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Artists of the Month: twirlers Angelina Chen and Ben Zietz

Decorating the spotlight of Marching Band performances, feature twirlers juniors Benjamin Zietz and Angelina Chen add flair to halftime shows and captivate audiences as they spin their batons in midair. The two are already acclaimed for their baton twirling skills, as Chen has recently received a championship at the National Baton Twirling Association (NBTA) in the Solo X-strut category, while Zietz has received Men’s Solo and Rhythmic runner up.

Anna Lim and Ellen Wang: Why did you start baton twirling?

Angelina Chen: I started baton twirling because I wanted to be involved in Marching Band, but wanted to explore a new experience, while still being able to interact with people in the group. I was in Marching Band in freshman and sophomore year, and while I had a lot of fun, I definitely do not regret making the switch to baton twirling.

Benjamin Zietz: I saw baton as a really unique sport that I could enjoy, especially since I wanted to incorporate the performance aspect with dance. I had seen baton performances before and they were so captivating that I just had to try it.

AL and EW: What kind of obstacles have you faced in the sport?

AC: At first I was really excited to start baton twirling because it was such a unique experience and I saw it as an opportunity to expand my horizons. However, I eventually found out it was a lot more stressful than I originally thought. The fear of dropping the baton as its spinning midair, and the pressure of the entire audience in front of you can sometimes be overwhelming.

BZ: What many people don’t understand about baton is that everytime the baton goes up in the air, the chance of it falling is extremely high. Dropping is actually very standard, especially in competitions, but since it has a performative aspect, every mistake is easily noticeable by the audience.

AL and EW: Since baton twirling is a high-stakes performance that serves as a centerpiece for the performance, how do you cope with all the pressures from the spotlight?

BZ: Before performances we will never stop practicing, and we go into the performance reassuring each other that we will be able to catch all our throws—it’s sort of a ritual for us. Our power playlist is just each other’s encouragement. It also helps to know that there is a marching band around us to support us, and they will always have our backs since they’re playing behind us.

AL and EW: What advice do you have for someone who wants to pick up baton twirling?

AC: Don’t expect it to be easy. It’s easy to look at it as just moving around a stick, but there are actually a lot of components that go along with it: choreography, dancing, presentation, stamina, precision, there’s just a lot going on at once.

BZ: Don’t let your dropping or messing up affect the rest of your performance, because once you let it get to you, it’ll increase your chances of not doing as well.