What Does That Mean? Understanding Terminology from an Equipment Judge’s Dialog

| February 13, 2012 | 2 Comments

During Field Season, the Auxiliary judge looks at everything that goes into your show, namely vocabulary (both body and equipment), costumes, equipment, props, staging of performers, color choices, etc..  If it is on the field and not playing an instrument, the Auxiliary judge will most likely talk about it.

When we move into Winter Guard, however, that completely changes. As judges, we transition into specific categories to provide feedback on your show.  This allows us to give more precise and detailed information to you and your guard broken down into four different areas: General Effect, Ensemble, Movement and Equipment.  Today we’re going to look at some terminology that would be commonly found within the equipment commentary.


Initiation is the beginning of any phrase of equipment or body vocabulary within your show.  Typically, everyone usually starts the phrase at the same time; however, sometimes a performer or two may come in a count early or late.  When it happens frequently, it’s clear to the judge that there is a problem with initiation. (I’m not talking about A/B or split work or where it’s clear that performers are beginning at different times).  Generally, if the initiation of a phrase is not together, then the rest of the phrase is usually off as well, which ultimately affects your guard’s excellence.  Initiation issues are frequently easy to solve through cleaning phrases and making sure your performers understand where the downbeat is to start the phrase.

Articulation is how the performers define and achieve the individual aspects of the vocabulary. It shows judges that performers know their fundamentals. For example, where is the release point articulated for a single or double toss? Or while carving, what is the spatial pathway performers are carving through – is everyone carving on the 45 degree plane or are some performers dipping while they carve and moving through the horizontal plane?   If the basic techniques seem to be missing, a judge will talk about spending more time on defining (articulating) the phrase.  Again, cleaning and giving check points to phrases usually resolves this issue.


When a judge uses the word ‘breath’ during their commentary, he or she is referring to how the breathing of your performers is contributing to the overall motion or fluidity of your show.  When breathing correctly through vocabulary phrases, performers seem more at ease and confident while performing which makes the sequences of vocabulary run together smoothly.  Sometimes performers seem to be holding their breath which impacts the quality of their equipment achievement and makes your phrases seem choppy.  A phrase without breath looks very stiff and mechanical and will usually affect the motion of the equipment.  For example, does your team exhale when they release their equipment (generating more momentum) or do they instead hold their breath (which will vary toss height consistency)?  A phrase performed with breath is controlled and flows well, whether it’s done fast or slow.  It may seem like a no-brainer, but proper breathing is a key part of your show and must be taught and practiced. 


This refers to the performer’s awareness and attention to the space around them – the area their body is moving within – and the pathways their equipment follows.  When performers are in close proximity to one another and hit each other or each other’s equipment, there is a clear indication that they are not aware of their own kinesphere which impacts both the vocabulary and excellence.


There are so many different things that can be said about range and variety.  Remember though, your performers should only be doing what they have been trained to do and can achieve.  Basically it is equipment moves or vocabulary done with variations.  Range can be anything from a single toss being performed by the ensemble to a double toss being performed by small groups of individuals.  It can be hand to hand work, different release and catch points, manipulation of the equipment behind the back or on the body, with or without the use of hands, carving patterns, and multi-dimensional pathways.  Effort qualities and integration of body and equipment can lead to greater depth of range.  Variety is the way these moves are linked together or the assortment of equipment phrases within the program.


This seems to be the area that gives most new instructors much confusion.    Effort changes are usually discussed as Space, Time, Weight and Flow, and Rhythm (which is the combination of weight and time).  Effort changes exist in every move; the gradations within these efforts create or increase dynamic qualities.

Space: Space addresses direct or indirect changes in the quality of spatial focus or attention. It consists of up and down, high, middle, low and in place.

Time: Time has to do with the velocity or speed of the equipment movement or phrase.  Slower work is termed sustained or slow while fast phrasing is termed quick, fast or velocity driven. Varied use of time adds to the range and variety of the vocabulary.

Weight: Weight deals with the quality of the equipment weight. Not how much it actually weighs, but how the equipment is used to move from light or soft through strong moments or with force. It is controlled by the changes in the muscles of the forearm, changes in grip, rotation in the shoulder, flexibility of  the wrist and body position.

Flow: Flow is managed by the use of breath.  Breath impacts the flow of energy changes to both the equipment and the body.  Equipment can move from “free and open” (think moving or motion) to “bound” (think restricted or static).

Rhythm: Rhythm is the pulse or beat of motion which lends itself to creating dynamics through accents, pauses or the regular flow or beat of music.

Although there are sure to be additional comments from the equipment judge on your program, these are some of the terms that you may hear used more frequently.  A good understanding of these terms will definitely leave you better prepared to understand the judges dialog as well as explain it to your guard when questions arise while listening to the judges’ comments after the show.

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About the Author (Author Profile)

A native of Southern California, Denise has been involved within the color guard activity as a performer, director and judge for over 25 years. She has instructed at numerous color guard summer camps throughout the country and has taught at various high schools in the Southern California area. Additionally, she has worked as the guard instructor for “Hollywood’s Band,” the University of Southern California Trojan Marching Band. Denise has judged for Winter Guard International (WGI) and at present, judges for the Southern California School Band and Orchestra Association (SCSBOA), the Utah Winter Guard Association (UWGA) and the Winter Guard Association of Southern California (WGASC).

Denise holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Speech Communication and English from California State University Long Beach, a California professional clear teaching credential from the Graduate College of Education at CSULB and a Juris Doctor degree from American University. Denise taught in secondary education as an English Educator for ten years before moving to the collegiate level. Currently, Denise is the Career Services Manager at the University of Southern California and has also taught for the USC Marshall School of Business as well as the USC Rossier School of Education. When she is not attending USC athletic events or judging on the weekend, she spends her time in Foothill Ranch, CA where she lives with her husband and their extremely energetic four-year old son.

Comments (2)

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  1. Outstanding explanations!

  2. Denise Johnson says:

    Thanks, John.

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