirlers—both with the band director and with the public. It is obvious from these examples that some twirlers are projecting a “prima dona” image. It is sad to think that these twirlers could have a negative effect on a band director’s decision to have twirlers in the future .
A band director is responsible for a large number of students. A twirler or a majorette line is only a small percentage of the total—and an optional one, at that. Unless he or she feels that the twirlers/majorettes are an enhancement to the band, s/he may decide life is easier without them! Here are some tips for helping convince a band director that twirlers are an asset to his/her group:
· Be a team player! While many times, twirlers have developed their skills as a solo competitor, when performing with a marching band, you are part of a group. It is important to attend all rehearsals and performances. Any extra practice in the gym is part of being a featured performer; it is important to be out on the field with all the rest of the band members during regular practices. Participate in clean-up days, fundraisers, pep rallies and other optional events. While you may hold a “featured” position, you are still part of the group!
· Be cooperative! You don’t always have to be on the 50 yard line—or center stage. Directors sometimes find it challenging to incorporate one or two individual performers into a group formation. This may also mean some last-minute changes in your position, or even to the music. Be gracious and adaptable as directors try to work out details.
· Be sociable! While perhaps not intending to, many twirlers project a “stand-offish” image just because they stay to themselves. Being a part of a group working toward a common goal is one of the best experiences a person can have—but you have to BE part of the group,.
Remember that the twirlers are NOT the focus of the band’s entire performance. You are an accent to an ensemble—and if you are more of a negative during rehearsals than you are a positive during performances, a band director could easily decide twirlers aren’t worth the effort.
Performing is only one aspect of a twirler’s relationship with the band and its director. There is also attitude, cooperation, work ethic, and dedication to the group. What image of twirlers are YOU projecting?
IT'S ALL ABOUT TIMING
by Candy Kimball
Since the rules for the use of the baton in strutting vary widely between organizations, some wonder what really defines “strutting”. The answer: it’s all about timing! Regardless of any floor pattern required, or any limitations on the use of the baton, timing is an essential part of every strut and, in truth, timing is what makes strutting….....strutting!
Strutting was designed to incorporate graceful bodywork and flow of movement while moving to a specific tempo. Essentially, it is “choreography” to a tempo, rather than to a specific theme or piece of music. This tempo should be maintained throughout the routine – not just on marching steps.
March music commonly used for twirling is written in 4/4 time and generally the phrases of the music are in sets of 8. Does this mean marches all have to begin on a “1” or a “5” count? Certainly not! But a strutter who begins and ends marching or feature moves within the phrasing of the music should be rewarded with a higher score in timing. One who starts marching on a “3” or a “7” is certainly not out of step – but she doesn’t demonstrate the same sophistication of timing.
An “out of step” penalty is assessed when a twirler’s foot doesn’t hit the floor on the proper beat of the music. This does NOT mean that an out of step penalty is issued every time the right foot hits the floor on an odd count or the left foot hits the floor on an even count (step ball changes are an obvious example). What it DOES mean is that the movement from one trick to another should follow the tempo established by the music and therefore, most of the time, when the foot hits the floor following any type of move, it would be on the beat. There are certainly exceptions with intricate combinations and feature tricks, but the tempo should be reestablished in an obvious manner following their completion.
By the same token, kicks, leaps and other forms of bodywork should also follow the tempo of the music. Kick, step, kick, step on 1-2 -3-4 is a classic example of a “non-march” move that still maintains the tempo and beat. Even movements such as spins and illusions follow the tempo as they should begin and end on a specific beat rather than wherever it “feels good” to the strutter – or even worse, whenever she happens to lose her balance. Fouette’ turns are an example of an advanced dance move that conforms perfectly to the timing as the plie’, releve’ movement should be executed in time with the music as the spin is performed. Certainly, an out of step penalty is not issued if a fouette’ isn’t done on the beat. Rather, a judge may consider giving a higher score in the timing category when a strutter demonstrates this type of ability.
The timing caption allows the judge to evaluate and score general timing ability that may not be reflected in “out-of-step” infractions. A strutter who stops often for poses certainly does not warrant an “out of step” penalty, but she does not exhibit the same intricacy of timing as another strutter whose routine has more continuous motion and still maintains proper timing. The ability to exhibit continuous motion in sync with the tempo of the music is the essence of the scoring of the timing caption.
By Ann-Nita McDonald
I get a number of calls asking me to recommend judges for a variety of events. I am happy to do this, as it is helpful for twirlers to have different judges for competitions and contest directors are not always familiar with judges outside their local area. However, it puts me in a very difficult position when I recommend a judge, a contest director contacts them, and the judge doesn’t answer …….. AT ALL.
