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  • March tunes stir memories of batons

March tunes stir memories of batons

on Wednesday, 06 July 2016. Posted in Columns, Opinions

Music, like smell, has the ability to transport us back in time and bring to mind things we may have forgotten or not thought about in a long time. Such was the case for me on Thursday night as I enjoyed the music from the 246th Army Band, S.C. Army National Guard that performed here in the Francis Marion University Performing Arts Center.

As the band played a medley of marches, it reminded me how much I enjoyed march band songs as a kid. The music took me back to the 1960s when I listened to band tunes on my record player. I remembered John Philip Sousa’s “Star & Stripes Forever,” “The Thunderer,” “King Cotton, “El Capitan,” and “The Liberty Bell,” to name a few. My interest in the stirring patriotic marches was triggered by my desire to be a baton-twirling majorette and strut down the street in a parade.

With that in mind, I took baton classes at the Vera Marchette School of Dance and also from Faye Cannon’s School of Dance. So, as a student baton twirler, I got to march in the downtown Christmas parades wearing my bright white marching boots and colorful costumes. Unfortunately, the popularity of baton twirling majorettes was on the wane and by the time I got to high school there was no demand for my “talents” with a baton.

Somehow I have managed to hold on to two of my now 50-plus year-old batons. They still work fine, but my twirling days are over. As a young girl though, baton twirling was popular and it was not unusual to see twirlers in talent shows and even competing in beauty contests.

For this column I googled baton twirling. Wikipedia describes it as a sport involving the manipulation of a metal rod and the human body to a coordinated routine and is similar to rhythmic gymnastics or color guard (flag spinning). Twirling combines dance, agility, coordination, flexibility gymnastics, and many more while manipulating a single baton or multiple batons. It is primarily performed with the accompaniment of music.

To my amazement, I found that baton twirling still exists. The World Baton Twirling Federation was formed in 1977 to develop, encourage, and standardize the sport, according to Wikipedia. Every year, the ESPN Wide World of Sports in Walt Disney World hosts Twirlmania described as a “one of a kind” international championship competition. Competition is available for soloists, teams, high schools, universities, and recreational groups of any age or gender.

Some countries that have participated include the U.S, Japan, Russia, Australia, and England. Also, The World Championships have the events, such as Freestyle Senior Women and Men, Junior Women and Men, a solo event accompanied by a compulsory/short programme event, strut, solo, dancetwirl, pairs, trios, show choir, one baton, two batons, three batons, teams, and group. I am wowed and thankful that the 246th Army Band led to my discovery that baton-twirling goes on. Makes me happy that I saved my batons. P.S. The band concert was fabulous!

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