Dana Ruttenberg Dance Group is scheduled to perform at the North Carolina Museum of Art in the American Dance Festival's mainstage season July 14–17, but last-minute Department of Homeland Security challenges to the Israeli dance company's visa applications have put the show in jeopardy.
According to ADF, a Homeland Security official at a U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services center in California issued four requests for evidence of notability beyond what ADF had provided in the initial applications. The center's director, Kathy A. Baran, questioned whether the company, which has performed at the Israel Museum of Art and various international festivals, has ever "starred or led in a distinguished production" or had "commercial or critically acclaimed success."
Baran also questioned whether or not the group's namesake artistic director and company manager are significantly linked to its performers—reflective of the department's ignorance of the dance world—and challenged the company's degree of turnover this year, during which two dancers became pregnant, and a third was hired to manage another company's American tour.
Homeland Security also wanted to know why dance doesn't get much press, which caused ADF to reach out to arts reporters at the INDY, The Herald-Sun, and The News & Observer for testimony last week. ADF Executive Director Jodee Nimerichter says requests for additional supporting materials aren't that unusual for visa applications. But festival officials are troubled by the degree of pushback so near a scheduled performance in this case.
"On the last day of the processing period, they requested proof of almost everything I had given them," says ADF performances coordinator Megan Yankee. That sent her and her colleagues scrambling to compile evidence from academic articles assessing dance journalism to detailed box office receipts written in Hebrew. By last Thursday, they'd assembled some eighty pages of data, affidavits, and testimonials.
Homeland Security is expected to render a final decision on the Ruttenberg visas on Tuesday; watch our website for an update.