Glossary of Color Guard Terms
This Glossary of Color Guard terms will be developed over time by both the editors and by our community of color guard educators! If you have a term/definition you would like to suggest or if you think a definition needs revision please contact our editors . (The editors retain the right to edit submissions). Together, we can create an amazing resource for all color guard educators!
Adjudicator – Another term for “judge.” The adjudicator’s job is to provide evaluation and feedback for a specific performance at a specific event. In a competition setting, the adjudicator may also be tasked to rank groups and help determine awards based on scores they provide.
Age – Out – This is the year at which a performer is no longer eligible to compete. There is no “age-out” year for Senior drum corps, senior winter guards or world class WGI winter guards. However, Junior Drum Corps and A/Open Class winter guards have an upper age limit.
Auxiliary – Another term for the color guard. This term is often used in the marching band setting to describe the visual ensemble which may include color guard but which also may include other visual performers such as a dance team, baton twirlers or pom poms. The term Auxiliary covers visual ensembles which may or may not include all of these types of visual performers.
Backhand Catch -stopping equipment one handed, with the thumb pointed down toward the floor and the palm facing outward, away from the body [Thelen].
Ballooning (floor) – also called “flying the floor” – the people taking the vinyl floor off the gym floor all start on one side and grab the edge, then run as fast as possible to the opposite wall… as the vinyl flies toward the line of people, they grab at it and pull it down into a big bunch. This is generally a bad idea for several reasons: A) people get hurt doing this, B) it wrinkles your floor and can rip the seams open, and C) it is illegal to do this in most circuits now (including at WGI Regionals, Power Regionals and Championships), which can result in immediate disqualification of your unit (for the circuits’ reasoning, see Reason A) [Thelen].
Band Front - Another term used to refer to the color guard or auxiliary unit for a marching band.
Breath -in choreography, it is what provides visual space to logically connect ideas. As with all choreographical elements, breath needs to be motivated by the soundtrack, not just thrown in whenever you think the performers need a break [Thelen].
Caption Head – The staff member in charge of a particular large aspect of the show such as Visuals, Percussion, Color Guard, Music or Drill. This person is often responsible for managing any additional staff members, providing organization and communication among staff members and leading the way in the development of the competitive and/or artistic direction for their particular caption for the season.
Carving – any guard work that goes through the 45° planes. The most common work utilizing this element is an hourglass/figure eight/cone (those are all the same thing, but the terminology varies by geography) [Thelen].
Cheater Tape – pieces of tape added to the bottom part of a flag pole used as reference points for hand placement when teaching and cleaning routine. There can also be cheater tapes added to rifles or sabres as well.
Choreography -the written equipment work, staging and dance/movement [Thelen].
Choke Grip – hand position where both hands are wrapped on the pole, palms toward one another and thumbs upward.
Circuit – an organization which exists to organize and host competitions (and which often provides educational opportunities as well). Local circuit examples would include the Atlantic Indoor Association and the Florida Federation of Colorguards Circuit. National Circuit examples include Winter Guard International, Bands of America and USSBA.
Competitive Class – a grouping of color guards or marching bands based on some pre-determined criteria. Often, in marching band the grouping depends upon size or size and achievement. In winter guard the grouping often depends upon the skill level of the performers and the complexity of the show as well as any association with a school. Examples of competitive classes in WGI include Scholastic A, Independent A, Open and World Classes.
Critique – a meeting following a competition where judges and coaches have a chance to discuss the performance and results. Some competitions offer a critique and others do not.
DCI (Drum Corps International) – the worldwide governing body of the drum and bugle corps activity. The first DCI Championships was held in 1972 in Whitewater WI. Visit www.dci.org for more information [Thelen].
“Downstairs” captions – In Winter Guard, the Equipment and Movement Captions are often referred to as “Downstairs” captions. These captions examine individual skill and performance, thus requiring that the judges sit closer in proximity to the performance floor than the General Effect and Ensemble Analysis judges. In certain arenas this may mean that the Equipment and Movement Judges are literally “downstairs” compaired to the GE and EA judges who might be in a press box or on the 2nd floor to get a better view of the “big picture”.
Drum Corps – A summer marching music activity that utilizes brass, percussion and color guard to perform a competitive show [Thelen].
Free Hand – The hand that is not actively engaged in manipulating a piece of equipment at any given time.
Fundamentals – basic equipment skills such as drop spins on the flag or handspins on the rifle. These skills are usually taught to beginning students during their first rehearsals and then are practiced with all levels of students during subsequent sessions prior to practicing work used in routines. The rehearsal of fundamentals helps to establish consistency of technique.
