Make it easier to obtain visas for international professional artists

By: May. 10, 2024
Enter Your Email to Unlock This Article

Plus, get the best of BroadwayWorld delivered to your inbox, and unlimited access to our editorial content across the globe.

Existing user? Just click login.

It is not surprising to those who work in the live arts, performing arts or fine arts, that we understand a vibrant arts community attracts visitors who spend money and help keep local businesses thriving. They keep Delaware residents spending their money locally, vital income for local merchants.

The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis reports that in 2022 arts and cultural production in Delaware accounted for $1.1 billion in economic impact and 8,971 jobs; all relating to the arts creating 1.3% of the state’s economy.

This article is ‘organization’ specific – First State Ballet Theatre – but this issue can be extrapolated to any arts group dealing with the frustrating bureaucracy of obtaining visas to acquire international talent.

Russian Ballet Theatre premiered at The Playhouse in the mid 90’s. It was decided to mount Romeo and Juliet at The Playhouse, accompanied by the triumphal music of Prokofiev. But a huge cast was needed for this 1998 production.

That’s where I come in. Marsha needed warm bodies; some with ballet training, some with not so much (me).

I was cast as a Montague swordsman. The chorography was exciting. Each night I readily dispatched 6 Capulet bullies, chortled over their corpses and never lost a minute’s sleep.

Pasha Kambalov, now the Artistic Director for the non-profit, danced Romeo.

After a short stint at a training studio in Newport, in 2003 the group was offered residency at The Grand Opera House. Their new name was First State Ballet Theatre and became Delaware’s only professional ballet company.

In over 2 decades they have grown exponentially and presently employ 20 dancers under contract. That is in addition to an active training school for both children and adults.

Full disclosure: I have danced in a few of the ballets: R and J, Nutcracker and, more recently, Don Quixote. During rehearsals I was acutely impressed at the discipline, technique and passion for their craft.

Now, to the crux of the matter. Aoi Tashiro, born in the Yokohama, is in her second year. She is a professional. She is driven. She is exquisite on stage. Aoi brings grace not only to FSBT but also to Delaware’s creative culture.

Pasha and Kristina have danced and instructed ballet all their lives. They see those with promise. Aoi admits she is learning the nuances and techniques of Russian style ballet. While not immediately ready for principal roles, the two leaders see her potential.

Why must Aoi - and other International Artists - go through hoops to obtain a work visa?

A P1 visa is good for only one year. It’s expensive. Aoi must hire a lawyer. It is both time and emotionally wearing. Artists like Aoi, who have proven themselves as professionals, need an expedient O1 visa, good for 3 years.

I asked Aoi why would she not consider returning to Japan to dance?

“No, not so good. Japan ballet not so good.”

She loves her new family at FSBT. She is still learning her English. Yes, dear readers…I could edit her replies. I chose not to.

“First of all, I felt the warmth of family. That’s nothing change from first time and now. I did not expected how connect with company members and directors because it’s job and professional and I’ve never felt like this warmth before. I really appreciate I can be part of FSBT and have second family in US.

And we are working so hard. Sometimes Russian style is hard for me but I really liked Russia ballet so it is pleasure to dancing real Russia ballet and learning from Pasha and Kristina. Also I really like costumes and Grand opera house as well”.

Former Prima ballerina Rie Aoki, also from Japan, has been her mentor since arrival. Rie retired last year and is on the faculty.

Anyone who has ever been face to face with Rie understands this special lady is a tsunami force of nature.

Aoi on Rie:

“Honestly, I don't know how to explain about Rie for me. She is ACTUAL my role model and inspiration every second

But same time, She is my mom, old sister and teacher.

Words can not describe how much I want thank her. I would like to give back by showing you how much I have glown.

I really want to be dancer like a her, who make a lot of people smile”.

Bottom line: We need to make visa applications for professional arts people easier to access.

Photos by Tisa Della-Volpe

First State Ballet Theatre- First State Ballet Theatre




To post a comment, you must register and login.

Vote Sponsor