A new equipment option for your weapons book!
This month, Band Shoppe released the exciting new “Air Blade.” The Air Blade is an alternative equipment choice for your weapons book. It functions and feels similar to a rifle when spinning but certainly has a much less traditional “look.” Here is a quick review of this excellent new option!
The Air Blade is constructed from ABS plastic; a more rigid version of the type of plastic that car bumpers are made from. It is smooth and sonic-welded with no screws in order to avoid weak points. J. Pearison from Band Shoppe explains that they originally set out to make this equipment in wood. However, after many prototypes and tests they found that the ABS plastic was a much better choice both for balance and durability because of the unique cut-outs in the design. The final design, he says, is “a lot stronger than a wooden rifle.”
The Air Blade comes in one size and weight. It’s 39” long and 2.35 pounds. It has a curved shape, which feels somewhat different than the traditionally straight rifle but doesn’t take long to get used to.
My Air Blade arrived late Monday night and I have to say, I really like it! I was able to pull it out of the box and immediately perform traditional clock stops, hand spins and small tosses with no problem or change in technique from what I teach on rifle. Flourishes felt a little more “wobbly” but with some minor adjustments these felt okay as well – just not as solid as on rifle. It’s simply a matter of determining how to place your grip among the cutouts and getting used to the way the equipment handles. Flourishes might require some difference in technique from the rifle.
This morning I headed out to the front yard where I found similar success with backhands and tosses, essentially being able to perform each skill the first time I tried it. Everything feels solid and sturdy. “Old-school” two-handed double time was even okay for me, although I’m admittedly “slow” in performing this skill. My husband who is much faster and actually does spin in double time (as opposed to mine which are actually slower than regular hand spins) found the lack of “neck” area to be a little disconcerting. There is no thin part where the traditional rifle has the “neck.” However, for regular hand spins, the cutout is in the perfect spot to allow for grip and the plastic is wide enough for a solid thumb pressed against the back of the piece of equipment for stabilization.
Despite the minor inconsistency from the rifle, the interesting cutouts allow for the development of a wide range of hand placements and choreographic innovation that will be unique to this new piece of equipment. I’m excited to see what all of the talent and creativity of our activity does with the countless options for hand placement!
Adam Albright, the former director of the Brouhaha Youth Organization who is currently on staff with Avon Grove High School of PA and William Penn High School of DE wrote his own review of the Air Blade which you can link to here for further insight. He has also graciously shared his YouTube video with us, which shows him spinning the Air Blade so that other instructors can see this new piece of equipment in action!
Mr. Pearison says the patented design of the Air Blade grew out of Band Shoppe’s commitment to innovate as well as feedback from local instructors that they were looking for a new alternative to the traditionally available equipment.
Certainly in today’s climate of school weapon’s bans extending to look-a-like weapons, there are instructors at schools where the use of the traditional rifle and saber is prohibited or strongly discouraged. Equipment options such as the Air Blade provide an alternative for these programs where performers can still learn traditional weapons technique, which they can carry forward to future drum corps, coaching or independent performance experiences without violating school policies. It also provides an additional aesthetic choice to satisfy the needs of theme or show concept.
Albright and the staff at William Penn High School have decided to incorporate the Airblade into their fall show, “The Quest for Flight.” He shares, “The Airblade’s unique look and rifle-like feel will make it a perfect fit for this year’s show, which is why the William Penn marching Band staff have decided to give it a try.” Michelle Adcock, another staff member at William Penn adds, “We plan on using the Airblade with the entire guard. It may prove to be a good way to transition hesitant students to weapons.”
For winter guard competition, WGI will be discussing the Air Blade at their steering committee meeting this summer to determine whether they will be considered an approved piece of equipment to count towards official equipment time and how they will be judged at WGI competitions.
The Air Blade became available to the public May 10, 2008. It’s $29.95 and Mr. Pearison says that most in-stock merchandise from Band Shoppe ships within 24 hours with many shipping the same day you order. They also sell a specially shaped equipment bag just for the Air Blade. He also shared that they are currently working on a video showing a group spinning the Air Blade so that instructors can further explore the impact of this new piece of equipment. Keep an eye on their website over the summer.
UPDATE! May 29, 2008: Check out the YouTube videos posted by Band Shoppe that show sample routines performed by a group of high school performers to see what the Air Blade looks like in an ensemble performance!
UPDATE! July 2008: Band Shoppe has linked to this video clip from YouTube of the Boston Crusaders spinning the Air Blade in their show this summer – for more of an idea of how they look on the field!
Special Thanks to Adam Albright for sharing his review and video with Color Guard Educators. Adam has been teaching color guard for seventeen years, and plans to spin until he loses his grip or his sanity. He was the director of the Brouhaha Youth Organization from 1993 to 2005. Adam currently teaches color guard at both the William Penn and Avon Grove High Schools . Thanks also to J. Pearison and Band Shoppe for providing additional photographs and information for this article.
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.