"Artistically phenomenal" is one way to describe modern competitive marching arts. As designers explore the limits more and more on costuming, visual design, and music selection, the students are being asked to perform at at higher level. Brass lines are dancing. Color guards are showcasing gymnastic finesse. Front ensembles are becoming more expressive. Football fields are transitioning from half-time hype spaces to theatrical stages.
With the evolution of the competitive side of marching band comes a greater demand for staging props that allow a band to perform in uniquely vertical, horizontal, and angular spaces. On the most elite level, top drum corps are pushing the limits of staging each year. Just last year, the Santa Clara Vanguard revolutionized stackable, storage-efficient props that allowed performers to captivate an audience on multiple levels. The Boston Crusaders, in the last 2 years, have used the same rotating, compass-like prop. The Crossmen built a massive sand dial on which members were able to rotate vertically with the force of their own bodies. The Bluecoats have fielded massive chairs and a slide that appears to belong in a skate park. #DCI2019 is no less innovative and exploratory. These innovative, theatrical designs have become a mainstay in the marching band world as well. Design teams are finding unique ways to make their programs and their students' performances stand out.
Pushing the artistic limits of staging and theatrics is a great way to evolve the activity; but with added layers of complexity on a marching field comes added risk. With the end of the 2019 Drum Corps International Tour season in sight and the competitive marching season in swing, let's take a look at prop and equipment considerations.
When designing for a marching or winter guard show, considerations to performer safety and risk mitigation are paramount. The NFHS Band Safety Course outlines these considerations thoroughly.
Designers need to consider venue allowances, abilities of their members, and the functionality of the prop itself. Special care and attention need to be given to training performers to use the prop safely and with skill. DCI recently updated their prop policy, which regards the production and manufacturing of props for the safety of the performer (See Appendix 526 in the Policies and Procedures Appendix).
Make your competitive season as safe and generally effective as possible! Your performers will succeed only when they are comfortable with the responsibilities laid before them and when they know their safety is the first priority. For more information on this topic or for additional resources regarding prop and equipment safety, enroll in the free NFHS Band Safety Course!
Danielle Lavrenz lives for pageantry and the marching arts. Passionate about colorguard, she has marched since she was in 7th grade. She marched with the Morton High School band program for a total of 6 years, including 3 years in their circuit-level winterguard. She was a 4 year camper at the Music for All Summer Symposium and marched in the 2009 Bands of America Tournament of Roses Parade Honor Band. She went on to attend Murray State University, where she studied English Education, was an active member in the MSU Racer Band, and was devoted to her sisters in the Sigma Alpha Iota music fraternity. She marched with The Cadets Drum and Bugle Corps in 2010, 2011, and 2014 as well, earning a bronze and gold metal during her tenure. She has teched, choreographed, and directed for Marshall County High School, Calloway County High School, Bethel University, Morton High School, Waukesha North High School, and Greendale High School. Lavrenz is a member of the DSI Marketing Team and currently resides in Waukesha, Wisconsin, where she teaches at Greendale High School. She is also a staff member at the Music For All Summer Symposium.