Showmanship: Write It In

The best performers are those who take the leap to rehearse expressive qualities with every run-through. But let’s be real. When you’re first starting out, that’s easier said than done! The key is to approach your expression just like the rest of the elements of your show. Write it in!

Get Over the Fear

Fear of looking silly is probably the first big hurdle. Start by practicing at home using a mirror and then combining expression with routine. Experiment with different ways of portraying emotion, exploring not only facial expression but also ways to incorporate the chin, shoulders and ribcage.

Write It In

When you find what works, write it in. If it feels right to lift your chin along with an equipment lift on count six, then write the chin lift in as part of the routine, and do it every time.

Test It Out

Your rehearsals are your safe zone to see whether you get a reaction from a supportive audience (your staff). Over time you will determine what gets the best reaction from staff and where you might need to add more.

Breathe Breathing is perhaps the most important expressive quality and the most difficult to control when nervous. Holding your breath makes your body appear stiff. When you watch experienced, expressive performers, you can almost feel when they breathe, expanding the rib cage and bringing life to the expression on their faces through the connection with their bodies.

Target difficult equipment phrases. Write in controlled breaths coordinated with the routine: for example, four counts in through the nose and four counts out through the mouth. It’s often helpful to inhale slowly just before a toss and exhale on the release to avoid tensing up.

It may seem tedious at first, but writing in your expressive qualities will help you work through competition day nerves and deliver a consistent, expressive performance. What is most exciting is you get to write this part of the routine on your own and add a bit of your own personal flair. With experience you will start to deliver these expressive qualities with less effort.

About author

Catina Anderson

Catina Anderson has been involved in the marching arts for almost 30 years, first as a performer and then as an instructor. She is the founder/editor of, a website for color guard coaches. She earned a bachelor’s degree at Towson University and a master’s degree in education from Marymount University.

A photo of Anesidora Independent Regional A Winter Guard.

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