Baton twirling

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Twirling Baton, 2010

Baton twirling is a sport 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, agility, coordination, Flexibility gymnastics, and many more 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 proper 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. There are multiple types baton twirlers. A featured twirler at a college or high school can be called a feature twirler. Majorettes twirl in a group for a high school or college. Another type of twirler is part of a group that does local parades and performances. Finally, competitive twirlers can compete as a part of a group or as a soloist. Twirlers can start at the early age of 2 to high school aged.

The sport of baton requires specific knowledge of how to manipulate the baton and where to hold the baton. The baton can be described as a metal rod, but that would be too simplistic of a description. The baton has two rubber ends that attach to the ends of the metal rod. On one end, there is a large tip that is called the ball. On the other end, there is a small tip simply called the tip. The baton is balanced slightly off center to allow for proper rolling. The rod can be one of several thicknesses depending on preference. Thicker, heavier rods are better for rolling, while thinner ones are better for finger rolls. The rubber ends can have different designs or weights depending on the manufacturer. Common types are the star, tulip and simple round tips. The length is the baton from tip to tip should be one inch longer than the distance from the arm pit to the tip of the middle finger. The baton is manipulated from three positions depending on the trick. The positions are from the ball, one hand from the tip, and mostly from the center of the baton. The rod of the baton can be decorated with tape, grip tape added, or left without tape. The tape can be anything from electrical tape to tennis tape.

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.[1]

The foundation of baton twirling is the thumb toss. This trick is accomplished from the middle of the baton. The baton is held in one hand at the waist. The baton is rolled over the thumb and a slight hand movement lifts it into the air. The thumb toss can be increased in difficultly with 1 or more spins done under the toss, cartwheels, front walkovers, illusions or many more tricks. The baton can be tosses from either hand, but proficiency in both hands is preferable. The baton can be caught blind behind the head, at the side, under a kick, under one or both legs or in an illusion. Other tosses include the open hand toss and flat spin toss.

The sport of baton twirling has many tricks common to all twirlers. The elbow roll is a common trick. Continuous elbow rolls go over one elbow, dip, go over the second elbow, dip at the back, and over the first elbow again. This process can keep going as long as the baton stays in motion. Other common tricks include fishtails, open throats, open neck rolls, mouth rolls and more.

The routines have a predictable pattern of organization, despite a unique organization of tricks based on ability. Typically, the twirler has an initial routine constructed in each type of routine as they are ready. That routine is changed over and over during the course of their career. In Basic March, the twirler places one hand on their left hip and cradles the baton in the other. The twirler lifts the leg up into a chair height bend leg and lowers the foot back to the ground to the beat of "Stars and Stripes". Strut is an expansion off of Basic March. It also counts the hitting of the foot off the ground based on the beat of "Stars and Stripes", but other dance moves w/ the coordinated baton are incorporated into its X pattern. Solo routines don't have a specific music or beat to follow. The twirler attempts to constantly improve the routine with greater consistent speed, difficult tricks and improved bodywork. The routine has specific sections from the vertical, horizontal, finger and roll sections. It can include a walk up and walk back with poses, but the walk can be a Tour Jete, leaps, skip, Step ball changes or a simple march. Modeling is completed in a T pattern with slow, graceful spins/turns. The routine can be done in a short/party/long dress or costume depending on contest rules. Modeling can also include an interview depending on the contest. Other routines can include 2 baton, 3 baton, flag baton, show routine or hoop. Pageants are a large part of competitive baton twirling. Basic Skills pageants are the introductory level where the contestant performs Basic March, Modeling and Solo. Beginner and Intermediate pageants include Modeling/Interview, Strut and Solo. Advanced pageants include Modeling/Interview, Show twirl, and solo.

