He was Miami City Ballet’s resident choreographer before establishing his own company. He later returned to his native Peru to run the National Ballet. He died of Covid-19.
By Brian Seibert
This obituary is part of a series about people who have died in the coronavirus pandemic. Read about others here.
It was ballet that took Jimmy Gamonet de los Heros away from his homeland, Peru. It took him to Florida, where for the first 15 years of Miami City Ballet he was the company’s resident choreographer, helping to establish it as one of the leading troupes in the country.
But it was also ballet that brought him back to Peru in 2015, when he became the artistic director of the National Ballet there.
Mr. Gamonet (pronounced gam-o-NAY) died in a hospital in Lima on Feb. 26. He was 63. The cause was Covid-19, his partner of 33 years, Jorge Mursuli, said.
Mr. Gamonet was born in Lima on March 6, 1957. His parents, Jose Francisco Gamonet and Maria Amalia de Los Heros, were both actors, and his father ran a theater. He began studying ballet as a teenager and joined one of the companies that merged to form the National Ballet in 1979.
That same year, he won his first international competition. Other competitions and victories led to a short stint with the Ballet du Nord in Roubaix, France. But it was when he joined Ballet Oklahoma (now Oklahoma City Ballet) that his career took off.
The director of that company was Edward Villella, who had been a star with New York City Ballet. And when Mr. Villella founded Miami City Ballet in 1985, he brought Mr. Gamonet along and made him resident choreographer.
“I viewed it as a great opportunity for him and for us,” Mr. Villella said in an interview. “It made great sense.”
The company’s debut program focused on works by George Balanchine — the City Ballet founder whose repertory still dominates Miami City’s — but also included Mr. Gamonet’s “Transtangos,” which became a company signature.
Mr. Gamonet was prolific, creating multiple ballets every season. He described himself as a neoclassical choreographer, indebted to Balanchine but also to the theatricality of his parents. His range extended from remakes of Spanish-themed classics like “Paquita” and “Carmen” to original pieces set to Bach or, in “Big Band Supermegatroid,” to swing music.
In a 1989 review in The Washington Post, Alan M. Kriegsman wrote that Mr. Gamonet’s works showed “a talent full of flair and spice, as well as an instinctive feeling for dancerly rhetoric, but also — not unexpectedly — some compositional shortcomings and immaturity.”
Music always came first for Mr. Gamonet, with close study of the score. “Two in the morning,” Mr. Mursuli recalled, “and he would still be preparing, making notes in the score with his headphones on.”
The ballerina Iliana Lopez, who originated many roles in Mr. Gamonet’s pieces for Miami City, said, “He came with the choreography in his head,” and added, “He made me feel beautiful and free in his work, and not every choreographer can do that.”
In rehearsal and in class, Mr. Gamonet was often comic, with a nickname for everyone, but he expected dancers to work as hard as he did. “He would always say, ‘Nobody’s hand is handcuffed to the barre,’” Mr. Mursuli said. “If you didn’t want to work hard, you could leave.” But, he added, Mr. Gamonet was also generous: “I can’t tell you how many times he helped dancers who were short on money.”
In 2000, Mr. Gamonet’s position with Miami City Ballet was eliminated. From 2004 to 2009 he ran his own company in Miami, Ballet Gamonet. At the Ballet Nacional del Peru, he revived his past works and created new ones, including a full-length “Romeo and Juliet” in 2019.
Along with Mr. Mursuli, Mr. Gamonet is survived by his mother; his sisters, Giovanna and Jennifer; his brothers, Francisco and Norman; and a daughter from an earlier marriage, Stephanie Gamonet.
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