Look great without creating too much tension in your body
By Jeff Young, Dynamic Marching
I was asked by a good friend of mine at The Band Hall to help set up a
marching style guide for the brand new Music City Drum & Bugle Corps
Nashville, Tennessee (pictured here). He told me that the overall look and feel of the
group will be very traditional and we started discussing what the goal
of their visual identity was going to be. He mentioned the Marine Corps
as a look that he liked, so I started doing some research on how the
Marines stand at attention. For years I have been calling the
attention position the "checklist" because mentally that is what performers should be doing when learning the posturechecking things
off of a list one at a time each time they come to attention.
The following is from a style manual on the Internet describing the actual
- Bring left heel against the right.
- Turn your feet out equally to form an angle of 45 degrees. Keep your
heels on the same line and touching.
- Your legs should be straight but not stiff at knees.
- Hips level and drawn back slightly, body held erect and resting
equally on hips, shoulders square and falling equally.
- Arms hanging straight down without stiffness, thumbs along seams
and/or side of skirt, back of hands out, fingers held naturally.
- Weight resting evenly on heels and balls of feet.
One of the things I have been working on with my groups lately is
getting the hips, shoulders and ankle bones in alignment. As I read
the Marine attention position I thought we needed to change the
hips a bit. When the hips are drawn back slightly, that creates a
larger curve (arch) to the back and the rear end sticks out. When we
revised this we made sure to talk about rolling the hips slightly under
and "squeezing the grape." I remember when I first heard of squeeze the
grape. My high school band director in the mid '80s told us to tighten
the gluteus maximus muscle slightly so that you couldtheoretically, of
coursehold a grape there without making grape juice. This phrase still
makes kids giggle today, but has just as much validity. Squeeze too
tightly and you create tension ... too loose and you have an arched back.
You can check this arch of the back by lying on the ground and sliding a
hand under the small of your back. Decrease how much room there is for
your hand by tilting the hips under.
Another issue not addressed by this particular Marine Corps posture
checklist was anything regarding the head and neck. I used to teach
kids to roll the shoulders back and down, but recently I have found that
I like a different look (and it just so happens to also cause less
tension in the shoulders which is of utmost importance while playing).
We have revised our old thinking, now telling students to find the
spot where their shoulders naturally rest furthest down away from their
ears without tension. Try this! See how long you can make your neck
without creating tension ... that is the spot. To really make the upper
body look great, next we address the neck and head. "Forward Head
Posture" is a bad look and eventually will lead you to the chiropractor,
so make sure the ears are pulled back to be in line with the shoulders.
Also make sure the cervical vertebrae (neck bones) are lengthened toward
the top of the head.
All of the other changes that we have made lately to update the
"checklist" have come from the way we hold our hands, elbows and
instruments. Remember, consistency and detail of teaching is the key,
not necessarily the style choices that you make. Good luck!
The Music City Drum Corps Attention Position
For information about the Music City Drum & Bugle Corps from Nashville, Tennessee, visit MusicCityDrumCorps.org.
- Feet Heels together, toes at a 60 degree angle to each other, weight
equally distributed throughout feet
- Knees Straight, but not locked
- Hips Level and drawn under slightly, removing some of the natural
curve to the spine
- Back Spine lengthened, arch removed by tilting hips under, separate
the upper "block" of the body from the lower "block" by lifting the
weight out of the hips and lengthening through the top of the head
- Chest Lifted, body held erect and balanced equally (but not resting
on the hips), do not lift/tilt the chest so much that the back arches
- Shoulders Shoulders square and falling equally, lengthened away from the ears
- Neck Lengthened, separating ears from shoulders, lifting up through
the top of the head, ears pulled back to be in line with the shoulders
(avoid forward head posture)
- Chin Level with ground
- Eyes Forward and set on a point in space
- Arms (with no instrument) Elbows slightly bent and aimed to the
rear, light fist, thumb on seam of pants
- Arms/Hands (with instrument) Based on individual instrument
Jeff Young is president of Dynamic Marching and has been involved with
marching band and drum corps since 1988. His pageantry experience comes
from various areas including trumpet, gymnastics, dance, movement and
design. He is currently the visual caption head for the 2005 Bands of
America Grand National Champion Carmel H.S. Marching Band. Jeff has been
the marching and movement instructor for the BOA Summer
Symposium for the past five years. In addition, Jeff judges for Drum Corps
International, designs drills and frequently teaches clinics on
marching and movement instruction. His marching fundamentals are featured in the
Dynamic Marching & Movement DVD series. For more information visit DynamicMarching.com.
Text by Jeff Young. Photos by Marching.com.
Copyright 2009 Marching.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published or redistributed without permission.
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