Spin to win: Alabama guard competes in winter

Spin to win: Alabama guard competes in winter

Rachel Edrich catches a blade toss during a show. Photo courtesy of Batemanfoto

Flags. Rifles. Sabers. Dance.

These are the instruments the ladies of the Alta Marea Winter Guard team use in their transition from Crimson Tide to High Tide to prepare for their winter guard season.

Alta Marea is the winter guard comprised of members of The University of Alabama Million Dollar Band Color Guard. Alta Marea is Italian for “High Tide.”

Winter guard is an indoor color guard, and it involves the incorporation of the spinning of flags, sabers, mock rifles, dance and other instruments into performances.

The members of Alta Marea have three different specializations to choose from: dance, flag and weapons.

This team was formed by director Steve Simpson and instructor Brandy Keeton. Simpson and Keeton are also staff on The University of Alabama Million Dollar Band Color Guard.

“When we started working together in the fall, he thought that it would be a great idea to utilize our talent and start a competitive team, and so we started this team together in 2006,” Keeton said.

Along with Simpson and Keeton, Kelsey Jones is also an instructor on the team. Jones, a former Alta Marea member, joined the staff three years ago.

Keeton has been an instructor for Alta Marea since 2006. She says the best part of being an instructor on this team is being able to watch the girls progress in their skill and become successful in their routines.

This year’s Alta Marea performance is titled “Purrfectly Superstitious.” In this production, the members are mysterious black cats. The production involves a mixture of two songs, “Black Cat Blues” and “Superstition.” This production revolves around the proverb that black cat brings bad luck.

“We are that black cat, and we are trying to get you to cross our path,” said Lena Paradiso, a captain of Alta Marea. “Any way we can get to cross your path, that’s what we are going to do.”

Paradiso is from Kennesaw, Georgia. She is a junior majoring in Telecommunications and Film. Paradiso has been participating in color guard for 10 years, and she has been a member of Alta Marea for three years. Paradiso started color guard in sixth grade because she loved its artistry.

“I knew I wanted to go to Alabama, and then when I saw Alta Marea, I was like that’s it, I’m going to the University of Alabama, and I am going to be in the winter guard, and that’s final,” Paradiso said.

After football season, winter guard season is in full swing.

“Because of our activity, it’s a year-round activity. We are always working to make each season better, so we really don’t have an off season,” Paradiso said. “We want to be better than the other team.”

Beginning in November, members meet on Sunday to learn new routines, and once winter break is over the team starts practicing on Wednesdays and Fridays. Practices usually last four to six hours. Competitions usually take place on Saturday and sometimes roll over onto Sundays.

“We want to be the best we possibly can, so any rehearsal we can get, we are going to eat it up,” Paradiso said.

Alta Marea performs in two circuits: Southern Association of Performing Arts and Winter Guard International, which take place all over the United States. 

Last weekend, the team competed at a regional in Atlanta and in a few weeks, the team will compete in another regional in Bowling Green, Kentucky.

In SAPA and WGI competitions, Alta Marea has placed in the top 15 teams nine out of the 11 years they have competed.

At the end of the year, Alta Marea has their family and friends’ performance, and everyone is welcome.

“Come to our family and friends’ performance. It’s so hard to explain to people what we do without showing you,” Paradiso said.

The family and friend’s performance will take place at the end of this month in Foster Auditorium. 

“I could not see myself performing with any other group, because we are just so close and we always have a great time,” Paradiso said.

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