November 12, 2011

Steppin’ Out: Step Afrika! premieres ‘Symphony in Step’ with the Anchorage Symphony Orchestra

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On November 12, 2011, Step Afrika! premiered Symphony in Step with the Anchorage Symphony Orchestra and Music Director and Conductor, Randall Craig Fleischer.

Steppin’ Out

Symphony in Step


What started with a glance at a magazine cover has resulted in a new symphonic work and a concert inspired by dance. While dropping his daughter off at dance class, ASO Music Director Randall Craig Fleischer glanced down and noticed the cover of Dance Magazine. Featured on the cover was a group named Step Afrika!, and the corresponding article inside the magazine compelled him to learn more about the troupe. Upon further research Fleischer grew increasingly intrigued by Step Afrika!, and after several emails and phone conversations that followed, he was commissioned by the Washington, D.C.-based group to write a new symphony.


Wanting to premiere the work with the ASO, Fleischer began working to create a thematic program that would include his new piece, Symphony in Step. The ASO’s November concert, Steppin’ Out, then evolved as a program inspired by dance.


Message from the Maestro:

Dance, dance and more dance! Music and dance have been linked for, well – since the beginning of time! Every culture and every tribe links music and dance to their celebrations, their religious rites, social gatherings, etc. Tonight we’re taking a bold step in combining the unique African American dance tradition of step dancing with a symphony. This has never been done before and I’m so proud of the entire ASO organization for, once again, having the courage to try something completely new.


But why Bach Orchestral Suite and Tchaikovsky Sleeping Beauty? Well? Dance! Courante is a dance. Gavotte is a dance. Forlane is an Italian folk dance, bouree is a spunky folk dance with origins in France and Spain, passepied — dance! It’s all dance! These were not only the “high” dances of elite society. They were “pop” dances. This was the rock n’ roll of its day! So by programming Bach’s Orchestral Suite, ’m reaching back to the very beginnings of symphonic music tradition to reconnect with the important practice of including current dances in a classical piece.


This “pop” dance connection isn’t the only thing that binds symphonic music to dance. There is also, (obviously) ballet. So many works which we now consider to be standard symphonic pieces were written as ballets. (Copland’s Appalachian Spring, Prokofiev’s Alexander Nevsky, Stravinsky’s Firebird) So tonight, the ASO merges its talents with those of a fabulous dance company – Step Afrika!. Their skill will dazzle you, their passion amaze you. In crafting this collaboration, we give a contemporary voice to an important old symphonic tradition – dance + music. Tonight, we introduce you to a wonderful dance form, building a bridge to a new genre and (maybe!) writing an exciting new chapter.

The rhythmic complexity of (Step Afrika!) would make Stravinsky’s head spin!

– Randall Craig Fleischer



Be A Part of Our History

Founded in 1994 by C. Brian Williams, Step Afrika! is the first professional company dedicated to the tradition of stepping. Under Mr. Williams’ leadership, stepping has evolved into one of America’s cultural exports, touring more than 60 countries across the globe. To share your Step Afrika! story, visit Step Afrika!'s 30th Anniversary Timeline is made possible by the generous funding of Bloomberg Philanthropies, with additional support from the Mellon Foundation and the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities.

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