Two Bolshoi Ballet Stars Denied Visas To Dance In US

jacopo-tissi-olga-smirnova (1)
Jacopo Tissi and Olga Smirnova. Getty Images

19 April 2018 | Oli Coleman| Page Six

“Amid roiling relations between the US and Russia, two members of Moscow’s Bolshoi Ballet — including one of its prima ballerinas — have been refused visas to perform in New York City, Page Six has exclusively learned.

Organizers of a Lincoln Center gala where Olga Smirnova and Jacopo Tissi were due to dance on Monday believe the Department of Homeland Security’s decision may be motivated by the myriad tensions between the superpowers — and say that Smirnova is so revered in Moscow that her treatment could create a Russian backlash.

On Wednesday the department’s site read, “On April 10, 2018, we denied your… petition for a nonimmigrant worker.”

“I don’t understand it,” Linda K. Morse, chair of Youth America Grand Prix — which is hosting the gala — told Page Six. “One interpretation is that it’s political. That’s my knee-jerk reaction, but I can’t figure out why — other than that they’re Russian. But it doesn’t make any sense.”

The immigration service’s objection appears to be that the organizers applied for a visa usually granted to groups of entertainers, but since Smirnova and Tissi were planning to perform at the “Stars of Today Meets the Stars of Tomorrow” gala as individuals, rather than alongside the rest of the Bolshoi company, they’re not eligible for it.

But we’re told that YAGP has got the same visa for dancers — including Smirnova — in the past. Morse told us she “definitely” thinks the move could create political resentment in Russia. “Olga is considered the number one ballerina in the world right now,” said Morse, “and to refuse her visa is striking. It’s alarming.”

She added, “It’s worrying. If you just think through the history of ballet, even in the worst of the Cold War, members of the Bolshoi and at the time the Kirov [the St. Petersburg company renamed the Mariinsky Ballet after the fall of the USSR] came here.”

An immigration service spokesperson told us, “There have been no policy changes for adjudication of [this type of visa] applications based on an applicant’s country of origin.”

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