Performances impacted by visa difficulties

ALI MOINI, A CHOREOGRAPHER AND PERFORMER, JOINED EMPAC staff and attendees in a video chat where he talked about his artistic process.

Due to visa restrictions, Ali Moini was unable to join the Rensselaer community to exhibit his signature performance, My Paradoxical Knives, in the Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center. Moini, a choreographer and performer, was hosted on Thursday via Skype call, and fans of his could have a dialogue about his artistic process.

Moini’s performance takes inspiration from his experience with Persian culture and everyday rituals. Moini performs in a costume with knives strapped to him so that, due to the revolving nature of his dance, they are kept in perpetual motion around his body.

EMPAC decided not to apply for a visa since Executive Order 13769 (poly.rpi.edu/s/tz1cc) signed by President Donald Trump on January 27, 2017 would make it impossible for Iranian citizens to enter the country even with a visa. Reports of border difficulties even for those who were granted the appropriate visa at the time gave further cause for doubts. EMPAC did not want to inconvenience the performers, and it became clear that the best course of action would be to simply cancel the visa request.

The travel ban will likely affect Iranian hand drummer Mohammad Reza Mortazavi, who is scheduled to perform in March 2018.

This semester, EMPAC—after consulting with various legal councilors—decided to try again and apply for an O-1B visa for Moini to perform this November. Moini’s visa application was approved on August 15, and he had his interview on September 1, during which he provided all necessary documentation.

EMPAC has not heard anything on the status of his application and has not been updated since his interview. Moini was supposed to fly to the United States on November 7, but instead remains in his residency in Paris.

EMPAC attempted to understand why the visa processing was delayed—as they have successfully acquired visas for other artists within this length of time—so they reached out to Congressman Paul Tonko’s office to try to get the Paris consulate to move forward.

Even after this additional effort, no definitive answer has been given. They then went on to file a six month extension on the application so that, if the original visa application is approved, Moini could stay in the US for his performance some time within this six month period. As of right now, both drummer Mohammad Reza Mortazavi and Ali Moini are unlikely to perform during their planned performances.