Many contest directors try to hire judging staff well in advance. As travel expenses rise higher and higher, it is especially important for contest directors to have adequate time arrange flights. Early planning helps a director take advantage of lower plane fares. (Anyone who flies knows that the really good fares can disappear in 24 hours.)
An invitation to judge should receive some kind of response in NO MORE than 48 hours. If you know right away that you will, or won’t be unavailable on that date…. an immediate answer would be appreciated by the contest director. Obviously, there are circumstances that could prevent you from giving an immediate answer …… and that is acceptable. But the contest director needs to know that, too. “I’m checking my schedule; I’ll get back to you.” A much sought-after reply might be, “I can’t commit at this point, but if you are willing to wait a week, I’ll get back to you. If you need an answer right now, then I’ll have to decline.”
If you are contacted by a contest director and you make no effort to reply, the director actually has no way of knowing if you even got the message! They can’t just assume that the contact information is current, that you are checking your calendar, or that you simply aren’t available. Don’t leave them guessing! Step One in being regarded as “professional” is to execute a prompt reply to judging requests. If you don’t follow this basic courtesy, you may discover that contest directors stop calling.
HOW TO MAKE THE MOST OF SUMMER CAMP
Summer camp can be one of the most memorable experiences a young person can have. But it does take some preparation—and some understanding—on the part of the camper, the parent and the twirling teacher.
While participants and details of housing and schedules vary from camp to camp, most twirling camps offer the chance for twirlers to broaden their background with group classes, learning new material from different twirling teachers. On the life-experience side, it offers a young girl a chance for some independent living in a controlled environment and in some cases, their first experience sleeping away from home without parents.
Here are some common questions/concerns:
Q: How can I help prepare my child for camp?
A: Some prior discussion about the camp experience can help prepare your daughter for the emotional/social experiences at camp. Talk about the fact that she will be responsible for getting herself to classes, meals, etc. Make sure she has a clock or watch and knows how to keep track of time. Make sure she understands that even if she goes with a friend, living with someone 24 hours a day is always a challenge and may require some compromises. Especially if she is attending with a friend, encourage her to eat, swim or do social things with other campers. Not only does this help to maximize her camp experience but it helps keep friends from too much “togetherness” and getting on each other’s nerves.
Q: I want to be supportive —is it a good idea to have my daughter “check in” with a phone call each night?
A: Generally the answer is NO. Many times, a girl is doing just fine—until she calls home. Then, all of a sudden, she is homesick and crying and both parents and child are upset. As a parent, it is very hard to leave your child for several days—and not know what is happening. But, this is a classic case of the old adage “No news is good news”. If anything really IS wrong, the camp director or a member of the staff will be in touch with you. If everything is going fine—then you don’t need to worry. So, when you drop your child off, cheerily tell them to have a good time and you’ll see them when you come to pick them up. Remember—part of the fun of camp is telling you all about it when she comes home!
Q: What do I do if my daughter DOES call with a problem?
A: Usually it is best to be sympathetic, but express confidence that she can deal with it. Frequently, because camp is full of constant activity, girls are tired when they call and this increases their emotional response. A good night’s sleep is sometimes all that is needed for a fresh perspective. Encourage her to talk to one of the staff members about how she is feeling. Sometimes a little adult reassurance does wonders. If you feel that the problem is more serious—contact the camp director for insight and assistance. Promising to come and bring her home is generally a poor solution. You’re sending her a message that she can’t deal with the situation. A child can gain a great deal of confidence by working through a problem—and developing this “can do” attitude is a great life skill.
Q: What can I expect in terms of improving my child’s twirling skills?
A: Keep in mind that a few days at twirling camp is not a magic potion. We are always impressed with how much improvement can be made—BUT it is still only a few days. Girls usually cover a lot of material, but sometimes report that they didn’t learn “anything new” while at camp. Have her review her camp notes—ask her to show you some of the sections or tricks that she tried. She should be able to pull out several new tricks or combinations that she can show to her teacher at her next lesson. One of the best parts of twirling camp is the enthusiasm that carries over long after camp is finished. It is not uncommon for a girl to have new interest in practicing. This “boost” can be extended if she keeps in touch with some of her camp friends or meets them at a contest.
With a little preparation and planning—and an eye on the importance of the total experience- summer camp can be a true growing experience in many ways.
