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The Cleveland Ballet Welcomes The World

The Cleveland Ballet Welcomes The World

By Fatimah Harris

Images By New Image Photography

“My advice would be to keep going, no matter what. Do not let anyone tell you it is impossible or that it is not worth it. Even though there may be sacrifices you have to make, the outcome is worth every bit of effort you have to give,” said Diego Castillo, a Cleveland Ballet dancer originally from Columbia.

As we know it, professional ballet has always been challenging to break into, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. This process is considerably more difficult for immigrant artists who rely on artist visas to stay in the United States. Visa restrictions, coupled with the common pressure of mastery that artists endure – have made this journey even more grueling. But as members of the Cleveland Ballet have demonstrated, the challenges were well worth it in order to bring their artistry to Cleveland

The Birth of the Cleveland Ballet

Cleveland, Ohio, is known in part for it’s impressive arts and theater scene, including, of course, the Cleveland Ballet. It stages over 15 ballet performances a year, exhibiting elegance, grace, precision, and nobility. Performances include fan favorites such as Swan Lake and Shakespeare’s riveting ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ at Playhouse Square.

Images by New Image Photography

The birth of the third edition of the Cleveland Ballet sprouted from the beautiful love story of Dr. Michael Krasnyansky, a successful Ukrainian businessman, and Gladisa Guadalupe, a decorated dancer from Puerto Rico. Together they utilized their imaginative vision, business abilities, and mastery to successfully fill the lack of classical and modern ballet in the city of Cleveland. The tagline of the Cleveland Ballet speaks volumes: “A Great City Deserves A Great Ballet Company.”

Cleveland's International Dance Community

Beyond stunning performances, the Cleveland Ballet is eminent for being a beacon of inclusivity and diversity – embracing ballet dance for all cultures, nationalities, and walks of life. Their ballet company is a beautiful reflection of our globe. The team is constructed of dancers and staff from nations all around the world, including Armenia, Japan, Brazil, Ukraine, Italy, Cuba, Columbia, and more.

Although the Cleveland Ballet creates a welcoming environment for immigrants, there are still some obstacles to overcome. Dance performers from all over the world come to America to share their gift of dance, just to be faced with unique hurdles such as a period of rising hate crimes, new legislation, increasingly strict immigration policies, visa restrictions, and even the horrific invasion of Ukraine.

Global Cleveland had the pleasure of interviewing a handful of international dancers from the Cleveland Ballet to get their insights on their immigrant experiences.

Dancing Around Hurdles

Global Cleveland asked international dancers and staff members at the Cleveland Ballet about their biggest challenges as international dancers and artists. Many talked about how difficult it was to secure visas, distance from family, and lack of work opportunities.

2021-2022 season dancer Nicola Marchionni, who was born in Italy and has lived in different countries, explained, “Immigration is very tough here in the USA; I had to wait to get into the USA for almost half a year.”

Obtaining a work visa in America can be a very complex process that requires immigrants to meet a lengthy list of standards. Most international artists strive to get an O-1 Visa (Individuals with Extraordinary Ability or Achievement) which is for the individual who possesses extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics, according to U.S Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Images by New Image Photography

Emmanuel Martirosyan trained at the Yerevan State National Choreographic College in Armenia and joined the Cleveland Ballet in 2021. Martirosyan immigrated to the United States after receiving a full scholarship from the Joffrey Ballet School in New York City. He told us, “Dealing with immigration is the biggest challenge as an international dancer. It is complicated for an immigrant to live, work, and stay in America legally.”

Although immigrating to the United States has been an arduous journey for Emmanuel, he shared some silver linings with us about his positive experience living in Cleveland, “The Armenian Community in Cleveland is amazing, and it really feels like home. I love the food in Cleveland too. There are so many great places to eat.”

Emmanuel gave us excellent advice for international artists interested in immigrating to the U.S.

He says, “If they are lucky enough to get a contract in America, they should seize every opportunity because there is so much more opportunity [here]. Every opportunity opens up another window for another opportunity.”

