Once the football season ends, most MVs have a nice long break from the “marching” aspect of performing in an ensemble. Some students play in VT concert ensembles like campus band, wind ensemble, or symphony band, and others put their instruments away until MV auditions roll around again in the summer. But members of the MV color guard have the opportunity to keep marching and spinning throughout the winter with ValianT — Virginia Tech’s own indoor color guard.
The indoor side of marching band is a lesser known version of the activity that takes place during the off-season of marching band. There are indoor color guard groups, indoor drumline groups, and recently even indoor winds groups that compete throughout the winter against other groups nearby and even across the country.
ValianT was established at Tech in 2015, and through two full undefeated seasons of competition, its members have only grown in skill and intensity. ValianT is now in the thick of their third season, and they’re preparing to take their upcoming competitions by storm.
Katie Ledwell is ValianT’s current captain, and she’s been in charge of getting the group organized for the indoor season alongside ValianT founder, Virginia Kibler. Ledwell explains,
“Competing at the collegiate level takes a whole lot of planning, from show and concept design; budgeting for uniforms, [flag] silks, and a new floor; and finding a space to work.”
-Katie Ledwell, captain of ValianT Indoor Guard
All of these tasks must be completed by early January when the group starts auditions. “All and all, it is basically a two-month complete turnaround!” says Ledwell.
Ashley Deans has been a member of ValianT since last year. Having marched with an independent indoor guard in high school, she is no stranger to the fast transition between the outdoor football season and the different style of the indoor season. She explains,
“Obviously there are similarities between indoor and outdoor guard; we are still creating a performance, we are still spinning equipment, and the same basic skills can be applied. What I think surprises many people is how different the two activities are.”
-Ashley Deans, member of ValianT Indoor Guard
Color guard in The Marching Virginians often involves spinning flags to the rhythm of the band’s music, in order to add an amazing visual effect to the performance. Members move flags with a multitude of intricate techniques and often throw the flags into the air and catch them—regardless of the weather. Indoor color guard has a lot of these same elements, but with a few key differences.
Indoor color guard shows are often performed on a decorated tarp or “floor,” and they’re set to a music track, rather than performed with a band. Members of the MV color guard spin flag almost exclusively—with the exception of the Incredibles show this past season where they incorporated rifle spinning.
In ValianT, members spin both flag and “weapon”—a term which refers to wooden rifles and metal sabers. Additionally, The Marching Virginians change their shows for almost every football game, while the indoor guard fine-tunes one show throughout their season. Deans says, “There is a much higher level of showmanship in indoor guard compared to most outdoor performances. The equipment work is usually more intense, and there is an element of dancing that far surpasses dancing incorporated into outdoor shows. Another main difference is that winter guard performances usually seek to tell a story.”
This year, ValianT’s show is called “Newsies on a Mission,” and it tells a story from Newsies, a musical about the Newsboys’ Strike of 1899. Their show is to the song “Carrying the Banner,” which is from early in the musical, as the boys prepare to sell newspapers for the day. As Ledwell explains, this year’s show “is a fun and exciting program with plenty of new tricks, tosses, and acting to portray our characters.”
While performances with The Marching Virginians are meant to entertain football fans and keep the energy up in the stadium, ValianT will be competing with high-level color guards in hopes to win some trophies and do well in Atlantic Indoor Association (AIA) Championships in late March. Leading up to this competition, ValianT will be competing in Mechanicsville, VA; Raleigh, NC; Cary, NC; and Fayetteville NC. See the bottom of this post for more information about these competitions, if you’re interested in attending! ValianT also hosts a friends and family show at the MVC at the end of their season, which will be advertised once a date is chosen. Come out and support them!
Since ValianT is student-run, finding practice spaces, signing up for competitions, and raising enough funds to compete is completely on the students. Ledwell says,
“We have learned over the past four years to stay flexible, get creative, and always have a positive attitude. Actually, that's where our name came from! We wanted to name ourselves something that truly emulated who we were.”
ValianT has offered an amazing opportunity for members of the MV color guard to continue spinning after the football season. The group is continuing to improve every year, and they’ve also become very close-knit.
Ledwell says, “Without the ladies I spin with and their courage and talent, this program would have never gotten off the ground, and for that, I am incredibly grateful to call them my teammates and my friends.”
Deans echoes this sentiment, saying,
“My favorite thing about ValianT is the sense of community. Getting to spin with these girls is truly an honor. Everyone is so dedicated, creative, kind, and caring. I know that I can count on my teammates to give 110% every time we perform, but more importantly I know I can count on them to be there for me as a friend as well… It is really just a great feeling to be able to do what I love most with the people that I love most.”
You can help ValianT have an incredible and successful season by donating here!
You can also come support ValianT at any of the upcoming competitions:
March 2nd at Atlee High School in Mechanicsville, VA
March 9th at Wakefield High School in Raleigh, North Carolina
March 23 at Middle Creek High School in Cary, North Carolina
March 30 - AIA Championships - at Crown Coliseum in Fayetteville, North Carolina