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Gulfshore Ballet's 'Carmen' is loving tribute to choreographer Jimmy Gamonet de los Heros

Gulfshore Ballet Company
Gulfshore Ballet Company's performance of Carmen during this year's Festival Under the Stars pays homage to the late choreographer Jimmy Gamonet de los Heros. Gamonet is to ballet what Fosse and Lin-Manuel Miranda are to musical theater, which bodes well for audiences who see the 7 p.m. performance on Thursday, March 7th at the Cambier Park Softball Field.
Gulfshore Ballet Company's performance of Carmen during this year's Festival Under the Stars pays homage to the late choreographer Jimmy Gamonet de los Heros. Gamonet is to ballet what Fosse and Lin-Manuel Miranda are to musical theater, which bodes well for audiences who see the 7 p.m. performance on Thursday, March 7th at the Cambier Park Softball Field.

Gulfshore Ballet Company is performing Carmen on Thursday, March 7th in Cambier Park as part of Opera Naples’ Fourth Annual Festival Under the Stars. This year’s festival will pay tribute to the artistry and humanity of Luciano Pavarotti. In a similar vein, Carmen is an homage to the late, great ballet choreographer Jimmy Gamonet de los Heros.

Gamonet died from COVID in 2021 at the age of 63. But he left his mark on the world of ballet and the dancers who performed his work, such as Gulfshore Ballet co-founder and Artistic Director Iliana Lopez.

“Jimmy Gamonet was born in Peru, and he was the professional dancer with Oklahoma Ballet (now Oklahoma City Ballet) when Edward Villella was the director there,” relates Lopez. “And Edward Villella, when he formed Miami City Ballet in 1986, he brought him to Miami City to be the resident choreographer of the company.”

During his 15-year tenure at Miami City Ballet, Gamonet produced original choreography for some 50 ballets. Many were written to showcase Lopez and her husband and Gulfshore Ballet co-founder, Franklin Gamero. Carmen was among those works.

“My husband and I had the wonderful opportunity to work with him for a long time. So he decided to create Carmen for me. I was his first leading ballerina in the ballet. Franklin actually had to do two roles. He did the role of Don Jose when he danced with me, and with the second cast girl, he danced the role of Escamillo, who’s a bullfighter.”

In the realm of musical theater, Bob Fosse, Tommy Tune and Lin-Manuel Miranda shaped the choreography audiences see on stage. During his life, Jimmy Gamonet possessed similar stature and cachet.

Gamonet had a very distinctive neoclassical style and movement vocabulary. But his trademark was the ability to clearly convey the story encapsulated by the musical score.

“He has a really good way to choreograph and put the steps into and make it a story, make the storyline, and people are going to be able to follow exactly what’s going on without even knowing what Carmen is about,” Lopez remarks. “They’re going to be able to know exactly what’s happening because his work is so clear and so precise and I really consider him genius.”

The ballet is danced to Georges Bizet’s 1875 opera. The passion and drama that Bizet wove into the fabric of his composition made it a timeless work. The various ballets that have been rendered over the past century, including Gamonet’s, reflect these attributes.

“It’s a really, really beautiful ballet to see,” says Iliana enthusiastically. “There’s passion. There’s love. There’s a little bit of violence, too, because you know the story. Carmen is a very flirty girl and she falls in love with Don Jose, but then she also falls in love with Escamillo, and at the end of the story Don Jose kills her.”

The drama, passion and Gamonet’s distinctive dance vocabulary excites Kayla Rathur, who is one of ten advanced students who will be joining 12 Miami-based professionals in the production.

“I love the drama in it ‘cause it’s a different style, something that we’re not used to, so it’s very fun to play around with.”

Fellow student Melia Brockington is looking forward to the fan dances that are included in the tavern scene in the ballet.

“I gained some experience dancing with fans in The Nutcracker,” says Brockington. “They’re fun to use because you can be sassy with them and use them in a different way to show off the character.”

Iliana Lopez is also excited to show off the costumes her dancers get to wear.

“They were designed by Haydee Morales, who was the costume designer at the time for the Miami City Ballet, and Miami City Ballet gifted us the costumes …. They’re absolutely beautiful, lavish, gorgeous, gorgeous design.”

Thanks to a grant by the Jimmy Gamonet de los Heros Trust, Iliana Lopez and Franklin Gamero have the rights to produce all of his works. Carmen represents the first time that any of Gamonet’s ballets have been performed anywhere since his death three years ago on February 26th. It also represents the inaugural production of their professional ballet company. From that perspective, Lopez and Gamero expect the production to signal to both audiences and professional dancers alike their vision of what the Gulfshore Ballet Company can and will be in the coming years.

Carmen will be performed at the Cambier Park Softball Field at 7:00 p.m. on Monday, March 7.

