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For the week of October 11 through 17, 2000

INS withholds visas from dance troupe

Canadian dancers still set to perform in Ketchum


By DANA DUGAN
Express Staff Writer

As international incidents go, one involving a Canadian dance company coming to Ketchum is probably minor in the grand scheme of foreign intrigue.

Montreal Danse Company members Daniel Firth and Anik Hamel Photo by Izabel Zimmer, courtesy Montreal Danse Co.

However, local dance enthusiasts are upset that three members of the Montreal Danse Company are being delayed by the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service from entering the country.

The company was booked to teach a three-week series of dance classes at the Spiegel School of Performing Arts dance studio, culminating in a combined student-teacher performance Oct. 19 at the NexStage Theatre in Ketchum. The performance will take place since the classes began Oct. 2 with a replacement teacher.

But the three members of the troupe hired to teach and perform can do little more that wiggle their athletic toes in anticipation while they await their visas in Montreal.

Kathy Casey, the American-born director of Montreal Danse, said dancers Martin Bernier, 36, Daniel Firth, 31, and Manon Levac, 42, arrived at the airport in Montreal on Oct. 2 to leave for Boise. However, she said, they were informed that there was a problem with their visas.

Casey said the situation was "pure panic." For reasons unrelated to the immigration problem, the flight kept getting delayed.

"It was very unclear what the trouble was," Casey said. "Something [missing] in the application? Then the flight would get delayed again."

Casey said the INS told them that consideration of the work visas for which they had applied had been delayed due to a general backlog. The immigration office in Montreal could not be reached for comment.

Subsequently, Casey said, the company asked for a waiver from the INS and aid from U.S. Sens. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., Conrad Burns, R-Mont., and Mike Crapo, R-Idaho.

"We called them up and said we’re in trouble," Casey said in an interview last week.

The senators forwarded letters to the immigration office in Montreal backing the waiver request. But, Casey said, it all came to naught since all U. S. Immigration offices were closed while the U. S. Internal Revenue Service performed audits.

"The way I understand it, no one is allowed to work in immigration while it’s being audited," Casey said.

The company also contacted both the Canadian Consulate in Washington, D.C., and the Canadian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Casey said, though neither could help.

Casey joked that Francis Beaulieu, dance company touring manager and administrative director, has decided he’s going to open an immigration office since he is now such an expert.

Casey said Beaulieu tried unsuccessfully to get the dancers diplomatic immunity to visa requirements. Beulieu also pointed out, during a telephone interview from Montreal yesterday, that visa waivers for cultural exchanges had been proposed under the North American Free Trade Agreement, but that that provision had been rejected.

Casey, 42, who lives in Montreal with her family, was scheduled to come to Idaho on Oct. 4. However, she left "in a big hurry" a day earlier to fill in, teaching several classes a week to cover for her absent comrades. Some of those classes involve work that will be included in the performance on Oct. 19.

According to Beaulieu, the Canadian dancers are very nervous about the uncertainty, and very angry with the U.S. Government.

As of yesterday, there was still no word on the arrival date of the dance troupe. An additional complication has arisen since the dancers have been unable to secure booked seats and now must fly stand-by.

From here the troupe is scheduled to go on to two more performances, in Billings and Missoula, Mont.---without incident, troupe members hope.

 

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