BY CHRISTINA LAMBERT
Imagine being asked to dance to a song as you twirl equipment such as flags, rifles, and sabres, all while smiling, counting the beats of the song, keeping your chin up, pointing your toes, and not dropping anything.
Too hard? Not for Mary Washington’s color guard team, Enigma, which accomplishes this at practice three times a week and in front of hundreds of people during competitions.
Spinning flags and rifles is nothing out of the ordinary for Enigma. Comprised of 14 women, the color guard team practices in the auxiliary gym, perfecting their routine to songs like “Disturbia,” by Rihanna.
Enigma first started in 2002, and since then the team has been growing in numbers and in status. The UMW color guard has gone from being novices to vanquishing the college of William and Mary and Longwood University at their most recent competition at Broad Run.
But forming such a team was not easy. The team, led by seniors Amy Edwards and Jackie Connors, first started looking for new members at Club Carnival at the beginning of the fall semester. All those who signed up met several times and gave input as to what this year’s show should be.
“We want the new members to have just as much say as we do,” Edwards said.
At the end of last year, team members suggested songs that they hoped to see featured for the next year. Captains Edwards and Connors kept these songs in mind and presented them to the new members in the fall.
After hearing each song, all members were allowed to vote, and “Disturbia” came out victorious.
Since October, Enigma has been practicing hard to develop a routine to “Disturbia,” which they agree was truly a cohesive effort. Members were assigned into groups by Connors and were each given a section of the routine to work on, such as dance, flag, or sabre.
“I think one of our biggest strengths is the opportunity for everyone to have a say in the show,” Connors said.
After a few weeks, each group taught their routine to the rest of the team. Bringing each part together formed the complete routine, which Enigma showcased this past Saturday at a competition in Ashburn, Va., where it was awarded fourth place.
“I was very happy with it. I think we were very prepared for it,” Connors said.
This promising start of the season has paid for the hard work put into practice, but has also prompted the urge to improve performance and technique.
“Every team wants to do better from the first time they step out,” Edwards said.
While the Enigma members may make tossing flags into the air look easy, there are challenges such as dropping equipment, tricky dance moves, and sprained wrists and ankles. The team will be practicing to overcome such trials before they compete again.
“My expectations for the rest of the season is to keep growing as a team and develop the show into the best it can be,” Edwards said.
Another challenge to the team was that each member had different levels of experience with color guard. While some members could spin with grace, others got a flag twisted in their fingers.
“We come from many guard backgrounds, which creates disparity in the little things, leading to a lack of cohesiveness for the group as a whole,” Connors said.
The remainder of the season will be spent working on problem areas of the routine. Enigma has four more competitions to prepare for this season, each held in high schools all over Virginia. They will be taking place in Sterling on Feb. 21, Chesapeake on March 14, and Alexandria on March 21. The final competition is championships, which will take place the weekend of March 28 and 29 at Hilton.
Until the next competition, Enigma will be changing a little bit of the routine and focusing on improving certain parts of the show to awe the judges.
The UMW color guard, which is entirely student run, requires no experience and is open to any new members. Since Enigma already has a routine and has started competing, any prospective new members will not be able to join until next year, but are welcome to come to practice and talk to current members. There are no tryouts, and anyone can learn.
“Some of our team hadn’t touched a flag until this year,” Connors said. “Anyone who is interested and willing to make the commitment would be more than welcome to join.”