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 'Best Big Band Jazz Players in Pittsburgh' to Perform with SRU Dance Faculty, Students 



Feb. 2, 2006

Contact: Gordon Ovenshine 724-738-4854;



SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. – When the region’s best big band jazz musicians collaborate with the Slippery Rock University dance department for a Feb. 24 concert, a 16-year dream will come true for SRU music faculty Stephen Hawk and dance department chair Nora Ambrosio.

Both have wanted to join forces since coming to SRU in 1990, figuring the two genres in one performance would make a spectacular show.

“An Evening of Jazz and Dance” featuring the Three Rivers Jazz Orchestra will be held at 8 p.m. Feb. 24 at Butler County Community College’s Succop Theater.

“These really are the best big-band jazz players in Pittsburgh,” Hawk said of the 18 musicians in the jazz orchestra.  “I’ve never played with a group that’s as strong from top to bottom, all of them hand-picked and veteran performers of Pittsburgh’s jazz scene.”

The group will perform “Night Owl Suite,” the title-track of its new CD. Orchestra member and co-director Mike Tomaro, director of jazz studies at Duquesne University, wrote the three-movement piece. While the band plays, dancers will present the moves of modern choreography pioneer Jose Limon.

Hawk, associate professor of music at SRU, and Tomaro created the orchestra. The group plays jazz standards and contemporary big band music written by Tomaro, one the nation’s leading composers and educators.

Tickets may be purchased in advance by calling 724-284-8505 or 888-826-2829. Tickets are $12 for general admission; $7 for students with ID.

Modern dance

Ambrosio choreographed a solo for the concert, which will include dances by SRU’s Teena Custer, instructor of dance, and Ursula Payne, associate professor of dance, as well as guest artist Princess M’hoon Cooper.

 Cooper and Payne appeared in Dance Magazine’s “25 to Watch” list for 2006 because of their involvement with “This Woman’s Work,” a national collaboration promoting African-American female dancers.

           Students will perform excerpts from the historic work “A Choreographic Offering” (1964) by Limon. Known for his dynamic interplay between weight and weightlessness, his works were recognized as masterpieces and his company became a landmark of modern dance, Ambrosio said.

           In 2005, current Limon Company member Francisco Ruvalcaba came to SRU for 10 days to teach and set “A Choreographic Offering” involving 24 SRU dance majors. In April, students will perform the work in New York City.

Regional initiative

The concert is part of an SRU venture offering arts entertainment for the entire region. The initiative includes the ING Performing Arts Series, which sold out concerts by Rockapella, Marvin Hamlisch and the Nai Ni Chen Dance Company and brings Capitol Steps to campus on April 1 and Junie B. Jones on May 19.

“The arts can be a unifying force for our region, while providing entertainment for all audience groups,” Hawk said. “With the strength of the jazz and dance programs at Slippery Rock University, we thought these two mediums would work well together for a concert, and this will give our students a chance to perform with professional musicians in an off-campus setting.”

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