TAMBURITZANS BRIGHTEN STARBRIGHT
By: Hal de Becker
The Tamburitzans celebrated their 80th season at Sun City’s Starbright Theatre with a performance of Eastern European music, song and dance titled ‘Jubilee’.
Under the aegis of Duquesne University, the troupes’ continually changing performers have toured worldwide including the Balkan countries depicted on the program as well as Russia, France and South America. They have appeared at Washington D.C.’s Kennedy Center, New York City’s Lincoln Center and at the United Nations.
While remaining true to the original folkloric sources, the ‘Tams’ transformed festivities that might be seen in a simple village square into a rich, full scale theatrical presentation,
Of the eleven countries represented there were familiar ones such as Bulgaria and Romania as well as less familiar places like Croatia and Montenegro. A number from India where the Roma culture is believed to have originated was also presented. Roma people were once thought to be from Egypt, hence the name ‘Gypsies’.
Despite the small stage, the 30 performers effortlessly managed the interweaving of large groups as well as acrobatic solos in a circle. Among the intricate steps, lilting waltzes and high split jumps were Russian Kazatskys, those bouncy squats and kicks from one leg.
The ‘Tams’ captured the style of the various national dances, and their portrayal of story themes that often reflected flirtation and romance was always persuasive. A high voltage segment depicting the 1940’s jitterbug scene was especially memorable.
The music ensemble consisted of strings, accordion, keyboard, drums, woodwinds, guitars, bass and some unfamiliar exotic instruments. Virtuoso competitions between players highlighted their performance.
There were also tender and touching numbers, a standout of which was a slow Ukrainian song performed by a trio of ladies. Amplification of the show’s singing was often shrill due to the venues’ sound system or the Tams’ equipment or both.
The artists were adorned in radiant costumes of every color of the rainbow, many embroidered with gold and silver designs. Swirling skirts, multi-layered dresses, elaborate head dresses, billowing shirts and intricately decorated jackets filled the stage with a magical feast for the eyes.
All the youthful artists are students at Duquesne University where they combine music and dance training with academic studies. Their performance was thoroughly professional and often multi-talented with many of them doubling as dancers and singers, and a few who also played a musical instrument.
It is hard to imagine where they find time for academic study – but somehow they do.
Starbright Theater’s amenities include excellent sight-lines, wider-than-usual space between seating aisles, courteous and considerate staff and a display of superb photos of the glamorous movie stars of the 1930’s, 40’s and 50’s.