When Band Shoppe first released the Air Blade to the public in 2008 it was to a chorus of mixed reviews in the color guard industry. Many traditionalists didn't understand the reasoning of a company to go out and re-create a color guard "weapon" that looks nothing like a weapon at all. However, with gun violence in the United States on the rise and more schools being banned from utilizing the traditional weapon-shaped rifles and sabres in their halftime and winter guard shows, many high school performers had no other options for learning to spin weapons. This became a serious equity of access problem for many students who were interested in spinning with world class teams such as those in DCI and WGI. (Photo courtesy Band Shoppe.)
Enter the Air Blade; a sophisticated and futuristic-style "weapon" made of balanced ABS plastic with a variety of options for visual effect thanks to its slick curve shape and interior cut-outs. Schools with weapon bans rejoiced as their students could now learn how to spin a weapon-like option without violation of their school's new rules. And indeed, many students involved in Spintronix programs and bands taught by Spintronix instructors have claimed that not only were they able to transition from their Air Blade technique to rifle and/or sabre technique seamlessly, they also found it easier to utilize other weapon techniques after using an Air Blade because it taught them without the inconsistencies that can be found in other equipment. And it's no question that the Air Blade has been embraced by popular culture, possibly far more than any piece of color guard equipment before it.
In 2013, the Air Blade made waves in popular media as it was utilized by color guard members making a guest appearance on the Fox TV show "Glee." The episode is titled "Britney 2.0" and the Air Blade performance takes place during the song "Hold It Against Me." (Photo courtesy Winter Guard International.)
In 2017 Lady Gaga took the stage of the Superbowl Halftime show and amazed the audience with her background performers consisting of the Cypress Independent Winter Guard spinning LED-lit Air Blades. (Photo courtesy Cypress-Fairbanks Independent School District)
At Spintronix Indoor Guard we first used Air Blades in our 2015 production of Lindsey Stirling's song "Shatter Me," followed by the release of an entire series of instructional videos on techniques that can be utilized on Air Blades on our YouTube channel here: Level 1, Level 2.
The utilization of air blades in the competitive winter guard arena has been much slower to adapt than in competitive marching band and drum corps. The reason for this is that Winter Guard International, the governing body and model for competitive winter guard around the world, has created certain rules in order to keep the color guard world an individual activity away from things like dance, gymnastics, other other performing arts. One of these rules is that there is a minimum amount of time that "authorized equipment" must be used in the show, and it defines "authorized equipment" as flags, rifles, and sabres. Prior to 2009, WGI also adopted the "sickle rifle" under this ruling, as it is still a rifle shape, it has just been curved to have a different look while spinning, but it has yet to add the Air Blade to this list. (See rule 4.2 in WGI's Color Guard Rule Book for more information on what constitutes authorized equipment.) Air Blades are then defined as "props" and are allowed to be used, however there must be other performers with other traditional equipment on the floor at the same time to prevent the team from missing out on that minimum equipment time requirement.
In 2021, we at Spintronix returned Air Blades to the floor in our Indoor Guard production of the show "Up" which told the story of the history of flight. This came about due to the WGI ruling that all timing penalties would be suspended for the virtual season taking place in the 2021 competitive year. Not only was this an excellent opportunity to utilize a piece of equipment that could represent the parts to build an airplane, it was a great training tool for our rookies who have never spun weapons before. We are optimistic that with the popularity of the Air Blade in other arenas, and further development of the technique and curriculum necessary to teach and judge the Air Blade, it will eventually be ruled as "authorized equipment" in the winter guard arena as well!
Want to know more about the history of the Air Blade? Check out this article on the BandShoppe Blog.
Order your own Air Blade on Band Shoppe's website using our link here: https://bit.ly/2BhQVPJ