Watching from across a gymnasium as his youth color guard rehearses, Eric Hall sees flags and other props clatter to the floor.
Instead of seeing a mistake, he sees only growth. He smiles, knowing the next try will be better and the flag spinner will be hooked.
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Want to learn more?The Allegiance Youth Color Guard of Dundee, a nonprofit youth organization based in Dundee, is seeking new members. Membership is open to male and female students from the Fox Valley area and beyond. Allegiance offers competitive color guard teams for age groups 7-14 and 14-22. Previous color guard or dance experience is helpful, but not required. For details, call Eric Hall at (847) 409-4182, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit [URL]www.allegianceyouth.org;http://www.allegianceyouth.org[URL]/.[/URL]
This is how he builds his champion Allegiance Youth Color Guard of Dundee team. Hundreds of hours of spinning, throwing, falling flags and then success and more smiles.
"It brings a lot of kids out of their shells," Hall said. "Most of the kids come in with minimal to no skills. They start feeling achievement, and that's when their interest takes off."
Competition youth color guard is not starched soldiers bearing flags and staring ahead as they march in formation. This color guard combines theater and dance with traditional aspects of marching color guard. The teams are taught choreographed routines to prerecorded music, and they use colorful flags, imitation rifles, sabers and other visual props.
Once they've mastered the routines, the teams travel and perform in judged competitions around the Midwest.
Allegiance offers two winter guard teams based on age and skill level and has had back-to-back Midwest Circuit Championships.
The latest championship came in April in Laporte, Ind., when the cadet squad, made up of kids ages 6 to 13, won the gold. The A team, made up of youth ages 14 to 22, won the bronze a week later in Dayton, Ohio.
The nonprofit, coed youth group competes most weekends, January through April. Competitions are held in gymnasiums. There are currently about 25 to 30 members, although Hall would love to have more kids join.
Hall, director and founder of the organization, comes from a marching band background and performed color guard in college. He said summer is preparation time for the winter competition season.
"Winter guard teaches teamwork and performance skills, while building self-confidence and self-esteem," he says.
Most of the performers on the cadet squad come in with minimal skills.
"This is where they start to spin and learn the basics of spinning equipment and performing," Hall explains. "Parents have found out that this activity does straighten them out a lot."
Most of the members, he said, come from Carpentersville, East and West Dundee, and the Dundee Township area.
"There are a lot of disciplinary aspects to just standing at attention, walking from here to there, and then you get into more responsibilities. Now you walk and keep in step with music and spin your equipment at the same time.
"Skills keep building and building and the shows get more fantastic. They start having these successes, and before you know it, they're hooked.
"The old color guard formation and marching is still there but has given way to dance. The precision has to still be there. The payback is they get a lot from this."
The productions themselves take a whole season to perfect, with rehearsals for the cadet squad lasting two hours, three times a week. The competition performances last only 6-7 minutes.
Five judges watch every aspect of the group performance, including the use of props, movement of the performers, overall effect and the timing of the show. Just a second too long means points off.
"There is so much packed into these shows," Hall says.
To find out more, contact Eric Hall at email@example.com.