In celebration of this week's WGI Sport of the Arts World Championships in Dayton, Ohio, I was asked to come up with a list of the greatest color guard moments in Drum Corps International history. That's kind of a tough mission, though. It's one that could be debated for many Fanfare columns to come. So I decided to feature the first five color guard routines from the distant past that popped into my head, in order to share some favorite examples of guard performances many newer fans may not have witnessed live.
1976 Phantom Regiment
The "Rockford File" was a trademark of the Phantom Regiment color guard during several seasons starting in the mid 1970s. As seen in this clip from 1976, the guard moved into a single file and then alternating rifles and flags exploded in sequential tosses and spins.
1982 Santa Clara Vanguard
The "Bottle Dance" from "Fiddler on the Roof" was a famous recurring trademark of Santa Clara Vanguard's guard. After not being seen for a few seasons, the corps secretly prepared it inside the school gymnasium where they were staying for the 1982 World Championships, saving it for the corps' Finals performance in the cavernous confines of Montreal's Olympic Stadium. What happened next was not anticipated by the members or staff of the corps: The audience, recognizing the set-up for the routine, screamed and clapped so loud (under the concrete stadium roof overhang) that the members of the corps couldn't hear from side to side. Listen as the horns—unable to see the drum major due to being in a straight line across the front of the field—seriously came unglued. Through it all, the color guard members kept their composure and most of the audience didn't realize there was a problem until the audio recordings came out. Still, the fans didn't care if the guard of the second place corps couldn't walk on water ... as long as it could walk on its knees.
1990 Dutch Boy
In the corps' only appearance in the DCI World Championship World Class Finals, Dutch Boy's color guard demonstrated why the words "glitz and glamor" were used so often in show reviews. "A Tribute to Frank and Sammy" highlighted the guard's Vegas showgirl mystique that had been developing for a few seasons. Listed here more for the aura than any particular moment in the show, the guard was followed by the video cameras and perhaps has more on-screen time than any other guard in the history of DCI's DVDs. The guard started in capes that soon got discarded and eventually discarded their skirts in favor of a look that justified the costs of plenty of zoom lenses in the minds of photographers.
1993 Star of Indiana
In the corps' last season on the field before morphing into Brass Theatre and eventually Blast!, Star of Indiana's "Medea" show captivated, enthralled, angered and confused a lot of corps fans; sometimes all at the same time. The show opened with the guard employing a sparseness of minimalistic body movement and equipment that hadn't been seen on the field anywhere near to that degree. Poles-sans-flags and metal contraptions that looked somewhat like building trusses expressed the sheer brutality of the "Medea" storyline. The guard dug deep into modern dance and body sculpturing and left an indelible impression on the evolution of corps' guard routines, forever changing the role this section would play on the field.
1998 Cadets of Bergen County
During the Cadets of Bergen County's "Stonehenge" show in 1998, the color guard moved to the back right corner of the field and performed a stunning sequence of rippling changing colors. Note the colors of the flags as the members approach the corner, the assorted colors of the first ripple, the assorted colors of the second and third ripples, the color of the fourth ripple, and the colors of the flags when the guard leaves the corner. Never before or since have we seen such an ever-changing kaleidoscopic explosion of color in such a quick period of time.
Michael Boo was a member of the Cavaliers from 1975-1977. He has written about the drum corps activity for more than a quarter century and serves as a staff writer for various Drum Corps International projects. Boo has written for numerous other publications and has published an honors-winning book on the history of figure skating. As an accomplished composer, Boo holds a bachelor's degree in music education and a master's degree in music theory and composition. He resides in Chesterton, Ind.