TIPS FOR COLLEGE AUDITIONS
Spring is the time that most college bands hold auditions for their twirling positions for the fall football season. This is an exciting time of year for high school seniors as announcements are made about audition results, and students make final decisions about which school they will attend.
Choosing the right college certainly involves more than just a twirling position—and hopefully twirlers (and their parents and teachers) will always keep in mind that the academic path should be the first consideration. However, for so many twirlers who have been involved in baton for much of their lives, twirling at the college level is an important part of the decision. For those who may be considering auditioning for a college twirling position in the future—here are some tips to keep in mind:
· If you are interested in a twirling position, it is a good idea to begin research in your junior year of high school. Narrowing down your choices, communicating with band directors and arranging campus visits can be a time-consuming process.
· Be sure to include at least one campus visit in your pre-audition process. One very wise twirling mom made a point of having her daughter attend a football game at each school she was considering, so she could see the band, and absorb the Saturday morning atmosphere. Then she returned at a later date to tour the academic campus, meet the band director, and visit admissions personnel and faculty academic advisors. This gave her daughter TWO impressions of each school she was considering, and helped her make a much more informed decision.
· Some schools require that students be accepted by the university before they will permit participation in auditions. Be sure your academic accomplishments meet the university standards. In addition, it is not uncommon for a twirler to receive a scholarship when academic and twirling accomplishments are considered together—even if no specific “twirling” scholarship is offered.
· Don’t try to “snow” a band director with your titles. They are certainly interested in your twirling expertise, but they will also be looking to see if you are a “team player”. Too often as solo twirlers, we have had the spotlight as an individual and—even as a feature twirler—you will be only one part of a performing group and must be able to work with others.
· Be prepared to furnish several letters of recommendation from people who have worked with you as a twirling performer and who know you personally.
· Be sure to prepare the routines or skills that are specifically requested. Some auditions have very specific requirements, others are more “open” to a twirler’s choice. It is wise to inquire ahead of time and adjust any prepared routines accordingly.
· When you appear for the audition, be courteous, neat, on time, and prepared with whatever equipment you need to perform the required routines. You should be prepared to perform either indoors or outdoors!
· In addition to your prepared routine, some schools will ask you to learn a routine on the spot; others may ask you to choreograph an impromptu routine (particularly if you are auditioning for a feature position). Be prepared to adapt and follow the band director’s requests. While some of the audition process is similar from school to school, each one has its own unique twist.
· Remember – your attitude is just as important as your twirling skill!
READY FOR COMPETITION?
It’s often difficult for a parent to decide if their little one is “ready’ for competition. Obviously, this is an issue that should be discussed with the teacher or coach—and there is no “perfect” criteria for making a decision. Twirling ability should actually be a relatively small part of the decision-making process. Personality, interest level and maturity are much better indicators of a successful competition experience. A little one who is “good” may still not be emotionally ready for a competitive event. Here are some things to observe and be aware of as you consider your decision.
1) Maturity. Competition is just that: a competition. That means that some will win—and some won’t. Little ones entering competition for the first time MUST be prepared for the possibility that they will do a performance (maybe even a good performance)—and receive no award. Judges don’t like seeing disappointed little faces any more than parents do—but if there are only 3 trophies and ribbons to hand out in a group of 5, then 2 twirlers won’t receive an award. At the time it may seem “cruel”, but it’s a fact of competition that you don’t ALWAYS win (and not a bad life lesson). Preparation can make a huge difference. If parents put emphasis on how proud they are of a completed performance—and really mean it—little ones will be proud, too (regardless of awards). However, if you don’t think your youngster is ready to handle the possibility of no trophy or ribbon, perhaps you should consider entering a “Rating Lane” where every child receives a ribbon of some kind.
2) Preparation. Regardless of age, any twirler tackling a competition experience should feel prepared. Many teachers introduce their students to competition by having them enter the Basic March or “Basic Box” event. This gives them a little taste of competition experience without having to remember a routine or worry about drops. When considering entering solo twirl, a child should have enough self-confidence to enter the competition floor alone—and be able to remember the routine without prompting from a parent or coach. Any twirler can have a moment of forgetfulness, but make sure your child is ready to perform individually before you enter them in a solo event.
3) Interest. How much interest do they show in practicing? Are they excited about attending twirling class each week? Do they talk about twirling with their friends? Twirling should be lots of fun—and children who are excited about twirling are usually more interested in competitions. Children often attend contests at first with a group—and this is a great introduction. Group routines are less intimidating and a parent can get a feel for their daughter or son’s poise under “pressure”. If you are considering expanding to individual competition, take the time to have your child observe some solo events. A little conversation and some Q and A with your child can go a long way toward evaluating their preparedness—and their interest in performing individually.
