Ron Tassone had told Jodi Welch that he would retire when she did. So in 2013, when Ms. Welch stepped down as a dance professor at Point Park University, she asked Mr. Tassone if he would do the same. Maybe he’d just work for one more year, he replied.
That year passed, and she asked again. Oh, just one more year, he said. He later hoped he would work until he was 80.
“He was like the Energizer Bunny, and he lived for Point Park,” Ms. Welch said.
Mr. Tassone, a Point Park dance professor and former Broadway dancer, died of natural causes Tuesday in his home in Shadyside. He was 76.
Born in Cardale and reared in Fairbank, both in Fayette County, he was a natural performer. He would ask for nickels from diners at his grandparents’ restaurant and use them to play his favorite song on the jukebox when he was almost too small to reach its buttons. Then he would put on a one-man — almost one-toddler — dance show for the restaurants’ patrons, said his brother, Eugene of Fairbank.
He sometimes was teased at Redstone High School for being a male dancer, said Donelle Capriotti, his cousin. One day during football practice — Mr. Tassone was there as the school’s drum major — a ball rolled up to him. He kicked it through the goal posts and said to the surprised players, “See? That’s what you can do when you have dancers’ thighs.”
He was accepted to study dance at The Juilliard School at 16.
After graduating, he made his Broadway debut in “Gypsy.” He went on to appear in seven other Broadway shows and spent three years as a member of the Peter Gennaro dance troupe that performed on “The Ed Sullivan Show.”
Branching out from performance into choreography and then teaching, Mr. Tassone came to Point Park in 1975 to establish the dance program’s jazz major.
His time in show business gave him an assortment of stories to pass on to his students — stories about stars such as Bob Fosse, Shirley MacLaine and Barbra Streisand, said Kiesha Lalama, associate dance professor at Point Park.
Ms. Lalama was one of Mr. Tassone’s students when she attended Point Park from 1992-95. He helped her find work as a dancer, choreographer and teacher.
“Everything I am is because of the foundation he gave me and the seeds he planted in me ... and there are thousands of other people he’s provided these opportunities for,” she said.
Mr. Tassone was a prolific choreographer, creating more than 25 jazz works at Point Park and choreographing or directing musicals around the region.
“He was a man of showmanship. He liked spectacle and pizzazz and everything that jazz is,” Ms. Lalama said.
He co-choreographed the American College Theatre Festival award-winning “Grand Hotel,” which was performed at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., in April 2002.
In 2012, he received a lifetime achievement award from Pittsburgh New Works Festival.
But, more than the accolades and technique he passed down, Mr. Tassone made a mark at Point Park by genuinely caring about his students, Ms. Lalama said.
“He had the biggest heart, and that’s the one thing you really can’t teach. ... He wasn’t just training us to be dancers. He was training us to be better human beings.”
Point Park University and Mr. Tassone’s family are organizing a memorial service for Mr. Tassone, the details of which have not yet been finalized.
Laura Byko: firstname.lastname@example.org.