Wednesday, January 11, 2017

the drum corps that dared to dance

I wrote on this before and I think some drum corps people told me to shove it.  So I didn't. I am instead reposting because it is absolutely worth it to see a drum and bugle corps incorporate dance moves into their Bartok.

In 1993, a group of kids under 21 lead by what you might call the Nijinsky of band directors, all from Bloomington Indiana if you can believe it, showed up on the annual Drum Corps International circuit and delivered...a 1913 Riot, if you will.

I edited it down to the most important spot: drum and bugle corps musicians dancing which had to be simply HAD to be inspired by Nijinsky's "Rival Tribes"

Like the "Le Sacre" debut (in a thin way), this performance was too much for anyone to grasp. Who marches to Bartok? Who marches for 45 seconds to nothing but unstructured bells? What drum corps puts down their horns and, in 5 different and seemingly random sections a la  "Young Maidens/Adoration" , breaks into abstract dance moves? What drum corps uses accelerando and optical illusion set to Samuel Barber as the pinnacle of the performance? These are masterful subtleties, genius actually. But without a big boom and a crash of cymbals, no one knew when to clap (stole that sentiment from Amadeus). And, like all things that are new, this groundbreaking performance was rejected. This was not Swan Lake. This was Le Sacre du Printemps and there was a Riot.

I am being outrageously dramatic but hey...

That this drum corps would not receive accolades for this performance, would not win the final competition, was an embarrassment. The Star of Indiana left the field of the finals that year and did not return to Drum Corps International again.

These risk-taking kids worked tirelessly on something they knew was likely to be too different for the judges - the Ballet Russes rehearsing
Nijinsky's awkward choreography to music they couldn't even count. And of course if goes without saying that the following year, every drum corps came out and performed identical shows. The bar had been raised, everything was now divided to the time before the 1993 Star of Indiana and the time after. This band director and these kids from Indiana effected such great change. They brought Bela Bartok, performance art and modern dance to football fields across America by way of drum and bugle corps and how can that be anything less than spectacular? 

God, I love this story. - Fatova Mingus (originally posted in 2010)