Sunday, August 9, 2015

How to Make Color Guard Swing Flags

This year, one of my band association’s members choreographed an epic swing flag routine to Pompeii (a song I like to begin with) for a group exhibition performance at the Drum Corps International World Championships. DCI asked our community band association to perform to let the corps kids know they don't have to give up music once they age out of drum corps at 21. Bucket List moment!

Our color guard choreographer put an instructional video up on YouTube so the guard members can rehearse on our own in our respective states before we meet for the performance later this year.


Pin this post for reference! 
I feel stronger and more graceful than I really am when I spin. It is good exercise too.


This way we won't have much work to clean when we meet two days before the show to rehearse together. Yes, it is as crazy and insane as it sounds to put together a pep band show of  5 routines with only 8 hours of rehearsal but luckily we’re all disciplined adults so it works when the umbrella organization has a country wide group performance made from performers from our member bands.

Rehearsing at home is no big deal except the group with the practice swing flags are using theirs this season and lives in New York. The group with the performance swing flags are using theirs and lives in Florida.

I better get a pair of swing flags for me in Ohio then, huh?



What is a Swing Flag?

There are several types of small flag like things that are called swing flags but are completely different and used by different types of performers. None of these swing flags or performers are better or worse than the others. I want to add a clarification in case you came to this post looking for one thing and find the other.

  • Swing Poi Flags do not have a solid flag pole. Poi flags are spun from a weighted chain on one side of the flag. Poi may also be a tethered weight on a rope or chain. Color guards consider them props rather than flags but that doesn’t make them any less cool or visually awesome.

  • Color Guard Swing Flags  are a flag that has a solid pole that is only a few inches larger than the flag silk itself, just enough for the guard member to hold the pole in their hand. Some swing flag silks are the size of a standard color guard flag silk, some are smaller, and some are bigger, some are very long, others are gauzy for a different visual effect. Again, all are awesome.

Update 8/11/15: After rehearsing with this flags for awhile, the longer pole made it a little difficult to control them especially when the work called for both flag poles in one hand. To do that I could have bought a bigger flag or cut the poles shorter with a hand hacksaw.  I cut the poles because it was easier.



Performers may perform using one swing flag or poi. Many perform using double swing flag or poi – one in each hand.


How to Make Swing Flag Poles

 

Swing flag action shot! 
Thank goodness I packed a running shirt with me as a uniform backup. Only in the world of me will I break my only belt that keeps my shorts up when I'm getting dressed for a performance. 



This tutorial is for making swing flags and poles that fit my guard’s specs. Depending upon your needs, you may wish to adjust the size of the pole and silk accordingly.

You will need:

36 inch wood dowel,  3/4 inches in diameter.

Something to cover the dowel if desired:


Optional:  2 3/4" dowel ball caps or rubber caps
 
Optional: wood glue
 
27 x 44 standard poly china silk practice or performance flag  (I have a time crunch and didn’t sew my own flags. I bought mine from Bandman’s because they are 6 bucks a pop.)

Make it:

1. Cover the dowel if desired with paint, wood stain, or lead free electrical tape. I’m using white lead free electrical tape I have left over from my  how to pad and tape a color rifle tutorial but feel free to use any color you like.



Warning: If you use PVC pipe for swing flag poles they may cause wrist injuries. PVC flag poles are extra springy and hard to control (says the 4’11” women who spun 16 foot PVC streamer flag poles last summer.) On the other hand, you may want that extra SPRONG! for visual effect. If that’s the case please be mindful of the choreography you create for your performers so they can avoid injury. End of PSA.  


2. Optional: Paint or stain the dowel ball caps to match the dowel rod and allow them to dry if desired.

The performance swing flags my group used had rubber caps on the top and bottom of each pole. I think the tiny bit of extra weight made some moves easier to do than my plain practice poles. However the plain poles are easier to hold and control both in one hand because they butt up against each other 100% unlike the tipped swing flags.

3. Optional: Use wood glue to glue one dowel ball cap to each end of the dowel rod and allow it to dry.

4. Tape the practice flag to the dowel rod with 2 to 3 loops of lead free electrical tape at the top and bottom of the flag.



Tip: Swing flag poles are on the thin side so you can hold both flags in the same hand if need be. Which in my opinion is another reason not to buy premade swing flag poles. Most are as thick as a regular color guard flag pole. I’d prefer to put the money saved on DIY swing flag poles towards extra pretty performance flags but that’s just me.  
 



5. Spin on!


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