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Folklore ensemble plans annual performance at Shaler Area

| Tuesday, April 19, 2016, 8:00 p.m.
Folkore ensemble Hrvatski Tanac will present “The Revival of Traditions” in a performance that begins at 3 p.m. May 14 at Shaler Area Middle School.
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Folkore ensemble Hrvatski Tanac will present “The Revival of Traditions” in a performance that begins at 3 p.m. May 14 at Shaler Area Middle School.

For Oakland Catholic senior Arianna Burns, dancing with the Hrvatski Tanac folklore ensemble helps keep her connected to her Croatian heritage.

“My great grandmother was in a Croatian orchestra. My grandmother was in a Croatian choir. My aunt started out in the Tamburitzans,” Burns said. “I can feel a connection with my family.”

Folklore Ensemble Hrvatski Tanac will present its annual concert “The Revival of Traditions” beginning at 3 p.m. May 14 at the Shaler Area Middle School auditorium.

Hrvatski Tanac became the successor to the North Hills Junior Tamburitzans in 2001. Directed by Zeljko Jergan, it is one of many junior tamburitzan groups throughout the Pittsburgh area. “Tanac” is the Slavic word for dance.

The dance ensemble has worked for 15 years to preserve the Eastern European heritage for younger generations through dance and music, said dance instructor Cathy Cubelic, of Shaler.

They accept children from ages 5 to 18 from throughout Pittsburgh and the North Hills, including the Shaler Area, Hampton Township, North Allegheny and Mars Area school districts, Cubelic said.

The ensemble currently has 25 students placed in junior and senior groups based on age, skill level and experience, Cubelic said. They rehearse once a week at the Hampton district's Poff Elementary School, and have several public performances throughout the year.

The show this year will include dance selections from the Croatian regions of Zagorje, Medjimurje and Gradisce, as well as pieces from Poland, Ukraine, Armenia and Romania.

Cubelic said when they learn dance or musical pieces from different areas, they learn about the culture, customs, geography, lifestyle and language of that area to help them understand “why they're singing about what they're singing about.”

Burns, who recently was accepted into the renowned Duquesne University Tamburitzans, said not only does Hrvatski Tanac help her feel connected to her own heritage, it helps her feel connected to the world around her.

“Just to be able to be enriched in all the other cultures of Eastern Europe, all the different costuming and dances, it's how I feel connected to the world at large,” Burns said. “It's an essential part of the past and present.”

One does not need to be of Eastern European descent to join the group, although many students do join because of the connection to their heritage. Cubelic said dancers bring friends and get them hooked or others join on their own.

No experience is necessary to join the group, which kicks off its season of rehearsals in September. Members of the ensemble dance, sing and learn instruments as they go.

The first concert is their annual performance at Shaler Area, and they finish up with a performance at the Croatian Fraternal Union's annual Junior Tamburitza Festival in July, which draws groups from across the country.

“It's a strong way for kid to stay connected to who they are, why they eat what they eat over holidays and why their name is pronounced the way it is,” Cubelic said. “It's not something to be intimidated by. It's a great opportunity for a really great experience. There's really nothing else like it.”

Rachel Farkas is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.

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