Q&A with Cheryl Myers: Movement Clinician & WGI Movement Adjudicator

| February 1, 2008 | 0 Comments

Movement Training is an essential part of modern color guard curriculum.  Yet, most instructors are faced with beginning performers who have little to no dance training.  Cheryl Myers took some time out during this very busy month to share her insight into the movement caption as it pertains to A-class color guards as well as her suggestions for starting a movement training program, identifying common performer errors, and locating valuable instructor resources!


Ms Myer’s Bio:

Ms. Myers has been a colorguard adjudicator in New York State since the year 2000.  She began adjudicating for WGI in the movement caption in 2004.  Her primary circuit affiliations are with New York and the Atlantic Indoor Association .

She has been involved in the colorguard activity since she was 11 years old in the 6th grade at Liverpool Middle School.  She reflects, “The ‘cool girls’ in my neighborhood, who were a few years ahead of me in school were attempting to learn rifle in various garages at that time and I wanted to be like them.  Of course, the school couldn’t afford rifles, so they had pieces of wood, literally, that they were spinning.”  She went on to march throughout high school in both field and winter guard and then with the Admiral Guard out of Poughkeepsie.

She has been coaching for the past 14 years with a variety of local schools and independent units and is currently on staff with Trumansburg and Marcus Whitman as a movement tech, designer, and choreographer.  She also teaches dance classes and seminars on movement and incorporating movement into winter guard programs.

In “real life” she is a proofreader/editor for an accounting firm and is also working towards her CPA while staying plenty busy as the mom of two “amazing children.”  She says, “They are my light.”


First, why did you decide to become an adjudicator?

After I had my daughter, I was still actively teaching for 3 nights a week, with a 90-minute commute, and it was working alright but getting to be draining.  I started doing some local trials while still teaching full time.  Then, when she started pre-K, I could no longer be at weeknight practices, and yet wanted to continue in the activity.  Judging seemed the next step in the progression.  I have since watched other moms take the same path.

You have a unique position of being both an instructor AND an adjudicator at the same time – seeing the activity from both sides.  How has being an adjudicator changed your approach to teaching?

I am more sensitive to what the judges are really looking for when in the stands, and I am also more respectful of their decisions regarding ranking and rating.  It’s not an easy job and as instructors we can veer into blaming our adjudicators, when it may be something we are not addressing in our own programs.  It’s tough to have someone criticize a product that is so dear, but that is the adjudicator’s job.  And while I always respected that, I appreciate it more, and try to convey that to other members of the staff that I work with.  I am, however, also an advocate for trained and knowledgeable judges, now that I am more aware of how much work and study needs to be put in to stay educated and current.  While most adjudicators are actively studying and improving their skills, this is not always the case.

On the flip-side, what affect has your instructional experience had on you as an adjudicator?

I am much more sensitive to the position that many instructors are in, as I live it myself.  I am a better adjudicator, I feel, in part because I am out on that floor, dancing and choreographing a variety of moments in my students’ show.  I know the muscular involvement and can appreciate some of the skills the students are employing.  Additionally, I am more proactive in critique for some newly started, learning instructors, as I can counsel them on what works in a movement program, again because I am living the trial and error of those moments.

Is there a difference between “movement” and “dance” as it pertains to A-class colorguards?  Aside from obvious dance steps, what else is looked at in your caption in adjudicating A-class or Regional A-Class groups? 

That brings up an interesting point that we discussed in Chicago [at an adjudicator’s training] – as movement judges, we need to continue to pay attention to method of travel, drill responsibilities, and intervals, and the “connective” moements when the students are not “dancing.”  The goal of these sheets is to train the students to move effectively and as an ensemble.

What are the most common young-performer errors that you encounter both in instruction and adjudication?

So many students want to become the solo dancer right away.  There is a desire for instant gratification and less interest in building a foundation of strong postural control and alignment and particularly a good center.  Many young performers do not understand how important it is to have a basic strength program, to build a strong center, to work turn-out, etc.  Without these basic tenets, it becomes impossible to truly perform with a visible level of training.  I tell beginning instructors this often also – there is NO SUBSTITUTE for the movement block – plus it will benefit the unit on all of the judges sheets, not just the movement.  I get a bit on my soap-box about this, to be sure!

Why is movement/body training important for our equipment-based activity?

