Acclaimed Spanish dance company barred entry to US

Customs and Border Protection officers deported acclaimed Catalan artist Marta Carrasco and three others after they arrived in the US (AFP Photo/JOE RAEDLE)

Los Angeles (AFP) - An award-winning Spanish dance company has been barred from entering the United States for an 11-day performance in Los Angeles despite having visas to enter the country.

The Barcelona-based Marta Carrasco Companyia -- led by Carrasco, an acclaimed Catalan artist -- was to perform between October 10 and 20 at The Los Angeles Theatre Center.

On arrival at the airport in Seattle, Washington, last week, Carrasco and three colleagues were detained by US Customs and Border Patrol and interrogated for five hours before being deported, Carrasco said in a social media post.

She said the group was told by border patrol agents that their visas were not valid even though they were issued by the US Embassy in Spain and the group had all the proper documentation.

"In a very humiliating way, our dance company of four were accompanied, like criminals by five immigration officers all the way to the airplane door," she wrote in Spanish in an Instagram post.

"This is sadly what happened," she said.

She noted that she and her colleagues were flying to LA from Colombia, where they had attended a festival, and had a stopover in Seattle.

The group had been invited to perform the dance piece "Perra de Nadie" (Nobody's Bitch) in Los Angeles by Jose Luis Valenzuela, a professor emeritus at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and artistic director of The Los Angeles Theatre Center.

Valenzuela said just hours before the group's arrival in LA, he received a phone call from a customs agent who told him Carrasco and her three dancers were being deported.

"Our mission is to create dialogue between cultures and communities, so that people can begin to learn about each other and become more tolerant of others," Valenzuela said in a Facebook post. "I want the artistic community to be aware that this is a dangerous time."

Referring to the deportation, he said, "This should not be allowed in our society. This is not who we are as a country or as a people. People should be treated with dignity."

A CBP spokesman asked to comment on the dance group's deportation would not go into specifics but said "issuance of a visa or a visa waiver does not guarantee entry to the United States."