High Pointe

The Birth of Southwest Florida’s first professional ballet company

Meet the talented couple behind Florida Gulfshore Ballet and their quest to create the first professional company in the region.

BY May 1, 2023
former Miami City ballet dancers
The former Miami City ballet dancers and longtime Fort Myers instructors have combed the world to find the best talent for their professional dance troupe. (Photo by Anna Nguyen)

While arts and culture abound locally, Southwest Florida has been missing one essential institution: a professional ballet company. Now, that’s changing with the premier of Florida Gulfshore Ballet, from the talented folks behind Fort Myers’ Gulfshore Ballet academy (you may have seen their students perform on stage at Barbara B. Mann in past seasons). 

For more than a decade, former Miami City Ballet dancers Iliana Lopez and Franklin Gamero have worked with local talent—from tip-toeing tots to classically trained athletes looking to perfect their fouetté—at their Gulfshore Ballet academy in Fort Myers. Now, the couple aims to keep homegrown talent on local stages (and attract world-class dancers) by creating the first professional company, Florida Gulfshore Ballet. “We were losing all of our students,” Iliana says. When the troupe debuts with performances around Collier and Lee this fall, three of her students join as trainees,  intending to go professional with the company. The couple auditioned in Florida, New York and Japan, drawing global dancers from respected companies, like Miami City Ballet, for their 16-person troupe.

Performances draw from the late choreographer Jimmy Gamonet de los Heros, who was instrumental in establishing Miami City Ballet as one of the country’s leading companies as their resident choreographer for 15 years. Iliana and Franklin are eager to incorporate his neoclassical style into their seasonal programming.

While working toward the official launch later this year, Iliana and Franklin welcomed their first audience last month with a fundraising brunch and show themed around Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Gulfshore Ballet. “It’s always been our dream to launch a company in Southwest Florida,” Iliana says.

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