Tamburitzans travel for musical inspiration

The Tamburitzans will take audiences on a world tour with “PRISM — Full Spectrum Culture.”

It reflects the evolution of a troupe that has roots dating back to the 1930s and bills itself as one of the world’s finest, longest-running live stage shows of its kind.

Artistic Director George Kresovich said, “It’s a little play on words, incorporating the primary colors you see in a rainbow. It’s a metaphor for all of the different cultures represented in the show …. We take the audience through a journey of diversity and cover a lot of countries.”

For much of its 82-year history, the troupe primarily drew on the music and dance of Eastern European countries. Many immigrants from that part of the world settled in Pittsburgh (and the Mahoning Valley), lured by the abundance of jobs in the steel industry.

As the steel industry left, the population became more diverse, and the children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren of those immigrants had less connection to the culture of their ancestral homeland.

Kresovich was a member of the Tamburitzans as a students from 1976 to 1980, but he also has 30 years experience in the entertainment industry. He draws on both of those experiences to shape the artistic vision for the current troupe.

“I always try to maintain the cultural aspects, bringing in choreographers who are experts in their particular culture,” he said. “But you have to add modern-day live entertainment concepts. It’s a constant balancing act.”

For most of its existence, The Tamburitzans were made up exclusively of students at Pittsburgh’s Duquesne University. About five years ago, it opened the group up to students from all Pittsburgh-area colleges and universities. Duquesne students still are the overwhelming majority of the 29-member company, but eight of the students come from other schools, and the performers have diverse backgrounds and talents.

“The majority of the group are multi-talented,” he said. “They come here to do a little of everything, because of the types of groups they grew up with. Maybe they were junior tamburitzans. Then specialists come along, a belly dancer or well-trained singer or instrumentalist. That’s primarily where they reside, but even those people end up doing multiple things. We only have 29 people, so we really need versatility.”

Versatility also is needed for the repertoire. The audience at Ford Family Recital Hall on Saturday will see and hear dances and songs representing Eastern European countries like Croatia, Serbia and Armenia, but there also are Latin dance numbers and Celtic music.

“What I look at as the strength of our show is it’s a variety show,” Kresovich said. “No one person will like every number, but there’s enough variety in the show that it will appeal to a wide variety of people.

“It’s all about pace and how you take the audience through the pace of the show. It goes by really fast, and we usually have people wanting more. That’s the name of the game in entertainment.”