Competitive solo twirlers in the United States compete through several organizations. These organization include United States Twirling Association, Twirling Unlimited, Twirltacular, National Baton Twirling Association and more. Each of these organizations have their own rules. Twirling Unlimited, TU, has restrictions on number of turns and continuous elbow rolls in developmental levels, but they allow gymnastics moves. TU separates the age groups as 0-6, 7-8, 9-11, 12-14, 15+. The 0-6 and 7-8 age groups are combined for certain events. National Baton Twirling Association, NBTA, does not have developmental restrictions, but the do not allow gymnastics. NBTA age groups are 0-4, 0-6, 7-9, 10-12. 13-15, 16+. NBTA nations are called America's Youth on Parade, which has be held for 50 years. AYOP has been held at Notre Dame's Joyce Center for 46 years. The event allows the soloists and groups to qualify for world competition. AYOP is a week long events with a mixture of open events and pageants, which the twirler has to qualify for at Miss Majorette state/regional events. The solo events of both organizations are also divided into Novice, Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced, and Elite levels. Advancement is based on a set number of wins.


Japanese teenage girl in 1940s sweater, skirt, and blouse twirling two batons and smiling, backlit by the sun against a nearly-cloudless sky.
Baton practice, Manzanar War Relocation Center, 1943. Photographed by Ansel Adams.

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.[2] 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.[3]

While many member countries have their own national organizations, at the world level, three governing bodies are recognized: the World Baton Twirling Federation (WBTF), the World Twirling Association (WTA)/, and The Global Alliance of National Baton Twirling & Majorette Associations (NBTA)/. The WBTF and NBTA host World Championships and International Cup (WBTF), while the WTA continues to honor the origins of the sport with additional events that WBTF does not include.[4]

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.[5]

Current member countries of the WBTF include: Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Catalonia, Croatia, England, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Norway, Scotland, Seychelles, Slovenia, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland and the United States of America.[6]

Current member countries of the NBTA include: Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Czech Republic, England, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Ireland, Italy, Norway, Romania, Russia, Scotland, Slovenia, Spain, Switzerland, Ukraine, and the United States of America. Under consideration are: Australia, Estonia, Japan, Slovenia, and South Africa.

Competitive Baton Twirling[edit]

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, to 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.[7]

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 powerhouse 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:

  • 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.)

International Cup[edit]


WIP End of Summer Olympics - Dan Docter [8]


  • B Junior Men - Curt Burrows (USA)
  • A Junior Men - Matthew Johnson (CANADA)
  • Elite Junior Men - Yoshimaru Shirakawa (JAPAN)
  • A Senior Men - Jack Giordano (USA)
  • Elite Senior Men - Keisuke Komada (JAPAN)
  • A Adult Men - David Doyne (IRELAND)
  • Elite Adult Men - Schuichi Kawazu (JAPAN)
  • B Junior Women - Jamie Hogan (USA)
  • A Junior Women - Blinera Sallitolli (CATALONIA)
  • Elite Junior Women - Yukako Shingu (JAPAN)
  • B Senior Women - Catreena Hale (USA)
  • A Senior Women - Torri Cicchirillo (USA)
  • Elite Senior Women - Tomoe Nishigaki (JAPAN)
  • B Adult Women - Aryn Bigler (USA)
  • A Adult Women - Kyla Wilson (CANADA)
  • Elite Adult Women - Arisa Tanaka (JAPAN)


In 1998, the WBTF introduced the Special Athlete's Award of Recognition. Winners of this award are:

This is for athletes that competed at 10+ World Championships. Not all are Champions.


  • Carina van Beers - The Netherlands
  • Joaquin Bermudez - Spain-Catalonia


  • David Doyne - Ireland
  • Shuichi Kawazu - Japan
  • Toshimichi Sasaki - Japan


  • Akemi Kimura - Japan
  • Kathy Hewitt - England


  • Chiharu Tachiban - Japan
  • Kellie Donovan - USA
  • Sebastien Dubois - France
  • Tamara Hoevenaars - the Netherlands


  • Elissa Johnson - USA
  • Emery Harriston - USA


  • Bridgette Bartley - USA
  • Chiara Stefanazzi - Italy
  • Elin Hjartaaker - Norway
  • Jenny Hannah - USA
  • Mark Nash - USA


  • Bertrand Royer - France


  • Christian Altenburger - Switzerland


  • Celine Tanner-Imhof - Switzerland
  • Chiho Honjo - Japan
  • Christian De Backer - Belgium
  • Kevan Latrace - Canada
  • Lucinda McMaster - Canada
  • Noriko Takahashi - Japan
  • Toshimichi Sasaki - Japan

External links[edit]