Because the body supports the effort put into equipment, it is SO important to have a consistent movement/body training program in place.  Simply training on equipment can provide a degree of result, but having a strong center, good understanding of turn-out and proper alignment can enhance equipment skills all that much more.  Additionally, as students grow and develop, the A sheet in particular begins to look for layering efforts, and these will not be achieved to advantage unless there is a degree of body training in place.

As an instructor/clinician, what recommendations do you have for incorporating movement into a training program in terms of frequency, depth of instruction and finding time to fit it all in?

In addition to a standard stretch routine, I am a firm believer in a series of floor exercises (I adore floor barre’ – well, I actually suffer through it, but I adore the results!), coupled with a pushup and crunch series, added on to some Pilates moves, which are repeated at each rehearsal is a non-negotiable part of rehearsal.  Additionally, across-the-floor traveling moments, which can be changed a few times a week, are key to train the students in moving with a similar “style” and consistency.  We have our students move both during our body block, and during equipment basics.  Finally, I do a center section, involving turns, combinations, plie’ and tendu, etc.  This portion of the rehearsal may change based on how much time I have, and how far we are in the show.  I change combinations frequently, so the students don’t get too “used” to something, and have to constantly be thinking and feeling the motion and muscular efforts.

What suggestions would you have for the beginning coach who is faced with incorporating a movement training program but does not have background or training in dance?

I am an advocate of purchasing some basic DVD’s to get started.  Discountdance.com and Just for Kix have great resources.  Start out with a Pilates program, or Ballet Boot Camp.  The New York City Ballet workout is really a good resource also.  Additionally, get out there on the floor with the students.  As an instructor, you will have a much greater understanding of what you are asking your students to perform if you can attempt it yourself.  While beginning instructors may not be able to achieve a pirouette, or a chaine’, even, it is important to at least try.  Seek out resources in your local colorguard community, ask around at local dance studios.  We have a local studio who runs a 6 week class just for our Varsity girls in the summertime, which the staff participates in also.  It’s great for the girls to see us in our leotards, dancing right there with them.

I once sat in on a clinic you gave where you presented instructors with your top-10 list of do’s and dont’s for the movement choreography and teaching.  What are some of your top reminders or recommendations for instructors these days?

I continue to stress the importance of basics, and of incorporating your movement efforts into your initial package.  So often I see instructors who write the equipment book and then say, “we’ll come back and add the body later.”  While this may seem the most efficient way to fill in a show, it can come back to hurt the team in the long run, as the muscles are working on remembering the initial movement, and adding layering shifts the focus, shifts the center, etc.

Since you are an adjudicator, I’d love to take a moment to break away from your caption and talk generally about the critique process.  What recommendations do you have for instructors in getting the most from their time in critique?

Obviously, listen to your tapes.  As recently as last weekend, I saw teams in critique who had several hours to listen to tapes and yet chose not to.  Make detailed notes, and take full advantage of the adjudicator’s knowledge and ability to offer guidance.  Don’t make your time in critique a comparison of scores and fighting over the placements on the recap.  The time with the adjudicator should be primarily for you to develop ideas and understanding about bettering your program, etc.  The ranking and rating will improve accordingly.

Are there any resources that you would recommend for instructors who are hoping to further their knowledge in movement skills?

I’ve attached a handout that I give to my group of judges (I act as the movement education coordinator in New York).  These are some great items which can be purchased from Amazon, often are available used, and are a great way to build a library.

Finally, is there anything else you’d like to comment on or share with our community?

We are so blessed in our little corner of the pageantry world (that isn’t little at all, really) and sometimes we forget all we ask our children to do, and how much they accomplish in the time they are under our tutelage.  I have the luxury of being there for the design, basic training and implementation of the programs that I work with, and then I have to leave them for an extended period, not seeing the daily progress.  Inevitably, when I get back and see the program after a few weeks, I am AMAZED by the growth.  The staff there “in the trenches” 3-days-a-week, don’t usually recognize the leaps and bounds the students have made (granted, this is not always the case).  Take a moment to watch a beginning video, or tape your first rehearsal – then take a look at that midway through the season to see how far you have come!

I also recommend taping portions of your rehearsal, run-throughs, etc. and reviewing them afterwards.  This is a good way to develop a plan for your next rehearsal, when you have been away from it for a time, have a clear head, and can identify areas to concentrate on.

 

A HUGE thank you to Cheryl Myers for taking time out of her busy schedule to share her insight with us!  You’re the Best! 

related articles: Q & A with David Noland: Director of the Loudoun Valley High School Winter Guard , Featuring Fundamentals: Finding the Time 

 

 

 

 

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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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