I love swing flag! Seriously, I do! It hurts me a little bit that, often, swing flags have seemingly been dismissed as a piece of equipment with limited range, and have become reserved almost exclusively for prep guards and ballads. No more, I say!
When I started choreographing colorguard for a stage setting (circa 2000), I found that swing flag was perfect for that context! BLAST! (the Drum Corps on stage Broadway sensation) used swing flags to great effect. They provide plenty of color with ample space to really dance with the equipment. Plus, there is the obvious fact that you are less likely to hit a stage light with a shorter pole. I think, perhaps, many competitive programs gravitate more towards longer poles because they feel it offers more opportunity to show off the latest trend in technical tricks. I can assure you, that with a little practice (and sometimes a little extra weight), swing flags boast their own unique set of impressive tricks.
More than your standard flag on a 6' pole, a swing flag brings the performer closer to the silk. Without a substantial pole in the way, silk tricks can be easy and fun. Not that silk tricks on a 6' pole aren't fabulous, (because omg, I'm enamored with them too!), but a shorter pole provides different opportunities. They vary from a 6' pole in balance point and weight, allowing the silk to take a more dominant role in the way the equipment moves, and in the choreography we create with it. My personal choreography style often involves a great deal of movement into and out of the floor. The shorter pole of a swing flag makes floor work easier. Flourishes, and more complex equipment manipulation is possible close to the floor in a way that simply isn't managable with your standard 6' pole.
I think my obsession began in 1999, when I marched my very first season of drum corps. We used an incredible set of purple, half-circle, swing flags that rippled along the curved edge when spun. There was a whole swing flag line that spun some kick-ass choreography while the corps played Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody. Yes, swing flag in a drum corps setting for a non-ballad! I was totally hooked! Fun fact, a few years later, after the corps had folded, I saw the director selling off some of our old flags at a souvenir booth at a show. I bought one of those swing flags (lovingly sewn by the corps moms), and spin it to this day! <3
With the right training, context, and choreography, swing flags don't have to be reserved for beginners and slow songs. I find the swing flag an artistically fulfilling piece of equipment on par with a 6' pole, a rifle, or a sabre, and it is my hope that more instructors and choreographers will begin to explore its creative (and competitive) potential in the future.