Performing Arts

Miami dancers donate talents for UNICEF

The annual gala’s Miami debut owes its inception to a decades long friendship between event founder Leonardo Reale, left, and Carlos Guerra.
The annual gala’s Miami debut owes its inception to a decades long friendship between event founder Leonardo Reale, left, and Carlos Guerra. Photo provided to the Miami Herald

On Saturday, “Dance for Peace” (Danza por la Paz) brings together 12 South Florida dance companies and over 100 dancers in an evening showcase of South Florida’s dance talent whose proceeds benefit UNICEF, the United Nations International Children’s Fund.

Anyone passingly familiar with the South Florida dance beat will recognize from the gala’s lineup South Florida’s top-tier dancers in every genre, from tango to classical: Dimensions Dance Theatre of Miami, Arts Ballet Theatre of Florida, Dance Now! Miami, Miami City Ballet School, Brigid Bake Wholeproject, Mandelstam Dance, Ajkun Ballet Theatre, Ballet Vero Beach, Dance Town, Miami Youth Ballet, Cuban Classical Ballet of Miami, Gabriel Mores and Elizabeth Guerrero of OK MR TANGO.

The annual gala’s Miami debut owes its inception to a decades long friendship between the event’s founder — classical dancer and artistic director of Ballet Metropolitano de Buenos Aires — Leonardo Reale, and Carlos Guerra, former Miami City Ballet principal dancer and co-artistic director and co-founder of Dimensions Dance Theatre of Miami. The two men first met in Chile in 1995 when Guerra briefly danced with the Ballet Company of Santiago.

Catching up with both at Guerra’s Coconut Grove home in January, Reale explained that he first felt the spark to create “Dance for Peace” after receiving the title of Peace Ambassador in 2010 from Mil Milenios de la Paz. Inspired by this, Reale organized the first benefit for UNICEF in Buenos Aires in 2014. Over the last five years, 80 companies and 800 dancers have performed at the annual Galas.

As Guerra’s 5-year-old daughter vied for our attention, Reale added that the “Dance for Peace” Gala is about helping children by, “experiencing peace from the inside outward, from the individual and their associations to the world.” Because of this, Reale’s dream had always been to take “Dance for Peace” international in a big way. In 2018 he organized a first benefit in Chile. After that, holding a gala in Miami just seemed the natural next step.

Where Reale’s impulse was to go international, Guerra liked what the annual benefit could mean for the Miami dance scene. For Guerra, “doing an event like this helps South Florida dance in general because it raises the visibility of the community as a whole.” Guerra was sold at once on the Gala’s connection to UNICEF even though it put him in the awkward situation of having to ask the members of his fledgling company and his colleagues in the South Florida dance community to perform for free.

And they agreed. Every dancer, choreographer and artistic director participating in Miami’s “Dance for Peace” has fully donated their talents toward the success of the event.

On the one hand, the evening showcases South Florida’s current dance talent. However, previous galas have always recognized a great from the world of dance. This year, former New York City Ballet principal Edward Villella, founding artistic director of Miami City Ballet, will be honored for his contributions to the Miami dance scene. “Edward was a major feature of the arts scene down here and critical to growing it,” Guerra said. “Having him at the event gives Miami dancers and artists new to the scene the opportunity to encounter this past.”

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If you go

“Dance for Peace” happens 8 p.m. Saturday at Miami-Dade County Auditorium, 2901 W. Flagler St, Miami.

General admission tickets are $35 adults, $20 seniors and $20 students; and can be purchased at the box office or online at https://hrld.us/2DW17L1.

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