Not Just the Western Hemisphere

| February 15, 2010 | 1 Comment

So, winterguard certainly started in the USA, but where else in the world can you find it?

Well, you know those five flags that hang above the World Championships banner at Dayton every year? They’re a good start! You have the United States, Canada and Japan… and also the flags of the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. Colorguard is in Europe too!

Europe has two circuits: Winter Guard United Kingdom (WGUK), and Color Guard Netherlands (CGN). These circuits have competitive units from the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Germany, Belgium and France, with units also currently being formed in Ireland and Italy. The activity is growing around the world, and so this article talks about the colorguard activity in Europe, what’s the same, and what differs from what you’d find in North America.

Both of the European circuits are well-established, both recently celebrating their 30th anniversary seasons, with about 100 units between them. They use the WGI judging system and basic rules, and have the same top classes: World, Open and ‘A’. The less-experienced and younger classes generally go by the names of Junior or Prep – which are judged on Regional ‘A’ sheets; and Cadet, which is judged to a lower standard agreed between the two circuits.

Colorguard is not a feature in schools here at all – as a result, all of the units are Independent and no Scholastic classes exist. We also have no Fall/Autumn season here – instead there are two “seasons”: summer drum corps from mid-April to September (with competitions from June to September), and winter guard from October to mid-April (with competitions from January to April). That said, guard staff usually start running basics rehearsals through September to start teaching the next season’s show from October.

The other big difference is that almost all guards rehearse almost completely at weekends, with perhaps a short evening rehearsal one night a week. World and Open guards tend to rehearse for an average of about 12-14 hours a week October to March, ‘A’ guards approximately 6 hours a week, and Junior and Cadet classes 3-4 hours a week. In short: they do less rehearsal time per week, but more weeks per year!

Generally, European guards have younger members than US guards. Working backwards, our few World and Open guards compare well age-wise with the US, with the youngest members being 14-15 years old or so. However, our ‘A’ classes are younger on average, and are mainly 11-16 years old; most “high school” age members tend to end up in Open Class units here rather than in ‘A’. Junior units go younger than that, generally serving 10-14 year olds.

Cadet Class guards seem to be a unique aspect to the European circuits. These classes are limited to a maximum of 11 years of age; and so yes, these really are elementary school-age kids on the floor, and yes, they are judged (albeit very gently)! We have seen guard members as young as 7 years old, and seeing what they gain from the performance experience is amazing!

Several guards from Europe have traveled to the United States to compete in WGI. Last year, Beatrix from the Netherlands made the journey; other guards who have travelled in the past include Thurrock Academy and Mayflower from the UK (the latter having made World Finals in 2003), and The Pride of the Netherlands.

This year, three guards make the journey across the Atlantic: The Pride of the Netherlands, and Mayflower from the UK, will both be competing in Independent World; while Northern Academy from the UK will be in Independent Open. If you happen to see them at Dayton, be sure to lend them your support!

Right now, in mid-February, both European circuits are approaching their midway points, both already having had three shows and each having a show this weekend, coinciding with the second weekend of WGI Regionals. So, if your guard is competing this weekend, either in WGI or in a local circuit, just think – halfway around the world, there’s probably another guard getting ready to perform too!


Winter Guard United Kingdom

Color Guard Netherlands


Category: For Performers

About the Author (Author Profile)

About the author: Matt Johnson is in his second year of being an Ensemble Analysis judge for Winter Guard United Kingdom (WGUK). He taught Thurrock Academy IA for visual in 2007-2008, co-writing their visual book in 2007; previously to this, he reported on competitions for WGUK. Away from the colorguard floor, Matt lives and works in London, and is a technology associate at a multi-national financial institution. He holds a Master of Engineering (Computer Science) degree from the University of London and an Associateship of the City and Guilds Institute, and enjoys making and arranging music.

Comments (1)

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  1. Leanne Schild says:

    Hi! My daughter loves Colorguard – this is her 4th year as a 13 year old. We’re moving to Frankfurt, Germany (from Salem, MA) and I’m having a hard time finding out if a guard team exists there. Do you have tips on how I can find out?

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