The Cleveland Ballet Experience

While the journey to Cleveland may have been bumpy at times, it’s clear that the staff and company of the Cleveland Ballet are proud to call Cleveland their home.

Consultant Lana Krasnyansky Sokolinsky of Ukraine explains:

I think Cleveland is very cultured, truly. Being that I lived in New York for nine years and Chicago for seven years, I have been able to see a lot of cultures throughout my adult life. Cleveland does have an incredible orchestra, beautiful state-of-the-art museum, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Cleveland Clinic, University Hospital, gorgeous architecture, terrific arts, and a food scene. So, I think people in Cleveland are used to having access to the best of everything that life has to offer! That is why it really is amazing to see the Cleveland Ballet Company rise and truly thrive through the best people all around, from the co-founders, staff, and dancers all the way to the artistic production staff. We are proud!

Diego Garcia Castillo is a Columbian ballet dancer who began his training at the national school Incoballet at the age of eight. He was offered a company contract with Cleveland Ballet in 2019 and has since performed Carmen, The Nutcracker, Sinatra, The Magic Flute, and other works.

Diego said:

“The people I have met in my time here are truly one of a kind. I came to a new place, completely in the dark, and they all took me in like family and made me feel at home. That is not something you get everywhere you go! The people are definitely a wonderful part of living here, but I am also just in love with the city’s experiences and sights.”

Advice for Other International Artists Who Are Interested in Immigrating to the U.S.

We concluded our interview by asking the talented group at the ballet what advice they would share with other international artists who are considering immigrating to the United States in hopes of pursuing their dreams.

“I say follow your dreams, your passions, and work hard! Take the hard road and not the easy road. That is always the road to remember and one that will be most rewarding! Life can be a challenge. Find joy in the challenges; after all, it is the journey and not the destination! I remind myself of this as well – almost daily,shares Sokolinsky.

For her, that meant acknowledging that it is essential to take things one day at a time.

Eduardo Permuy, a 16-year seasoned dancer from Cuba, advises, “I would tell them to prepare themselves mentally and emotionally to deal with the separation. Being homesick is very real, especially now with all the travel restrictions because of the pandemic.”

Cleveland Ballet Supports Their Own

It’s safe to say that the Cleveland Ballet doesn’t just understand, but embodies, Global Cleveland’s belief that we strengthen our city by welcoming our world. It’s thanks to their International talent that they have thrived, and thanks to their international roots that they were formed in the first place. It’s no surprise that the Cleveland Ballet has embraced giving back to the international community.

Images by New Image Photography

Dr. Michael Krasnyansky, Co-Founder and President & CEO at Cleveland Ballet and Chairman of the board at School of Cleveland Ballet, came to Cleveland from his home of Ukraine. The recent Russian invasion of Ukraine has prompted the ballet to give back to the Ukrainian community.

The Cleveland Ballet will be gifting the net profits of their Saturday, May 7th matinee performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream to children in Ukraine.

“Ballet dancers can be described as being many things, but essentially to me, they are artists, athletes, and storytellers, Permuy concludes. “We have it all, music, dance, scenery, costume, stories, drama, comedy, magic, and we work tirelessly to bring quality art to Cleveland and its surrounding areas. So, if you have not seen us perform, I recommend that you give it a chance. Art feeds the soul.”

To support the Cleveland Ballet, visit their website: https://clevelandballet.org/ and check out upcoming shows https://clevelandballet.org/2022-2023-season/.

Hear More From The Cleveland Ballet

Global Cleveland spoke with Albina Ghazaryan of the Cleveland Ballet to speak about her internationally renowned dance career and how she’s making a home for herself in Cleveland. Watch the video below!

