When Music Matters: Understanding the Differences Between Artistic Twirl and Dance Twirl


Most twirling professional (coaches and judges) have an innate understanding of the Dance Twirl event.  We all recognize the demands of technique, musicality (style, rhythm, tempo, accents, phrasing, dynamics), blending of baton and body, showmanship, timing, pacing, staging, transitions, visual musicality and demonstrating a broad base of both baton and body skills. Our current challenge is understanding the differences between the known and the unknown, Artistic Twirl.  Artistic Twirl began as something foreign and misunderstood.  After completing a year of both evaluative and competitive performances, we can now reflect and hopefully broaden our grasp of the demands and expectations.

While some of us may have thought of Dance Twirl as the bridge between Solo and Freestyle, in actuality Artistic Twirl is exactly that.  Artistic Twirl should be thought of as a mini-freestyle performed on one-quarter of the competition floor.  We should expect to see sustained sections of rolls and contact material, moreso that we currently do in Dance Twirl.  Dance Twirl’s focus should been driven by the music but also by the unique blending of baton and body.  We will also see new frontiers in the style of dance and scope of movement achieved by Dance Twirl athletes. While the body is a consideration in Artistic Twirl, it is more predominant in Dance Twirl.

So what about the music? With the two events’ use of the same piece of music, we now have to be able to separate our approaches (both coach and judge) and grasp how we can do that without too much confusion.  In Freestyle, we expect to see thematic attempts, characterization, varying emotions, and even times a theatrical story. In Artistic Twirl, this is not possible. So we must look at the other elements in Freestyle to guide us.  There should be balance of the twirling modes, traveling and stationary elements, appropriate showmanship/entertainment value, a sense of the music and its tempo and mood variations.  The athlete’s connection to a deeper sense of the music may be stifled because the twirling demands.  There will be sustained sections of rolls and contact material that may include some use of the body, but the body will not be the focus of those sections.  Traveling elements may simply be used as transitions from point-to-point on the floor.

In Dance Twirl, our approach should be as it has always been.  Our talented and ground-breaking coaches will attempt to bring the music to life. They will create unique ways to showcase the accents and layers of the music.  They will use the body as their canvas to blend and manipulate the baton.  They will blend styles of dance and the athletes will demonstrate a broad base of body skills. Floorwork will be expected and may last for an extended amount of time.  Movement will be ongoing and creative floor patterns will emerge.  Performance skills will be an unequivocal requirement. The athletes should entertain and engage the audience/judge.  These athletes are accustomed to having the judges at tables on the floor so they understand the intimacy required.  They will use timing, patience, and elements of surprise so that the viewer will see something new and different in a piece of music already heard many times.

It is incumbent upon our coaches to create a unique routine for each event.  To be successful, one has to look at the objectives of each event and understand that they are two different categories.  Though similar, there are vast avenues of creativity for both events waiting to be explored.

About Krystal Mignone

Krystal Mignone is a Master Judge and Clinician.