With six months' worth of rain in 36 hours in the region of Emilia-Romagna – a region towards the north of Italy – more than 20 rivers have burst their banks causing widespread flooding and claiming 14 lives.
Ravenna, famous for its ancient mosaics from the Byzantine period, is one of the worst-hit places. To save the city's treasures, much of the water was directed towards the surrounding farmland, and more than 27,000 residents have been relocated.
“Ravenna is unrecognisable after the damage it has suffered,” said the mayor, Michele de Pascale.
The people of Emilia-Romagna are doing everything possible to reclaim their homes and business, and as tourism is an important part of the region's economy, hotels, restaurants, shops, and galleries are clearing the wreckage and trying to re-establish services as many areas are without electricity, and roads and bridges have disappeared. Many areas remain flooded, and more rain is predicted. Town squares are being cleared of mud where the waters have subsided, and beaches are being cleared of debris. They are hoping that the sold-out summer season can go ahead more or less as planned.
What has happened in Emilia Romagna upsets me enormously. I have a special love of Italy and its audiences.
I have decided to devolve my fee for the gala to initiatives in support of the dance schools in the region, many of which were affected by the terrible floods, and for all those young students who want to continue working and studying, despite this tragedy.
The images of libraries disposing of their ruined books like paper mâché, music conservatoires throwing out mud-filled pianos, and dancing schools and gyms with their warped floors, is heart-breaking.
I embrace the entire population, especially the children and teenagers who are our future… Italy's future. Just look at the photos of the ‘young angels' who with boots and spades are helping the cities get back on their feet. It is so moving.
Many young volunteers have been arriving from all over Italy for the clean-up operation.
I think it is opportune to launch an Artists' Movement – dancers, actors, singers, directors – who can help Emilia-Romagna recover from the tragedy that has struck its art and culture.
Graham Spicer is a writer, director and photographer in Milan, blogging (under the name ‘Gramilano') about dance, opera, music and photography for people “who are a bit like me and like some of the things I like”. He was a regular columnist for Opera Now magazine and wrote for the BBC until transferring to Italy.
His scribblings have appeared in various publications from Woman's Weekly to Gay Times, and he wrote the ‘Danza in Italia' column for Dancing Times magazine.