Opera Naples’ Festival Under the Stars takes place at the Cambier Park Softball Field and other select locations from February 29th through March 9th and will be featured on WGCU during next week’s Spotlight on the Arts.


  • For tickets to Carmen or any of the Festival Under the Stars’ other events, please visit OperaNaples.org.
  • George Bizet’s opera is based on the 1845 novella by Prosper Mérimée.
  • Bizet’s tragic opéra comique premiered in March of 1875. It was roundly panned as French audiences found it vulgar due to its graphic murder scenes and tawdry female characters. But within a decade, Carmen gained positive attention from critics and remains one of the most popular operas to this day.
  • Many choreographers have created ballets for Carmen “like Roland Petit and Alberto Alonso in Cuba.”
  • Petit’s ballet made its world premiere at the Prince Theatre in London on February 21, 1949.
  • Nearly 20 years later, legendary Bolshoi ballerina Maya Plisetskaya met Alberto Alonso during his company’ Russian tour and asked him to create a Carmen-themed ballet for her. But when Carmen Suite premiered, Soviet authorities deemed it a scandalous travesty. Alonso’s erotically charged, expressionistic choreography, incorporating elements of Spanish and Cuban dance, pushed the classical vocabulary to physical extremes and the ballet’s themes of personal defiance and individual freedom were deemed unacceptable by Kremlin officials. While it is rarely produced in America, Alonso’s Carmen Suite went on to become his most famous ballet.
  • Within this framework, it was an extreme honor to Iliana Lopez and Franklin Gamero when Jimmy Gamonet offered to create a version of Carmen specifically for them.
  • “It’s so special for me to bring this ballet back to life, first, because I was a big part of it for many, many years,” adds Lopez. “We performed this beautiful work for many audiences around the world, and now to have the opportunity to bring it back at this time, and for our students to have the opportunity to dance this beautiful ballet for me is like so rewarding.”
  • The works of Jimmy Gamonet de los Heros have been performed throughout North and SouthAmerica and in Europe. His works have been commission/underwritten by AT&T, The Wolf Trap Foundation, The Catherine Filene Foundation, The National Endowment for the Arts, Jacob’s Pillow, Neiman Marcus, Barnett Bank of South Florida, the law firm of Steel Hector & Davis and The Windmere Corporation, among others.
  • Gamonet received three separate Choreography Fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, including the prestigious three-year fellowship in 1990, which is awarded to artists whose “work on a level of national excellence over time extends the aesthetic boundaries of the discipline.” His other NEA awards include a one-year fellowship in 1989 and a two-year fellowship in 1994.
  • The State of Florida also recognized Gamonet’s accomplishments with Choreography Fellowships in 1993 and 1995.
  • Among Gamonet’s most celebrated works are Nous Sommes, D Symphonies, Purple Bend I and II, Concerto for La Donna, Reus, Miniatures, Danzalta, Movilissimanoble, La Casa de Bernarda Alba; with an original score by Broadway composer Richard Adler and funded in part through the NEA’s Creation & Presentation awards, The Big Band SUPERMEGATROID; a Wolf Trap Foundation commission honoring its 25th Anniversary Season and Transtangos (considered the signature ballet of Miami City Ballet), Prokofiev Piano Concerto, Partita, Grand Pas Classique, Carmen and Jubilo.
  • “This is a wonderful opportunity for our audiences to see how beautiful [Jimmy Gamonet’s] choreography is and how well-done it’s going to be danced,” Iliana promises. “We have very, very good dancers performing the roles, and we have our students who are doing a wonderful job.”
  • Gamonet’s archives are now housed at The “Jimmy Gamonet de Los Heros Collection at Houghton Library, Harvard University.”
  • As Iliana Lopez noted, the costumes for Carmen were created by Haydee Morales, who has granted Lopez and Gamero the rights to use all of her costumes in Carmen and future productions. Born in Puerto Rico and raised in NYC, Haydee Morales’ career has encompassed both designed and production work for Dance, Broadway, Opera and Film. She joined Miami City Ballet with director Edward Villella in 1986, and designed and oversaw all of their productions, including George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker. Over the course of her career, she has worked with the best choreographers in the world, including Paul Taylor, José Limón, Jerome Robbins, Twyla Tharp and Justin Peck. In 2007, she designed the costumes for the Off-Broadway show, Celia: The Life and Music of Celia Cruz. She is currently on staff at New World School of the Arts as part time wardrobe director.

“By presenting Carmen, people are going to have a much better idea of what is it that [our new professional ballet company] can bring on the stage,” says Lopez. “The quality of dancing that we’re going to present [on March 7th] is going to set a tone and to set us apart from the way they’ve been looking at us as just a school.”

To read more stories about the arts in Southwest Florida visit Tom Hall's website: SWFL Art in the News.