Aspen ballet company’s visa woes common, official says |

Aspen ballet company’s visa woes common, official says

It’s still not certain why a choreographer from Europe slated to work with the Aspen Santa Fe Ballet was denied a visa into the United States.

The ballet company is restructuring its program schedule for the spring and summer after Jacopo Godani of the Monte Carlo Ballet was denied entry into the country. At a Washington, D.C., advocacy group for U.S. dance companies, a representative said she regularly works to get “predictable and timely business practices” from the Immigration and Naturalization Service.

Rebecca Rorke, director of government affairs for Dance USA, said there are many reasons why a visa may be denied, including not submitting the proper paperwork or INS personnel not being property trained. While she could not speak about specific cases on which she is working, Rorke did say that interacting with the INS is a routine challenge for dance companies.

“Most of the work Dance USA does has not been specific to visa denials – most of the problem the arts field is experiencing is that it’s getting increasingly difficult to bring art to the country in a timely fashion,” she said.

And while many difficulties with the INS may have arisen since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Rorke said things actually got more difficult in June 2001.

That month the INS implemented a “premium processing service,” which means that for an additional $1,000, a petitioner can have their application for a visa settled one way or another within 15 days.

“We think that what we suspected would happen, happened: that a lot of workers would be shifted to taking care of the premium processing, slowing down the process for others,” Rorke said. “And many nonprofits don’t have the money to pay $1,000 for the premium service.”

According to Aspen Santa Fe Ballet Executive Director Jean-Philippe Malaty, the company had applied for an “alien of extraordinary ability of the arts” visa for Godani, a renowned choreographer in Europe. Godani has never been to the United States, and Malaty said the company was excited to debut his work nationally.

“This has been a mutual education process,” Rorke said of her work. “We’ve talked with INS officials, and gotten feedback from them about how to get arts groups to file accurate, complete and credible paperwork to help speed the process.”

Malaty said the ballet company will reschedule some of the program, while continuing to work to get Godani into the United States later in the summer.

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