BACK TO TAMPA (Gaspar Ballet 2012)
Started my day today in Philadelphia on a bleak cold morning. I had been up late the night before packing for my company’s invasion of Tampa, Florida for the next 5 weeks. I have never cared much for what I wear, after all I spent a good part of my adult life in costumes and had done some modeling stints back in the day. But making sure I had everything from my office (Files, Dvds, Cds, books, random post-ups, etc) was quite a challenge for a 5week period. The business of ballet is a little more complicated than people think. Choreographically I don’t worry as much as I worry about forgetting something on the business end. But such is the life sometimes of a Traveling Ballet Master.
I dash to teach a final morning class at The Philadelphia Ballet School (Our Official School) The mood is light and fun. Half the company will leave with me today the other half joining us next week. The last few days in Philadelphia have been really cold and we are all looking forward to a warmer change of scenery in Florida.
So a final check of luggage, costumes, last minute instructions and swords (Pirate ballet remember) and off we go to the airport. I have a small company (BalletFleming) and traveling is very manageable and usually kind of fun. I have been very fortunate to have dancers who understand travel and enjoy it. I will write more about this whole trip in the days and weeks to come.
For new readers I should explain the premise of what is going on and what is The Gaspar Ballet?
Tampa has a very special month long celebration called the “Gasparilla Festival”. It is over a hundred year old tradition in Tampa. It can best be described as Mardi Gras with a Pirate invasion of the city thrown in for good measure. As one of the local Pirate Wenches and her daughter informed me, “Tampa is a unique American City with two made up holidays; Gasparilla and Guvaween”. So there you have it, go figure!
Now as to my involvement, back in 1994 while directing the ballet company in Tampa. I had created an original two Act swashbuckling Pirate Ballet in honor of Jose Gaspar, the Pirate. It turns out the while Jose Gaspar had been a real Pirate; he had never gotten any closer to Tampa than Cuba. Good for me, with none of those pesky historical issues in my way. I was free to write a ballet libretto that did not need to be historically accurate. I enlisted my good friend and composer David Goldstein MD to write the original score. The ballet was performed once to a sold out 2,000 plus seat house. The Company folded the following year and my ballet was lost.
In 2010 Sharon Sanchez (An original Cast member) contacted me asking if I would be interested in reviving the ballet for Tampa as a Charity Benefit. I agree and under the visionary leadership of my patrons, Sharon and Richard Sanchez. The Gaspar Ballet has returned as an annual Charity Performance Event. In our first incarnation in 2011 we raised $60,000 for The Red Cross, Operation Home front and Drew’s Shoes. While at the same time presenting a fun, artistic, family friendly ballet performance for the Tampa Bay Community.
There will be more to come about this exciting collaboration between the arts and the need to be socially responsible. More about the performance, the sponsors, the dancers and everyone involved in making all this happen.
Christopher Fleming- The Traveling ballet Master