With four new coaches, Winter Guard sees improvement

March 17, 2023 — by Kathy Wang
Lisa Chow performs in Winter Guards first competition of the season on February 11 at Fremont High School.
Winter Guard’s close knit environment sprouts a sense of community.

A wave of orange and blue flags flashed across the Arcadia High School auditorium as a team of 24 students — one half dressed in an ombre blue Winter Guard uniform representing the moon, and the other half dressed in an orange uniform representing the sun — performed their show “Eclipsed” on March 11, their third competition of the season. 

Led by senior co-captains Juliette Hsieh, Brendan Sharp and Mika Tippetts, along with four new coaches Russell Crowe, Annika Le, Everett Henrie and Tiffany Au-yeung, the Winter Guard team placed second.

Winter Guard’s first official performance, or “Evals,” took place at James Logan High School on Jan. 21. Evals is a show where Winter Guard teams can showcase their choreography to the California Color Guard Circuit (CCGC)

Based on the judging, the Winter Guard teams are placed into these two divisions in descending order, Independent and Scholastic. Independent: Independent World Class, Independent Open Class, Independent A Class. Scholastic: Scholastic World, Scholastic Open, Scholastic National A Class, Scholastic Regional A, AA, and AAA. This year, they qualified for Scholastic National A, which is one division higher than last year.

At the eval and their last three competitions, Winter Guard performed “Eclipsed,” which follows the story of the sun and moon as they fall in love. “Eclipsed” consists of partner work between eight sabres, eight flags and eight dancers. 

Their show features two music soloists: one violinist — sophomore Michelle Ho — who represents the sun, and one cellist — sophomore Levi Mcbeth — who represents the moon. In their first real competition on Feb. 11 at Independence High School, the team placed second.

“Performing in general is just so much fun because of the combination of adrenaline and excitement while you’re performing,” sophomore Guard member Aadhya Naveen said. “We’ve been working so hard as a group, and it’s just exciting to compete against other schools while watching their performances.”

With the four new coaches, Winter Guard feels that they have improved immensely. Sophomore and guard member Diya Kapoor said that the new coaches give helpful tips that are straight to the point, apply to the practice well and encourage members to push themselves to the best of their abilities.

“The addition of new instructors and leadership makes Winter Guard feel more cohesive, as if we are reaching a new era,” Kapoor said. “They often encourage us by saying, ‘It’s a marathon, not a sprint.’”

Kapoor recalls one instance where she was struggling to catch a flag toss. One of her coaches, Henrie, went up to her and offered to modify the toss so she wouldn’t have to be too frantic when catching. 

“[The modifications] really helped me and he was so sweet while giving me really good corrections,” Kapoor said. 

Since Winter Guard performs the same show for each competition, they’re able to improve their technique each time by catching more tosses, improving dance positions and staying more in sync. As of now, they spend most of their practices working on “cleaning” — the process of refining the dance so it becomes more organized, precise and pristine.

Though the performance and placement itself is important, a big goal for members is to have fun with the show and pull the audience in, ensuring that everyone feels connected and “flows with the same harmony.”

“I feel like for the first competition, I was performing a lot and wasn’t too focused on choreography,” Kapoor said. “But at the last competition at Fremont, I was focusing on choreography and not performing.  I hope that for the competition, I’ll be able to do both.”

To maximize their performance quality, the Winter Guard team practices on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. 

“Though it seems like it takes a lot of time, practice is really something that I look forward to, and it’s not really energy-sapping at all,” Naveen said. “At the end of the practice, I feel happy and satisfied.”

Their practices typically consist of stretching, practicing dance techniques across the floor, individual practice and finally, piecing everything together for the competition performance.

“Winter Guard is honestly so much fun because you form so many strong friendships and such a close knit, encouraging environment because you spend 15 hours a week with these people,” Naveen said. “We never feel like we’re being judged, and there’s a healthy type of pressure that encourages us to do well.

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