Equipment Transitions: Four Problems to Avoid

| February 5, 2007 | 2 Comments

Equipment Transitions can make or break a show.  They can be one of the most difficult aspects to design but also one of the most important.  A bad transition can stop the flow of your show in it’s tracks, or even distract the audience from very important sections of music or visual effect.  However, when transitions from one song to another or from one piece of equipment to another are well done, the results are tremendous in terms of flow AND entertainment value of a show.

This article identifies four common problems in color guard equipment transitions and provides both explanation and suggestions for a better approach!


Avoid having the whole squad run off the field all at once and then run back onto the field or floor 16 or 32 counts later with a new piece of equipment.


Our job as the visual ensemble is to represent the music visually.  If the entire team runs off the field while music is still being played, there is no one left to represent THIS part of the piece?  Introductions and conclusions to each piece are just as important as all other parts of the piece.  Taking the entire team off the field or floor at the same time also draws the audience’s attention away from the performance area.  In marching band, the band may have drill going on, a soloist, or simply an overall musical effect that deserves attention.  In winter guard this would leave NOTHING happening on the floor to represent the music.


There are many ways to approach this situation in order to keep the audience focused on the part of the field or floor that you want them to watch.

Here are some ideas:

1.  Consider having half the team change equipment while the other half continues performing, then have the second half change after the first half enters the field with their new equipment.

2.  Use a soloist or small group of dancers to keep the attention on the field or on a musical soloist while the rest of the team changes equipment.

3.  If you must have the entire group change equipment in the same form then write equipment work all the way up to the point of exchange (rather than just stopping, holding the flag and running to the sideline).  Choreograph routine all the way to the sideline and then do the equipment change quickly (e.g. within 4 or 6 counts total to bend over and stand up).  Better yet – choreograph all the way to the sidelines and then have half the group continue spinning (e.g. every other performer in the line) while the other half picks up the new piece of equipment, then have the new equipment spin while the others make their change.





Avoid allowing performers to pick up their new equipment on random counts as they reach the sideline.


It is quite distracting to watch 12 people all get to the sideline at a different time, bend over at different times, stand up at different times, etc.  The focus of any show usually shifts to wherever there is the most movement.  A messy equipment change such as this would create a lot of unnecessary movement and draw the focus of the audience and judges to the equipment exchange rather than the interesting developments of the show on the field.


Choreograph the flag exchange.  Just like any other drill set, choreograph the count at which performers should arrive at their position on the sideline.  Then have every member bend down on the same count, allow 2- 4 counts for them to change their equipment and choose a count at which every member should stand up and step off with the new piece of equipment.  Make sure to impress upon each member that they are NOT the focus of the show at this moment and they should do nothing to draw attention to themselves.  Thus, it is important that their flag be pre-set with the silk in the correct direction so that it is ready to be spun without having to pull at the silk or change the direction of the pole while they are making the exchange.  You should also arrange for the silks to be stripped close to the pole when the old flag is discarded so that discarded flags aren’t distracting and messy during the remainder of the show.  Performers should be instructed NOT to toss or throw their flags in a panic when they are making an equipment change.




Avoid having all of the transitions occur to the same place on the floor or sideline.


While this makes for easy “set-up” it limits variety in your drill.  Each section of the show would need to begin and end with the performers in the same area of the field.  This would also forecast to the audience that you are getting ready to do another equipment change and distract them from watching you “in-the-moment.”  You can create more interesting drill by making the flag changes occur in different parts of the field or floor.


Try to make flag exchanges in different areas of the field.  Consider having some to the front sideline, some to the back or sides of the field or even having half of the performers move to the front whlie others change at the back.  Be creative!




Avoid Equipment transitions “between” songs during the silence.


This interrupts the “flow” of the show, forcing the audience and band to sit and wait while the change is going on.  It usually has nothing to do with the concept of the show and is simply functional but the break in flow allows the spectator to lose focus or lose interest.  This type of equipment change has generally fallen out of favor with judges.


Write the flag change creatively into the music using methods suggested above!


1.  Don’t have all members change equipment at the same time.

2.  Make sure performers know which counts to kneel and stand when changing equipment.

3.  Don’t have equipment changes between songs (unless this is hidden behind props).

4.  Don’t have all of your equipment changes at the same spot on the field or floor.

5.  Remind performers not to draw attention to themselves during equipment changes by throwing the flag or moving a lot during the transition.





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Category: band camp, Design, drill, Drill & Staging, General, Instruction

About the Author (Author Profile)

Catina Anderson is the founder/editor of the Colorguard Educators blog. Color guard has been part of her life for almost 25 years. She began coaching in 1994 and worked with the Broad Run High School color guard in Northern VA from 1998 until 2010. She has also written for Halftime Magazine and served on the Executive Board of the Atlantic Indoor Association. A former teacher, she enjoys sharing what she has learned and hopes to encourage others to share as well. Together we can create even more positive experiences for performers and help to collectively strengthen marching arts activities worldwide.

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