Northrop Auditorium in Minneapolis has canceled two performances Tuesday by a South Korean dance company after the troupe was unable to secure U.S. travel visas in time.
President Trump’s recent attempts to restrict international travel do not appear to be a factor, a Northrop official said.
Bereishit is a four-year-old company whose profile has quickly risen on the international dance scene thanks to an unusual fusion of modern dance, martial arts and hip-hop. The Feb. 28 dates were supposed to be the first of three stops on the company’s third American tour.
Northrop had filed a visa petition in October on behalf of the seven dancers, three technicians, a tour manager and artistic director Soon-Ho Park. Because it takes three days for artists to complete the visa process at a U.S. embassy, and the dancers were scheduled to fly from Seoul on Saturday, Northrop decided Thursday that it had no choice but to cancel not only the evening performance but a matinee for 1,900 high school students.
Approval finally came Friday — too late for Northrop, which had paid a fee to expedite the applications.
“It is just miserable,” said Northrop director Christine Tschida. The venue has had visas “come down to the wire” before, she said, but never had to cancel.
Sophie Myrtil-McCourty, Bereishit’s agent, said the seven dancers and their tour personnel are all South Korean nationals who have had no previous difficulties obtaining visas. The dance company traveled to Texas in 2015 and performed last year at the prestigious Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival in Massachusetts.
“We’ve had no problems,” Myrtil-McCourty said. “This is just silliness.”
With visas now secured, the troupe will be able to perform as scheduled in Pittsburgh next weekend and San Diego March 6-9.
Because the application was filed last fall, Tschida said she has no reason to believe that President Trump’s recent actions are a factor, although it's fair to say that officers at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service are being kept very busy.
“The processing times, especially in the last few months, have gotten absolutely insane,” said Michael Davis, an immigration attorney at Davis & Goldfarb in downtown Minneapolis. He has been encouraging his clients, including several Israeli artists, to pay a $1,225 premium processing fee and speed the process along.
Sandra Feist, another Minneapolis-based immigration attorney who specializes helping international clients obtaining visas, said that petitioning for a dance troupe like Bereishit could be “tricky” because their dance style is tough to categorize, and because they often perform to Korean folk music. The "P1" visas that Northrop sought are for athletes or members of an “international recognized” entertainment group. But Feist said Northrop could also have tried petitioning for a visa designated for artists that perform “culturally unique” work (P3), or for longer-term visas granted to artists of “extraordinary ability” (O-1).
To a certain extent, she said, the visa process is subjective; one officer could say they applied in the wrong category, another could approve the petition as is.
Whatever the issue, Northrop officials said Friday they are set for the remaining five performances of their dance season, at least where visas are concerned. That schedule includes France's Malandain Ballet Biarritz on March 25 and the Scottish Ballet April 8.
More than 600 people had purchased tickets to Bereishit’s evening performance. They can exchange those tickets for another show, use the money as a credit to buy a subscription or receive a refund. And finally: “If they’ve already paid their credit bill, they are welcome to simply donate the money to Northrop,” she said.
Most patrons have been notified via email. If someone had a phone number on file but no email, they’ll get a call. And if anyone still somehow doesn’t get the memo …
“Our box office will be open on Tuesday, and we’ll have staff there to greet people, just in case anyone shows up,” Tschida said.
Photo of Bereishit courtesy Lotus Arts Management.