By: Maru Lanao
Dancers from around the world will offer a special benefit performance for Hurricane Ian relief, compliments of the region’s newly formed professional ballet company, which expedited its public launch to help a community in need.
The performance, ARTS HEAL, will take place on Friday, Nov. 18, at 8 p.m. at Artis—Naples. The organizers are Iliana Lopez and Franklin Gamero, the artistic directors of Gulfshore Ballet School in Fort Myers and founders of Florida Gulfshore Ballet, which will hold its inaugural season in 2023-24.
Community recovery in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian is a crucial challenge for Southwest Florida. At a local, state, and federal level, decision makers must remember that the arts and creative workers are crucial to the successful economic and emotional reconstruction of communities devastated by disasters—but are often as profoundly impacted by these events as other small businesses and have a more difficult time receiving funding and resources to both rebound and participate in community recovery in the aftermath.
“We knew we couldn’t wait until the company officially starts next year,” Lopez said. “The need is right now.”
The long-term effects on the local economies of Collier and Lee Counties—particularly on the cultural tourism sector—is real and will negatively impact the community unless arts and culture rebound in concert with housing and jobs. While it is always paramount to assist in survival when disaster hits, after the basic needs of health, food, and shelter are met, the cultural and civic assets of a community must come into focus, and their preservation and reconstruction are just as paramount and deserve just as much attention and support. Proceeds of ARTS HEAL will go to special funds at the Collier Community Foundation and the Fort Myers-based Collaboratory designated for performing and visual artists and arts organizations that were impacted by the storm.
“The arts illuminate the human condition, bring people together, and provide a crucial vehicle for healing. Disaster recovery includes addressing the emotional and spiritual healing of the community in addition to material necessities such as food and shelter; research shows that arts-based therapies in the aftermath of earthquakes, hurricanes, tsunamis, and other disasters reduce rates of distress, depression, and anxiety and increase hope, feelings of well-being and safety, and overall confidence. The arts make recovery more possible, more quickly, for those affected,” said Gamero.
“The arts heal,” Lopez said, explaining the show’s impetus. “Disaster recovery includes addressing the emotional and spiritual healing of the community in addition to providing for material needs. Arts organizations play a critical role in that process.”
The arts will play a vital part in the region’s economic recovery as well, Lopez and Gamero said. The arts sector employs hundreds of Southwest Floridians and pumps millions of dollars into the local economy. With beachfront attractions offline, the arts may have even broader appeal during this year’s tourism season.
In the days following the storm, the couple began calling fellow dancers from around the world asking for support. The response was overwhelming. Performers from Switzerland, Peru, Spain, and France will join those from around the country and Florida. Young dancers from Gulfshore Ballet School, which Lopez and Gamero have led for a decade, will open the show performing the directors’ original choreography.
“We are so excited to welcome these world-class dancers to our community and grateful that they agreed to donate their time and talent to help Southwest Florida recover,” Gamero said.
In addition to the dancers, organizations such as Artis-Naples, Gulf Coast International Properties, Life Law Planning, Gulfshore Life and Beasly Media Group have made the event possible. ARTS HEAL is among several initiatives Artis-Naples has undertaken, including free admission to the Baker Museum and free tickets to select performances for those impacted by the storm.
The audience will be treated to works ranging from the classics such as Le Corsaire to those by George Balanchine, who changed the face of American Ballet, to a work by pioneering modern dance master Martha Graham to pieces by former Miami City Ballet resident choreographer Jimmy Gamonet de los Heros.
Incidentally, the choreography of de los Heros will form the foundation of the new Florida Gulfshore Ballet’s repertory once the company gets underway. ARTS HEAL gives dance aficionados who are unfamiliar with his work a sneak preview, as well as a sampling of the range of choreographic styles the company will feature. Florida Gulfshore Ballet’s first performance is tentatively scheduled for April 2023.
ABOUT ARTS HEAL
ARTS HEAL is the first initiative of newly founded Florida Gulfshore Ballet, which is the first and only professional ballet company in Southwest Florida, delivering excellence on stage, as well as a commitment to the widest possible public audience through touring, educational programs, and community engagement.
Tickets to ARTS HEAL can be obtained through Artis—Naples (https://artisnaples.org/events/). Donations to the Collier Community Foundation’s Arts Heal Fund and Collaboratory’s Fund for the Arts can be made by contacting those organizations.