2015-07-23 / Around Town

Visa Issues Stymie Ballet

By James Merolla

The drama involving a ballet company’s visas may have surpassed the drama of the ballet that they staged for an Island Moving Co. performance this weekend.

Months ago, as part of Island Moving Co.’s annual Great Friend Festival and Touring Program, the summer exchange where great dancers from exotic places come to Newport to swap steps, ideas and friendships, a dance company called Samruk was invited from Kazakhstan. They didn’t know the stage would be blocked, with U.S. Immigration playing the villain.

“For the past four years, we have brought a company here to Newport for two weeks each summer and they perform in our festival. In exchange, we go to their venue,” said Dominique Alfandre, IMC’s executive director. “This year, we made a connection in Kazakhstan.”

IMC Skyped with Samruk to get things rolling. “Gulnara Adamova, their artistic director, is charming, enthusiastic and excited about being part of this international program,” said Alfandre. “We worked for months to try to get them a P-1 visa to come here to perform.”

The embassy in Kazakhstan tried to help, as did U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse. But in the end, Samruk was denied a performance visa. “We got help from all kinds of people, but it did not pass muster with immigration officials,” said Alfandre.

“The group had already bought their airline tickets,” said Alfandre. “They were approved for tourist visas, and they are not allowed to dance. But they have been great, teaching classes and working with our dancers. They are creating a ballet for us, which we are premiering Friday night at the Friends Meeting House.” It will also be performed on Saturday evening.

On Thursday, July 23, IMC will hold a dress rehearsal for the new 15-minute arrangement in the Meeting House from 3:30 to 5 p.m. “It’s a thrilling piece – so different from everything we’ve ever done,” Alfandre added.

This staging has made it all worth it, she said. “It wasn’t in vain, even though this experience has been amazingly awkward. But we love them and we will go to Kazakhstan in the future.”

Alfandre anticipates no visa problems when that time comes. “Kazakhstan is dropping all visa requirements,” said Alfandre. “The country will not be nearly as rough to get into as America.”

Island Moving Co. performs July 23-25 at 7:30 p.m. at the Friends Meeting House, 21 Farewell St. Go to islandmovingco.org for information.

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