4) Desire. Probably more important than anything else. Do they WANT to compete individually? Do they like to “perform” for Grandma and Grandpa, Aunts and Uncles? Are they dazzled by an older twirler they know—and they want to emulate him/her? No matter how much YOU, as a parent, want it— if you want the competition experience to be a positive one, your child has to want to do it for themselves. Frequently, the more “outgoing” children are ready for competition before the shy, quiet ones.
Maturity, preparation, interest, and desire all change with time. If you feel that your child isn’t quite ready to tackle individual competition, wait a little while. Even a few months can make a huge difference. In the long run, your goal is a positive experience, so don’t rush. We all want twirling to be fun!
THE IMPORTANCE OF BASICS
by Sue Roach
As a long-time twirling instructor, there is nothing that pleases me more than introducing the wonderful sport of baton twirling to a brand new student. Over the course of the years, I have refined my program to include many different “levels” of tricks that students work through, with rewards for mastering skills at each level. The first 15 to 20 levels focus heavily on basic twirls. There are only 15 “tricks” per level, so it doesn’t take too long to master them, and it gives new twirlers a chance to have success fairly quickly. In addition, we use the TU Basic Twirl Solo to help reinforce the mastery of these skills and to teach the importance of smoothness, precision, and performance. Every teacher has their own teaching methods, and while not everyone utilizes the Basic Twirl Solo specifically, the twirls that are included in that routine are the basic building blocks for successful twirling programs.
As an active judge, it is always heartening to see a performer with a good grasp of the basic twirls. Along the same line, it is frustrating to see twirlers struggling with some of these twirls because their teacher didn’t know how to teach it—or didn’t insist that the twirls always be performed correctly. As I was judging at several recent competitions, it became evident that some of the local teachers had some gaps in their instruction of basic twirls. It isn’t hard to figure out that certain contestants come from the same teacher when they are each missing the same detail of a trick, or making the same mistake. Some of the twirlers were missing the important “dip” in between split fingers (or more often, the horizontal fingers), some twirlers stopped the baton to lay it on their elbow (instead of letting it roll) for the single elbow roll, many twirlers tossed the baton off an open hand, instead of a thumbflip—and so on. In some cases, it was probably lack of practice on the part of the twirler—but in many cases, it seemed pretty apparent that the teacher had neglected an important piece of instruction.
I was so impressed with the number of contestants in some of the lower level events at these contests. It was obvious that several people were doing a great job of promoting baton twirling and encouraging those new students to become involved in competition twirling as well. That is the way to keep twirling growing—and it’s wonderful to see such marked success in promotion. But I’m afraid that the twirlers (and their instructor) will soon become discouraged as they find themselves not placing as high as they hoped—and a large part of the reason will be the incorrect performance of some of the basics!
As a teacher, there are times when it’s very tempting to take shortcuts—especially if a new student learns quickly. I have even heard of twirlers learning a thumb toss at their very first lesson! But skipping some of the basic twirls is like laying only every other block in the foundation of a house, instead of every block, side by side. If there are “holes” in the foundation, then it has some weak spots—and somewhere in the future, that will come back to cause problems.
My advice to teachers: be absolutely sure you are teaching the basics correctly. If it’s been a while since you learned the tricks yourself, you may have forgotten a detail—or maybe there’s a piece that you don’t realize needs emphasis. The new TU DVD is a great resource for a detailed break-down of each Basic Twirl, a video demonstration of each one, and both verbal and written ideas and hints for teaching each trick. Even veteran teachers can learn new ideas and new ways of explaining.
Don’t send your students out to compete with incomplete background!
THE ELEMENT OF RISK
by Ann-Nita McDonald
It is common these days to hear a judge mention the “element of risk” in a twirler’s routine. They are referring to the potential for error in execution—and typically they reward a twirler they feel has a higher element of risk with an increased score.
The problem is that too many judges are looking through a narrow lens when they are defining “element of risk”. Too often—they are only considering the unique catch, or combination of a difficult catch followed by difficult release. Certainly, those carry an element of risk and should be rewarded. However—there are other things to consider in evaluating “element of risk” - and one of those is SPEED. This is especially significant when a twirler is executing a low flip series or “contact material”. A twirler who moves from one trick to another with terrific speed is certainly executing a higher “element of risk” than one who moves slower. It is HARDER to do things faster—and that should be recognized in the “risk” factor. Rapidity (baton speed) is another piece of the “risk” puzzle. I often hear students say “But it’s harder to catch when I make it spin faster”. Yep! That’s why twirlers get more credit for that speed.
