Baton twirling is an activity involving the manipulation of a metal rod and the human body to a coordinated routine and is similar to rhythmic gymnastics or color guard (flag spinning). Twirling combines dance and gymnastics while manipulating a single baton or multiple batons. It is primarily performed with the accompaniment of music. Fundamental characteristics of the sport include the handling of the baton to create visual images, pictures, and patterns executed with dexterity both close in and around the body and the release of the baton into the air. The discipline requires the simultaneous blending of these fundamental characteristics, utilizing time and space to display both technical merit and artistic expression. Baton twirlers are called majorettes.
Baton twirling requires skillful coordination and extraordinary control of the human body. Additionally it requires a great amount of flexibility in order to properly execute baton, dance, and gymnastics elements. Choreography for baton twirling is designed to promote expression of the body through dance and movement to create a demonstration of strength, flexibility, physical fitness, beauty, aesthetics, and harmony in coordination with the manipulation of the baton.
Baton twirling started in Western Europe and Asia. It is thought it started at dance festivals where the goers used knives, rifles, torches and sticks to twirl with and toss. The sport progressed into the armies of some countries which twirled with rifles during marches. When the army was parading, they added a rifle twirler to the front of the marchers. The rifle was then switched for a "mace". The mace was much larger than the batons of today and imbalanced. They are still used by some marching bands at parades nowadays. The mace barer or "drum major" twirled the baton whilst leading the army or band. The maces were altered for easier twirling and now resemble the batons. They were given smaller ends of light rubber, made from hollow light metal and balanced to give accuracy to the twirler. It is thought it was the involvement of females ("drum majorettes") and the progression of twirling that prompted the lightening and balancing of the baton. The sport came to North America when Major Millsap’s created baton twirling when he established Millsap’s College in Mississippi after the Civil War.
Established in 1977, the World Baton Twirling Federation was formed to develop, encourage, and standardize the sport. In October 1979, the Federation representatives met in Paris, France to finalize all plans for the first World Championships, bringing together teams of twirlers from ten countries to compete in a spirit of healthy, athletic competition. The United States Twirling Association, Inc. hosted the first World Championships in Seattle, Washington in 1980. Each successive year, one member country has hosts the championships in August.
Every year, the ESPN Wide World of Sports in Walt Disney World hosts Twirlmania described as a "one of a kind" international Championship competition. Competition is available for soloists, teams, Highschools, Universities, and recreational groups of any age or gender. Some countries that have participated in the past include U.S, Japan, Russia, Australia, and England. Competing ranges from baton twirling to pompom and dance. Competitors also get to march in a Disney parade as well as participate in a fun, family oriented weekend. Awards range from trophies to plush stuffed animals to cash (up to $4,000) and gifts by sponsors. Some categories include Dance Line Team, Colleiate Team, Pom Pom Team, Drill Team, Basic & Military, and Miss Twirl Mania Pageant too name a few.
The main events at the first World Baton Twirling Championships were Freestyle and Compulsory Moves. Two new events were introduced: Teams (1981) and Pairs (1993). In 2005, a Short Program replaced the Compulsory Moves for the Senior Men and Women’s divisions.
The World Championships have the following events:
Freestyle Senior Women & Men, Junior Women and Men A solo event accompanied by a compulsory/short programme event, strut, solo, dancetwirl, pairs, trios, show choir, 1 baton, 2 baton, 3 baton, teams, and group. Pairs, trios, teams, and show choir can be co-ed, while individual events cannot.
For several years, the power house countries (France, Italy, Japan, and the United States) have dominated the world championships. In order to promote more events and other smaller countries' ability to have international champions, the International Cup was introduced. Athletes are categorized into B level athletes, A level athletes, and elite. The power house countries don't take B level athletes so as to the give the smaller countries an opportunity to have international champions. Because every country doesn't have dancetwirl as an event, and because of the variety within the freestyle event, the artistic twirl was introduced to replace freestyle and dancetwirl at the International Cup.
Since 2005, the two competitions have been run concurrently over a week. In 2009, the competitions will begin running separately, with the International Cup falling on uneven years and the World Championships on even years. New events such as Freestyle and Pairs across different age levels and divisions will then be added to the International Cup, in a manner similar to the current Solo events.
The following cities have previously hosted the competitions:
1st World Championships
Villebon sur Yvette
1st International Cup begins running concurrently
last year both competitions will run concurrently - WBTF President Lynda Garland (CAN) retires after 25 years of Service. Sandi Weimers (USA) elected as WBTF president.
1st lone standing International Cup
1st lone standing World Championships since 2004
Villebon Sur Yvette
Solo one baton to music,novice beginner intermediate advanced(levels)0-6 7-9 10-12 13-15 16+ two baton to music,novice beginner intermediate advanced 0-6 7-9 10-12 13-15 16+ Showtwirl multiple batons with a prop and music novice beginner intermediate advanced 0-6 7-9 10-12 13-15 16+ basic march novice beginner intermediate advanced 0-6 7-9 10-12 13-15 16+ military march novice beginner intermediate advanced 0-6 7-9 10-12 13-15 16+ Modeling novice beginner intermediate advanced 0-6 7-9 10-12 13-15 16+ (events and age divisions and levels may vary due to baton association.)