To drum corps fans, The Cadets have a specific, recognizable image.
Visual designer Jon Bilby knows that all too well; he marched with the corps in the late 1990s, and has been on its visual staff for the better part of two decades.
Part of that brand is, of course, a maroon and gold color palette, which Bilby said won’t be changing in 2023. But part of it goes deeper.
In the eyes of Bilby and his fellow members of The Cadets’ design team — the image of the 10-time DCI World Champions is one of athleticism.
“The Cadets have always been synonymous with innovation,” Bilby said. “We often have this visual identity of being very athletic.”
As such, the corps’ 2023 production is built on that spirit. “Atlas Rising,” according to Bilby, portrays the story of the rise-and-fall of a champion athlete, and the spirit of excellence, energy and athletic strength that The Cadets have long sought to embody.
“The show has this kind of athletic feel, based on the premise of strength and perseverance, and the fact that strength and perseverance prevail,” he said. “And that really fit with us and this idea of who The Cadets are.”
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The original inspiration for “Atlas Rising,” in fact, came from the corps’ discussions regarding costuming for 2023. In an effort to emphasize The Cadets’ athletic nature, Bilby described, the corps’ designers landed on a “sporty” look, which further informed plans for a “sporty” production.
“Something for us that started this concept was the look,” he said. “We wanted to have an athletic look, even down to the details, like what kind of shoe or athletic sneaker that we might wear.”
“The look of the corps is very ‘Cadets,’” he added, in describing the corps’ uniforms for 2023, “but I think it's a very comfortable and athletic look.”
Beyond the corps’ uniforms, The Cadets’ 2023 production will display the story of an athlete, through the analogy of the Atlas character — a Greek Titan who, synonymous with strength, was storied to be eternally lifting the sky above the Earth, and is often pictured in art on one knee, holding a globe on his back.
As such, Bilby noted that “Atlas Rising” will feature stage sets that — while not necessarily in the literal sense of the well-known blue-and-green Earth-like icon — emulate globes.
“The props are based on the celestial sphere,” he said. “There’s not a globe on the field, but the props are many pieces that are linked to a celestial globe, in terms of their shape.”
“It's not a Greek mythology show,” he added. “It's not literal, in that sense.”
Bilby depicted the rises and falls of The Cadets’ story across five movements.
In the corps’ opening movement, its proverbial athlete is “taking the world by storm,” or bursting onto the scene. From there, the athlete’s competitive prowess gains fame and immortality in movement two, before experiencing the agony of surprising defeat in movement three.
The Cadets’ fourth movement — its ballad, which Bilby described as being about “carrying the weight of the world” after defeat — then fades into a triumphant final movement, a rise back to immortality, which Bilby said will be “run-and-gun.”
As alluded to by its description, The Cadets’ fourth movement, according to Bilby, will feature much of the recognizable imagery to which audience members can connect the Atlas figure.
“We like the idea of ‘The Weight of the World,’” he said. “And we use that a lot in terms of visual choreography. And I think the audience will see a lot of that, hence the Greek figure with the weight of the world on his shoulders.”
As Bilby described, though, the motivation for the corps’ ballad movement dives deeper, and creates a relatable scene for performers and audience members.
“We've talked about the importance of well-being and mental health,” he said. “So, it’s this whole idea of all of us having our own battles, and carrying the weight of the world in our own lives. That’s going to be shown within the show.”
Musically-speaking Bilby described the corps’ plans in, largely, two ways.
The repertoire is exciting, and it’s difficult.
A pair of the corps’ music selections come from Hans Zimmer’s high-energy cinematic library, including his work, “What Are You Going To Do When You Are Not Saving The World,” as featured in the 2013 film, “Man of Steel.” The Cadets will also play Zimmer’s “Corynorhinus” from “Batman Begins,” as well as original music by corps composers Lee Beddis and Andrew Monteiro.
Bilby spent the most time, though, speaking about Paul Lovatt-Cooper’s “Immortal.” A brass band piece written for the Black Dyke Band — advertised as “the most famous brass band in the world” — will serve as a continuing thread throughout “Atlas Rising,” and features an array of challenging, complex and intense brass passages.
“It fits so well with the theme of Atlas,” Bilby said. “It's not a piece of music you can play without practicing your double tonguing all winter long — let's just put it that way.”
And with a compelling storyline driven by an energetic musical soundtrack, Bilby is confident in what fans can expect from “Atlas Rising.”
“Everybody knows we’re The Cadets,” he added. “And everyone knows they're in for an exciting show.”
View The Cadets' 2023 Tour Schedule