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Between the Lines, Transition Tips

Gary Czapinski | June 2010

    In the May issue I spoke of the difficulty of making transitions from one formation to another. I think of good example of this kind of composition is the architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright, because of his concepts of using part of the old to flow into the new. This continuous flow from one shape or line to another creates a comfortable and truly functional piece of art.
     An example of this is a modern hotel with a large open format in the middle. When you walk out of your room it is possible to see all the way down to the front desk and restaurant as well as everyone on the floors above and below you. However, the corners of each floor have small discussion areas with comfortable chairs, a small degree of privacy, and good comfort; this is part of the larger design.
     Many directors struggle with charting, which is the plumbing of what we do in design. It is important to know how to move lines and shapes based on staging and focus before charting. Placement of each student is unimportant until the whole formation is set. The idea is to learn one-step progressions, then work multiple progressions covering two or three consecutive phrases. This is a bit like shooting pool; almost everyone can get one ball in, but very few can run the table. When writing keep in mind that the end of one form is the beginning of another. Here are some ways of starting ideas.

     Duplication. In this simple method every other person either leaves a form to form a second line similar to the first. It can also work in reverse, having the entire band go from two lines to one. It can work with both straight and curved lines.


Manipulation. This can also be called a flex or reshape. A basic example is going from a flat line to a curved line.

     A simple example of a reshape is going from a curve to a V shape. If this is done as a 32-count move, the performers should all be in a flat line on count 16.

     Another possibility is to go from convex to concave. When performers hit the flat line in the middle of the move both the interval between band members and the step size can condense or expand as they move to the final set. This manipulation of space during the transition creates an illusion. In addition, by varying speed the transition has more depth and is considered a layered or textured move. This takes simultaneous responsibility, a term on many judging sheets, on the part of the students.

     In and out of the strong points. This is also known as Follow the Leader. The difference between form and shape is whether there are strong points in the design.

     A flat line with strong points.

     Pillow form (lacks shape).

     If you start with a shape it provides many more opportunities to transition to the next shape. The following are examples of how to set up a follow the leader move by exiting out of the strong points of the shape.

     A strong shape.

     A curve with a strong point.

     Multiple curves. 

     An S shape with strong points. 

     Segmentation. This is a method by which you split a form into two or more shapes to provide point and counterpoint. Counterpoint is the next level of design, because it sets up the next shot. In the following example, woodwinds follow the leader to the front while brass form a V in back. This is an ideal setup for the brass to make a strong entrance and move forward on the next move.

    Another possibility is to start with a circle and split it into multiple parts. The front collapses in into two separate curves while the back flexes out to create opposing movement.
The following example uses many of the above techniques at the same time. The brass flex forward while the percussion move from their line to a circle. The woodwinds follow the leader out of the curve, and the flags reshape into three groups in back.

     These methods, when they are used together in combination, will produce developmental flow and visual continuity. Taking some time to doodle is a great way to get creative ideas, and thinking about the flow of the move first will lead to an appealing drill design.