I don’t know when or where the phrase originated, but for years I’ve heard coaches yelling out, “Keep it ‘in the toaster’” as a reminder for performers. Maybe you’ve never heard it? Maybe you’ve heard it more than you would like to remember. Either way, here’s what it means and how you can make sure you are “in the toaster.”
What? Imagine a gigantic toaster with its long narrow slot in the top. If you are asked to perform your equipment skill or phrase while keeping it “in the toaster,” it means to do the work in a two-dimensional, vertical plane. Imagine yourself standing inside the bread slot, and perform the equipment phrase without letting your equipment hit the inside walls.
Why? One of our primary goals is to “clean” the show, so that every individual looks the same during ensemble equipment phrases. The angle of your equipment is crucial to how “together” the phrase appears to the audience.
If one person performs a flourish “in the toaster,” parallel to the sidelines and vertical throughout the spin, but the next person performs that same spin with a slight angle (perhaps the shoulders turned a bit to the corner or even just a slight bend in the wrist), causing the tip of the flag to cut through the plane instead of being vertical as the flourish spins behind the head, then the skills will appear different.
The performer who was cutting the vertical plane with their flourish is not “in the toaster” or at least they would be hitting the sides of it.
So, it’s a fun analogy, but how can you put it into practice? Find a large open wall and stand approximately two feet away with your back to the wall. Then, without moving your body, try doing a basic vertical skill such as a flourish.
If you hit the wall as you go behind your head, you’ll know that you need more bend in the wrist to stay in your vertical plane (that imaginary toaster slot). You can use this same exercise with any challenging phrase that needs to be performed “in the toaster.”