General Effect – The WOW! factor of the marching pageantry arts. They are the events that cause emotional, intellectual and aesthetic reactions in the viewers (audience and judges). In the lower regional classes, general effect is mostly derived from clarity in training and cleanliness in choreography. In the higher world classes, general effect carries an expectation of innovation and surprise [Thelen].
Horizontal Orchestration – how the show flows from front to back and progresses through time, from the first count of the show until the last movement, including transitions and how events of the show evolve through time and space [Thelen].
Independent Winter Guard – a winter guard that is usually not affiliated with a school (although sometimes scholastic groups may choose to compete in the independent class). These units may have members with a wide range of ages and experience levels and the membership does not have to come from one particular school or location.
Money Hands – grabbing equipment palm up toward the ceiling, with the thumb pointed outward away from the performer’s body [Thelen].
Pike – an older synonym for the flag pole.
Pitch – the angle of a piece of equipment in space usually relative to the performers’ body. Equipment may be spun horizontal, vertical or with some other pitch – often at a 45 degree angle.
Sail – a term used to describe the problem when the fabric from the silk gets caught on the endcap of the flag pole. This often makes the flag feel heavier as the bunched fabric catches the wind like a sail.
Scholastic Unit – A Winter Guard group that is directly associated with or sponsored by a school where all performers are students at that school.
Shoulder/Hip Angle – the pole crosses through the center of the body, with the tab at the hip and the pole crossing right at the shoulder (where the pole ends depends on the length of the pole, but it is generally going to be slightly above and to the outside of the shoulder). One hand will be at the tab, the other hand can be either at the bottom tip or the bottom cheater tape [Thelen].
Silks – another term to describe the fabric part of a flag
Slam Position -Hands should be at the tab and the bottom tip (as you would at right/left shoulder); all angles should be at 45°. On the right hand: right slam = flag will cross the body at a 45° angle, with right hand (tab) at right hip and left hand (bottom tip) slightly above the left shoulder; left slam = flag crossed at the opposite angle, with flag tucked under the right arm, right hand (tab) falls into left hand; front slam = right hand (tab) held out away from the body, directly in front of the belly button/waist area, left hand just above the forehead; back slam = right hand (tab) at waist level to the right of your body, left forearm crossed across forehead, left hand (bottom tip) above right shoulder. On the left hand: left slam = flag will cross the body at a 45° angle, with left hand (tab) at left hip and right hand (bottom tip) slightly above the right shoulder; right slam = flag crossed at the opposite angle, with flag tucked under the left arm, left hand (tab) falls into right hand; front slam = left hand (tab) held out away from the body, directly in front of the belly button/waist area, right hand just above the forehead; back slam = left hand (tab) at waist level to the left of your body, right forearm crossed across forehead, right hand (bottom tip) above left shoulder [Thelen].
Spiel Sheet – the information provided to the announcer at a competition which is usually announced as the team is entering the floor and setting up their show.
Tab – the center point of the flag pole where the flag and pole meet
Triad – Design triad = body (dance and other movement of the performers’ bodies), staging/drill (movement across and utilization of the floor space), and equipment work (flag, rifle, sabre, etc). Effect triad = intellectual (range/quality of design, i.e. how “hard” or “cool” the work is), aesthetic (holds the viewer’s attention through time), emotional (event planned for the specific reason of getting a response of the viewer) [Thelen].
“Upstairs” Captions – A term used to refer to the General Effect and Ensemble Analysis captions in winter guard. These captions examine the overall program and often benefit from viewing performances further away or higher up in order to see how all of the parts of the show fit together. In comparison with the “downstairs captions” of Equipment and Movement – these captions look more at the “big picture.” In certain arenas this may mean that the Equipment and Movement Judges are literally “downstairs” compaired to the GE and EA judges who might be upstairs in a press box or on the 2nd floor.
Vertical Orchestration – this the actual design work of the body movement and equipment choreography. It deals with the content and development of the show. An important aspect of vertical orchestration is layering, for example where sabres may pick up the vocal track, dancers pick up the drum track and flags pick up the guitar track [Thelen].
Visual Ensemble – another term used to refer to the color guard and other performers (which may also include dancers, pom poms, baton twirlers and others) who provide a visual representation of the music.
Visual Musicality – a term describing how well the visual effects compliment the musical soundtrack
WGI (Winter Guard International) - An organization which exists to promote the activity of winter guard, provide education through performance experiences and organize winter guard competitions throughout the world. Check out all they have to offer at www.wgi.org .
This Glossary of Color Guard terms will be developed over time by both the editors and by our community of color guard educators! If you have a term/definition you would like to suggest or if you think a definition needs revision please contact our editors at firstname.lastname@example.org. (The editors retain the right to edit submissions). Together, we can create an amazing resource for all color guard educators!