Page 14                                             Spring 1987


 Try Twirling Three

A juggler's primer in baton twirling

by Ginnette Groome


From my first experience with juggling at the 1981 IJA convention in Cleveland, I was thrilled to be

part of an atmosphere that nurtured my baton twirling skills so strongly. The similarities of our separate art forms became evident to me as I took workshops, taught one and spent a great deal of time watching jugglers practice in the gym.


In the history of baton twirling, three baton twirling is considered a newcomer. First used by twirlers as a spectacular ending to football or basketball halftime routines, the increasing popularity of this technique and the challenge it offered brought it to be recognized by the U.S. Twirling Association (USTA) as a competitive event in 1976.


I had the privilege of become the first Grand National Three Baton Champion in that year. In the 10 years since it has developed into an event that has brought audiences to their feet during the national finals competition. Besides its status as an individual event, it has recently become an integral part of exchange sequences in team competition.


Baton twirling is a sport that requires great skill development in addition to polished performance techniques. Sounds a lot like juggling, doesn't it?


The two have a lot in common. Baton twirling, however, uses only one type of prop - a baton. There are different types, but they are all centrally balanced and consist of a metal shaft with rubber ends.

Three baton twirlers start by simply juggling three batons, treating them as three objects. But juggling techniques are just a basis for the event. The three baton competitor must twirl three batons as opposed to simply juggling them.


Twirlers develop rhythm and add different releases and catches as their skill develops. The progression continues into dual and tri-plane material, dual direction, body movement, double and triple releases as well as various high-low stackings of tosses. Mixed in with the tosses will be performance of the major and minor classifications of baton twirls (rolls, fingers, wraps). But this is still not the entire picture.


One of the main characteristics that separates the better three baton twirlers from colleagues is consistent use of follow through and distinct pattern. Follow through is simply the smooth transition between making one catch and another.

The 1986 Grand Champion strikes a pose - Jill Westover of Eugene, Oregon.

The 1986 Grand Champion strikes a pose - Jill Westover of Eugene, Oregon.

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