Club helps members forge bonds, career paths through participation

6 months ago
Summer Lebel
Mercury Staff

The UTD Color Guard spent the first month of the fall preparing for its first exhibition of the semester at the Day for Kids event in Mesquite.

Last fall, a small group of students, led by Yathip Mindy Chokpapone, a neuroscience junior, officially started the Color Guard. Chokpapone, who has been involved with guard since the beginning of high school, said she hoped to find others who were interested in the sport.

Guard historian Kendalyn Aldridge, an arts and performance senior, said Chokpapone started to seek out fellow students during the spring semester of 2015. Aldridge said the fledgling club then met with a color guard director with the Plano Independent School District, who supplied equipment and helped them find funding.

While color guards often accompany a marching band or drum corps, UTD’s Color Guard is a variation known as Winter Guard. A winter guard performs indoors with a typically pre-recorded background music track. During the performance, they spin and toss the equipment in sync with each other, occasionally switching from one piece of equipment to another. The equipment traditionally includes flags, sabres and rifles, though other pieces may be included occasionally.

“My favorite thing about guard is that it’s a beautiful mixture between theater and dance,” Aldridge said. “It’s a different way to tell a story that’s more than just saying it out loud or doing body work. You have an extra piece of equipment that can also convey emotions that you don’t get from anywhere else.”

Chokpapone said the club practices as a group for two hours every week to prepare for exhibitions, with their first one scheduled on Sept. 17.

The Guard is also doing at least one exhibition per year in collaboration with the group the director from PISD runs. Chokpapone said they hope to have a competitive team in the next few years.

The club prepared the same basic choreography for their first exhibition of the year that was used for its show last spring. After fall recruitment, the choreography was expanded to accommodate their growing membership.

Chokpapone said creating the choreography was a group effort.

“Basically, I made the rough draft of the choreography, then I went in and asked everyone else to contribute their ideas because I’m just a person and I have favorite things I like to do, so I tend to repeat a lot of things,” Chokpapone said. “Other people like other things and they’re able to put that in. That’s pretty much what this club is; it’s just everyone together making a show.”

Sarah Perkins, a mechanical engineering sophomore and the club’s treasurer, said although the exhibition performance may seem effortless, people may not realize how challenging the sport is physically.

“It’s actually really intense and it’s a work out when done properly,” Perkins said.

Perkins said due to the group nature of the club, a close bond is formed between the members while preparing for exhibitions.

“It really is a pretty tight-knit group and we do kind of become like a family as time goes on and the season drones on,” Perkins said.

Danika Lelina, the club’s vice president, said being in guard during high school and college helped her decide what she wanted to study at UTD.

“That’s when I really realized that somewhere in the future I want to teach something, because I found being a section leader my senior year, I really liked teaching, whether I was teaching guard or something else,” said Lelina, a sophomore math major. “Color Guard basically helped me find my path through life.”

Though the club has several members who started in guard early in high school, it accepts interested students of all skill levels. Students who are newer to the sport prepared for the Sept. 17 exhibition alongside the longtime veterans.

Aldridge, who began participating in guard during her freshman year of high school, said one of the most important things when starting out is accepting imperfections.

“Guard is only what you make of it,” Aldridge said. “You have to be open to it. It’s one of those things where you start off and you have to know it’s okay to make mistakes.”