ASO and Step Afrika

Last week I met conductor Randall Fleischer and founder and executive director of Step Afrika, Brian Williams, when they gave a talk at a Anchorage Symphony League luncheon.

Nan Tomasko, president of the Anchorage Symphony League had invited me. On a cold and snowy morning she and her husband picked me up and together we drove to Eagle River. Lunch took place at the beautiful, rustic Alaskan residence of the Rhyneer’s in Eagle River and it was obvious that a lot of love had gone into building this home. The music room, with its gorgeous grand-piano, left me pining for my own.

After lunch, Randall Fleischer and Brian Williams talked enthusiastically about their upcoming performances at the Atwood Concert Hall on November 12 and 13. Randall explained how he first heard of Step Afrika and here’s what he had to say:

[pullquote2 quotes=”true” align=”center” variation=”slategrey”]I was picking up Michaela (my daughter) at her dance class in Pasadena and happened to notice “Dance Magazine” on the table  in the lobby. So I picked it up and started to turn pages, stopping on an article about a dance company out of DC by the name of “Step Afrika”. The pictures were fabulous and the article was glowing, so when I got home that evening, I went online to search for more details. Finding their website, I saw their demo plus plenty of other footage of the company, and decided at that moment that I would try to contact them and see if they wanted to do a project.[/pullquote2]


[image_frame style=”border” align=”left” alt=”Step Afrika” height=”133″ width=”200″][/image_frame]

On Sunday, November 13, I attended the performance of Randall Fleischer’s world premiere of “Symphony in Step”, which he composed especially for this collaboration with Step Afrika. A wonderful, glowing performance that was received with great enthusiasm by a packed Atwood Concert Hall in downtown Anchorage. It was hard to stay seated as the music and dance performance evoked such an urge to get up and move along.


[image_frame style=”border” alt=”Step Afrika” height=”133″ width=”200″][/image_frame]

What is Stepping? – A dance form first developed by members of African American fraternities and sororities. A combination of dance and body percussion with intricate, highly complex jazzy rhythms as its base. A musical/dance language where the dance itself is the music.

Step Afrika, who are they? – Step Afrika is the first professional company in the world dedicated to the tradition of stepping. Founded in December 1994, the company is critically-acclaimed for its efforts to promote an understanding of and appreciation for stepping and the dance tradition’s use as an educational tool for young people worldwide. Step Afrika reaches tens of thousands of Americans each year and has performed on many stages in North & South America, Europe, Africa and the Caribbean. Founder Brian Williams, started this company over 17 years ago and has literally helped carry this unique American dance form of stepping to millions worldwide.

The Anchorage Symphony Orchestra – A semi-professional symphony orchestra located in Anchorage, Alaska. Randall Craig Fleischer has been their director and conductor, since 1999 and Linn Weeda is the assistant director and conductor. ASO was founded in 1946, by a consortium of like-minded musicians looking for a musical outlet. From their original size of 17, the ASO grew through the 50’s, hiring Peter Birch as conductor, and increasing to 32 members. Anchorage, however, continued to grow and the orchestra crossed the threshold as a semi-professional ensemble. Today the organization boasts of an endowment, a board of directors, and 80 musicians in its ranks. In 2001, the symphony garnered the Mayor’s Arts Award for an Outstanding Arts Organization and the Governor’s Arts Award for an Outstanding Arts Organization. The Anchorage Symphony performs in the Alaska Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Anchorage.