As judges, we have to be careful not to get so caught up in the “tricky catches” that we forget to reward other types of “risk” factors.
TWIRLING IN THE PUBLIC VIEW
Everyone involved in twirling would like the general public to recognize the tremendous skills involved. We are likely prejudiced, but many of us have the feeling that because twirling involves the athleticism of a gymnast, the eye-hand coordination of a sportsman, and the technique and styling of a dancer, our unique "performance sport" requires one of the highest levels of skill mastery. Recently on our Facebook page, there was a spirited discussion of whether or not twirling should be represented on a reality TV show (check out our Facebook page if you missed the comments). There were certainly differences of opinion, but everyone was interested in more visibility for twirling.
We often hear twirlers bemoaning dwindling participation. And yet - there are some geographic areas where twirling continues to grow and prosper. One of the groups in eastern NY has so many youngsters wanting to twirl, they have to limit participation because the gym can't hold them all! Many groups across Pennsylvania have reported an increase in membership and competitions there continue to grow. Twirling in West Virginia is booming. Certainly there are many reasons why some areas are flourishing and some are dwindling, but one very positive reason is VISIBILITY. Young girls (and boys) have to SEE twirlers to decide they want to twirl.
It is a huge promotional tool for baton twirling if there are majorettes or twirlers performing with the local HS or College bands. Sometimes a band director is adamant about "no twirlers" but often, a cooperative and 'team player' approach can bring about a change in attitude. If not - it is likely that a twirler (or group of twirlers) can perform at basketball games or other school events. Being associated with school spirit moves many youngsters to dream of being a twirler. Don't give up on twirling for your school!
In addition, local parades and performances create great visibility for twirling. Too often, competitive twirlers (and even competitive groups) turn their noses up at parades or local community events, apparently because they feel they are "beyond" that level. If that's their approach, it's too bad that they worked so hard to master skills that will only be seen by a select few in a gym.
Want to help promote twirling? Then perform! School talent shows, civic festivals, local parades, community or charity events. Not only will you show the public that twirling is still alive and well, but you'll have fun showing off all those skills you (or your students) have worked so hard to achieve! Help keep twirling in the public view!
HALFTIME- AND THE TROUBLE WITH DIFFICULTY
By Candy Kimball
We twirling teachers put in a lot of time and effort preparing twirlers for competition. Countless hours are spent in the gym pushing for new levels of variety and difficulty and trying to master increasingly more intricate tricks and combinations. The problem is: much of that preparation is CONTRARY to what should be performed on a football field – or any other performance for a “lay” audience. All the low flips, intricate rolls, and contact material that are so important for a high score in a competition routine have no place on a football field or a basketball halftime. That kind of intricacy is lost on an unsophisticated audience.
Obviously high tosses are the big thing – but twirlers don’t need to do triple illusions or major spins underneath. Often, the audience is watching the baton go up and down – they might not even SEE what the twirler is doing! Sporting event audiences delight in gymnastics-type moves (cartwheels, illusions, walkovers, etc.) because these moves are big and obvious. And they also love to see dance and gymnastics moves choreographed to the music being played. But they can’t tell that a high toss double walkover is any harder than a high toss single walkover catch with another walkover after it. They can’t tell that a backhand catch is actually easier than a blind catch.
What they DO know is that you’re not supposed to drop it! So twirlers should scale their sports performances down from their competition routines. If a 3 turn is your highest spin – then don’t try that on the football field! Do a solid 2 turn with a high toss and a big smile (they can’t count the turns anyway!!). If a double walkover is a stretch for you – then don’t put that in your halftime performance. This doesn’t mean that you don’t ever take any risks – but it should mean that “risky” tricks are kept to a minimum and the choreography is designed to appeal to the less sophisticated audience, not the few people associated with twirling who might be watching.
I recently had a conversation with a high-level alumni donor at a university where a top national twirler performs with the band. What was he impressed with? Not the high toss double illusion or the multiple spins or fujimi rolls….. no - he was amazed that she could do a floor bounce and make the baton come back to her hand!
Twirlers should remember their purpose in the sports venues: they are there for entertainment – precision, showmanship and audience appeal are far more important than difficulty or trying to impress other twirlers.
Last modified: December 1, 2018
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