City of Miami funds new ballet company
By Susan Stabley
A new ballet company from famed choreographer Jimmy Gamonet de los Heros is being backed by the City of Miami, which will base the group downtown.
The city will pay for and own the dance equipment and capital improvements, including a pair of studio dance floors and lighting that will be leased back to Ballet Gamonet for $1 a year.
The $300,000 deal agreed to by city commissioners taps into funds set aside for Chairman Johnny Winton's district stemming from the 2001 Homeland Defense-Neighborhood Improvement bond.
Commissioner Arthur Teele Jr., usually a stern critic with a sharp eye on administration-crafted contracts, praised the city's lease agreement. "This is the best written document I have read. ... This agreement makes sense," he said, citing it as a model for future deals with cultural organizations.
The ballet's rehearsal space and administrative offices will be in two floors of the Alfred I. DuPont Building at 169 E. Flagler St. Lectures, demonstrations and children's programming will be held there, said Mr. Gamonet, with most performance at city facilities - the Gusman Center, the James L. Knight Center and the Manual Artime center.
At least 25% of tickets will be free to the public, according to a city document. The city also has the right to use the performance area at the DuPont Building for dance events it may sponsor or present.
Ballet Gamonet must use its "best effort" to stay in Miami if its lease at the DuPont building expires, according to the agreement.
Robert Parente, director of Mayor Manny Diaz' Office on Arts, Film and Entertainment, said he was "pleasantly surprised" by the plans, saying that programs like Mr. Gamonet's will attract more investors and developers into the urban core.
"It further cements the idea that the downtown is more than a place to do business. It is a living 24-hour community with a lot to offer," he said Tuesday.
Mr. Gamonet said he had been in talks with the city for a year after word spread that the ballet was looking for a downtown location.
A $1 million fundraising campaign will begin within a few weeks, Mr. Gamonet said.
The first season will be either fall 2004 or 2005, he said. The company is to start with 12 dancers and Mr. Gamonet would be the non-profit organization's artistic director.
"I'm planning to bring emerging talent from South America and Europe as well as the US," he said, with the goal to bring "fresh comment to an art form that been around for hundreds of years."
Mr. Gamonet was resident choreographer and ballet master for the Miami City Ballet for 14 years, from its start in 1986 until 2000. Not only have his works have been performed across North America but also in South America and Europe.
But leaving Miami, the place that he calls home, was a decision he did not want to make, he said.
"I wanted to remain here by all possible means."