Olga Smirnova. Photo by Quinn Wharton.

Bolshoi Dancers Denied Visas to Perform at YAGP Gala in NYC

Several weeks ago, Youth America Grand Prix announced that the lineup for tonight's Stars of Today Meet the Stars of Tomorrow gala at Lincoln Center's Koch Theater would include Bolshoi Ballet principal Olga Smirnova and first soloist Jacopo Tissi. But an article in Page Six published last night states that Smirnova and Tissi were denied visas to enter the US.

YAGP organizers "believe the Department of Homeland Security's decision may be motivated by the myriad tensions between the superpowers," says the piece, noting that "Smirnova is so revered in Moscow that her treatment could create a Russian backlash." The Mariinsky Ballet's Kimin Kim did receive a visa and was allowed to perform as scheduled.


The immigration office claims that the issue lies in the kind of visa that YAGP applied for. They requested a visa usually granted for groups of performers, though Smirnova and Tissi were scheduled to dance at the gala as individuals. Yet YAGP staff insist that this is the same type of visa that they have applied for—and received—for Russian dancers, including Smirnova, in the past. YAGP chair Linda K. Morse is left confused. "One interpretation is that it's political," she says in the Page Six story. "That's my knee-jerk reaction, but I can't figure out why—other than that they're Russian." Tissi, while a dancer with the Bolshoi since 2017, is Italian, not Russian.

"It's worrying," Morse told Page Six. "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 came here."

You can read the full story here.

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