The View from the Guard Lisalisamomeesa Johnson, Guard
So you've been marching for a hundred years as a tenor....or a baritone...or maybe you've been a drum major.... whatever.... maybe... just maybe you were wondering what it's like to be in the color guard. How do we learn our show? How do we run our rehearsals? What's it like to perform as a "guard person?" So far, we've been what I think is the corps' best kept secret. ( I may be biased, but I doubt it). What have we been up to whilst sequestered in the top secret hangar???? Why the mystery??? Well, I may be breaking the guard code of privacy ethics...but here goes.
Put my moccasins on....you're about to walk a mile in my (and other's)
First....rehearsals. Imagine if you will, having a rehearsal where your
horn/drum instructor has no music for you He plays a few notes, then tells
you to play them. He plays a few more, you follow, etc. There's no sheet
music, there's nothing to take home and practice from other than what's
stored in your head. That's what learning equipment work is like. (Those
of you that don't read music will understand that one.) Also, another thing
to keep in mind: there's no such thing as singing or bopping your equipment
work. It's full out all the time - every time. And lastly, it's not like
you can lay out a couple notes. You're doing something, running, jumping,
dancing, spinning, EVERY NOTE of the run-throughs. Then of course, in
between runs of the show, you've got to [while the rest of the corps is
taking a quick water break] run and reset all your equipment (could be up to
7 pieces, set all over the field), only to start the run-throughs all over
again. If you've read my camp reports, you know what the detail of a guard
rehearsal is like, so I won't bore you.
Going to a show. If you're lucky, you've got a place to wash your hands and
face before you start smearing spackle...err, I mean, make-up on your sweaty
and sunburned face. If you're not, you're falling to your knees and praising
the baby-wipe goddess. Next comes pouring yourself into your costume,
trying to avoid showing your bare hiney to the rest of the world walking by
your bus....but you give up, thinking, "eh....they've seen it all before."
Plus, you're just too hot and impatient to care anymore.
As everyone gathers for the pre-show warm-up, adrenaline starts to build. I
become focused. I stretch, go over parts of the show, talk quietly amongst
the few people around me, going over parts of the show with them. Spectators
start to gather to watch us warm up. My heart begins to beat faster as the
guard moves to the "ready" staging area. I can hear the crowd's response to
another corps' show. I like to close my eyes and visualize doing the
Next thing I know, we're headed out to the field. The lights are shinning,
the stands are full. Somehow, everyone is there to see *me*. At least
that's what I think as my mouth goes dry.
5, 6, 7, 8... the show starts, suddenly I go into autopilot. *THINKING*
about the work becomes second nature as I connect with the audience,
accentuating the music with my body movements and facial expressions,
finding that person in the audience and making them watch ME. One thing that
always comes to me about midway through a show is "I am having such a good
time." Some of the things I'm thinking about, besides the work that just
seems to come automatically, are the music as it's being played, what it
means, how it effects people, how I can best interpret it. I'm smiling, or
maybe I have a serious look. It's the music, though, that just takes over.
Dancing, leaping through the air, spinning my flag. It just feels like I'm
floating on air. There are always a few parts in the show where I make eye
contact with someone in the guard. Maybe it's during an equipment exchange.
One time Bill told me I looked beautiful. Hey, that's what the pit is for,
right? To hide all the equipment and costume changes and quick words of
encouragement, right? Heh.
Before I know it, the show's over. The crowd is going insane. The
applause...well, let's admit it. It's like food. It just feels good. And as
luck would have it, the ending pose is some wacky thing where I'm holding
the end of the pole up (which by now weighs 800 pounds) and I'm holding a
smile on my face while thinking "Call us to a mark time hut....dude...call
us to a mark time hut NOW....Sweet Mother of Jesus, if you want to ever have
children you will call it...ahhhh..." and I can come out of my pose. Funny,
I never had that problem when I was younger. Ugh. But what a great feeling.
A rush of happiness always comes over me after a performance. I can't really
(and fear that I haven't, here in this article) articulate exactly the rush
that comes from performing as a color guard member. I suspect it's not
that much different from anyone else on the field, but this has been my
It's as if we are Broadway dancers performing to a musical.
Back in the parking lot, hugs and kisses abound. Everyone has just had the
same experience I did. It was something so special and unique. Maybe I find
that person that gave you those few words of encouragement backfield (or
behind the pit). Whatever. All I know is that I just experienced something
so completely wonderful with 135 brothers and sisters. I didn't play a note
or drum a beat, but we all walked through a magical time in history
Next thing I know, someone is handing me an ice-cold beer asking me how my show went. Does senior corps rock or what?