Page last updated at 05:59 GMT, Thursday, 4 June 2009 06:59 UK

Visa problems stop ballet touring

Ballet dancer - generic
Ballet Russe, founded 11 years ago, is based in Swansea

A Swansea-based Russian ballet company has stopped touring, blaming changes to the UK's work permit and visa system.

Six principal dancers with Ballet Russe have been unable to return to Wales since the start of the year.

Ballet Russe said it had been forced to cancel a tour and would have to borrow UK-based dancers for two autumn shows.

The UK Border Agency said arts groups needed to register to sponsor foreign workers to come to the UK under its new points-based system.

Ballet Russe, based at Swansea's Grand Theatre, was formed 11 years ago. Although it does use UK dancers, most of the principal roles are taken by Russians.

Chika Temma, one of the company's directors, said all its performances since February had been cancelled.

"We have lost our key dancers - they did not get work permits to come back," she said.

"Touring is vital for us because we live off box office income.

"Without our principal dancers we cannot meet our standards - it would be completely different without them."

Ms Temma said the dancers lived in Swansea while practising and performing but had returned to Russia for a short break.

"We did everything we could. We employed a specialist lawyer, but they still did not get their work permits," she added.

She said the company had not closed down and would perform for two nights in Swansea in the autumn, using local dancers and others borrowed from the English National Ballet.

But she said she was doubtful whether the full company would reassemble and tour again.

Skilled workers

"I think they would like to come back because they enjoyed their life in this country but it's going to be difficult," she added.

The UK Border Agency has attempted to simplify the visa system for foreign workers and students.

A spokesman said: "We are determined to deliver a system of border security which is among the most secure in the world.

"That is why we have introduced the new points-based system - part of the biggest shake-up to the immigration system in a generation.

"Any organisation which used to bring entertainers into the UK under the old work permit system is welcome to apply to the UK Border Agency to become a sponsor - allowing them to employ foreign workers under the new points-based system.

"If an organisation does not apply to become a sponsor, it will be unable to employ skilled migrant workers through the points-based system."

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