Winter guard: Dancing with flags, rifles and swords


Graphic illustration by Amishi Chandra and Jason Shan; photos by Chelsea Lee

Winter guard’s well-choreographed performance captivates the audience by telling a story with vivid visual aspects.

Chelsea Lee and Lauren Liu

Fluttering flags spin through the air and over the heads of the winter guard members who threw them. In the blink of the eye, the guards move seamlessly into the rest of the choreography. Such a maneuver is only one of the many skills winter guard performs, and winter guard’s well-choreographed performance captivates the audience by telling a story with vivid visual aspects.

As a part of the marching arts, the guards specialize in tossing and maneuvering colorful flags, rifles and sabres while performing leaps, spins and pirouettes similar to lyrical dance.

Known as color guard in the fall, winter guard competes alongside the marching band as an ensemble and performs at football games. After the football season ends, they compete independently as winter guard in the California Color Guard Circuit.

For the 2021-22 winter guard season, the team chose to compete with a program more conceptual in nature backed by “Neon Medusa,” by The Midnight. Instead of focusing on Medusa’s dark reputation of turning people into stone in Greek and Roman mythology, the performance highlights her alluring effect to draw in the audience, making them so invested in the performance that they are held stone-still.

Traditionally, color guard performs to more lyrical music in the veins of Sam Smith and Adele. However, instructor Rebekah Kiggins, who is coaching her first year at Lynbrook, chose an unconventional soundtrack from the 80s to challenge the team with a positive beat: the synthwave song, “Neon Medusa”.

“I wanted to have a bit more fun with the show, especially since they came back from being closed off from COVID-19,” Kiggins said. “I feel like they’re enjoying it too. They have their hard moments, but once you get past that it becomes way more enjoyable.”

While costumes and makeup play no formal role in the scoring process, they are still important in the visual aspect of the performance and showcase the team’s creativity beyond choreography.

“Costumes are a really large part of the performance because they put the audience into the mood and immerse them into the experience,” senior and co-captain Anya Hung said. “With the costume, you can really perform your character, and people understand the story more.”

This year’s winter guard has taken advantage of costumes in their program for the current season with unique 80s-inspired outfits for each guard to coordinate with the style of “Neon Medusa.” Each guard wears snake-themed jewelry and uses fishnet tights to apply rainbow makeup around the eyes to emulate snake scales.

In addition to their unique costumes, winter guard also uses custom-made flags. Although flags are usually reused from previous years, this year’s flags feature two new designs. One is a hand-drawn line illustration of Medusa’s side profile in bright pink and blue to coordinate with the neon, kaleidoscopic theme of the costumes. The other is a wavy grid pattern that depicts the unconventional style of music.

Color guard and marching band’s fall program based on music from the video game Undertale also ventured into innovative territory. The story follows the character arc of a hero that tries to save the day with a magical sword and learns of the responsibility that comes with the power to do good and evil.

“The underlying theme of the year was, ‘Hey, let’s go for it regardless of results. Let’s just have fun,’” marching band director Jeff Facun said. “What I wanted the members to get out of it was: ‘We’re in this pandemic, and I know you guys have not been outside your homes for quite a while. Let’s just do what we can to give you the experience that you guys want.’”

Lynbrook’s marching band and color guard placed first at two competitions in their division, which was based on the number of members, and third once out of a total of four competitions. For winter guard, the division in which they compete in is determined based on the skill of the guard, and they can move up as they improve. Currently, winter guard competes in the Scholastic Regional A division for novice programs and performers, in which the focus is on simple and foundational skills.

In the fall season, winter guard placed third in their class at both CCGC Independence and CCGC James Logan. Two more competitions will take place in March before the CCGC Championships in April.

With competitions taking place bimonthly, the winter guard team focuses on their passion for their sport and self-improvement and is careful not to let competitiveness overtake their goals.

“I don’t necessarily care about placement,” Kiggins said. “I care a lot about the work that the guards are given and whether they feel confident coming from the performance. Success-wise, I’m seeing a lot more kids more willing to try new things. If they’re uncomfortable trying something, I want them to feel comfortable through training and asking the right questions, so they can learn to do anything.”