Immigrant Women in Healthcare

Data Observations

By Collin Derrig

In two short years, the Covid-19 pandemic has transformed life as we knew it. It has also deepened our knowledge of and appreciation for the role which healthcare workers play in our society. Unfortunately, there is a key demographic essential to our healthcare system at large that is recognized more by the color of their skin or their accents they carry than by their life saving work. This demographic is Immigrant Women, and we all owe them a heartfelt ‘thank you.’ Sadly, female immigrant healthcare workers still often get lost in the big picture. The following observations will partially explain the important role immigrant women play both nationally and locally in healthcare.  

There are over 3.2 million foreign-born healthcare workers in the United States, comprising more than 17 % of the industry workforce. This is a disproportionate amount compared to the foreign-born percentage of the total population, only 13.7%. Of these 3 million+ immigrant healthcare workers, 2.39 million are female, or approximately 70%. While the most common career for foreign-born women working in healthcare is nursing (over 20%), these women are essential to the healthcare industry as a whole. Holding direct care roles such as physicians, home health aides, and therapists; as well as indirect care including administrative, technology, and other support staff, you will find an immigrant woman in every career in the healthcare industry. The national trend of immigrants being key here at home in Ohio and Cuyahoga County, however the details vary. Cuyahoga County is home to a total of 102,000 workers in healthcare related fields, while Ohio is home to a total of 867,000. Respectively there are 10,000 immigrant healthcare related workers in Cuyahoga County and 49,000 in the state. Interestingly, 1/5 of immigrant healthcare workers in Ohio reside in Cuyahoga County, while Cuyahoga County is home to only 1/10 of Ohio’s total population.  

Healthcare Workers in Cuyahoga County by Gender and Nativity (ACS 2019 5-year Estimates)

Taking a closer look, excluding administrative and other non-medical healthcare positions, there are an estimated 77,600 healthcare workers in Cuyahoga County. Out of this number, 7,000 are immigrants and over 4,500 are female immigrants. That there are more female immigrants than male immigrants working in healthcare is unsurprising as over 79% of the countys healthcare workers are female. Notably, immigrants as whole, and especially immigrant women play an outsized role as medical doctors. Although female immigrants comprise only around 6% of total healthcare workers in Cuyahoga County, they are 12% of all doctors and 30% of female doctors. Below are two charts showing in detail the proportion of immigrant women compared to other women across healthcare fields and their total numbers in said fields. 

Both nationally and locally, healthcare workers have felt an outsized impact from the pandemic.  According to numerous medical studies rates of depression, anxiety, stress, and other mental health issues have greatly increased for medical staff over the course of the pandemic. These intense psychological and physiological effects are frequently worse for minority healthcare workers, including immigrants, who already face other challenges in the workplace. Healthcare workers are also at much higher risk of being exposed and infected with Covid-19 and experiencing its potential life altering effects compared to the general population. Cuyahoga County is home to almost 20% of the state’s immigrant healthcare workers we can safely assume they have been similarly adversely affected by the pandemic. Especially with our COVID-19 case rates at times being among the highest in the state and the entire county. The thousands of immigrant healthcare workers here in Cuyahoga County and throughout Ohio have been key to stemming the effects of the pandemic and protecting all our lives. Recognizing this important role they play is the bare minimum they are due. 

The data discussed above is just a small example of the key roles and impact that immigrant women play throughout our society. Immigrant women own businesses, hold essential jobs, and support families and entire communities. The millions of immigrant women that work in essential industries like agriculture, retail, food service, and shipping have been just as key to our survival during this pandemic as those working in healthcare. These contributions of international women have existed long before the pandemic and will undoubtedly continue to be a key to our success as a community in the future.   

To learn more about the impact of immigrant women, join Global Cleveland during our 2nd annual celebration of International Women’s Month Celebration throughout the month of March. You can find a link to our programming here 


Gateways For Growth Research Report

Our organization was awarded a grant to receive a customized research report that will help us improve immigrant inclusion in our communities!

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A Conversation With Albina Ghazaryan

Click To Watch!

We had the absolute pleasure of sitting down with Albina Ghazaryan of the Cleveland Ballet to speak about her internationally renowned dance career and how she’s making a home for herself in #Cleveland! Catch the Ballet’s performance of The Nutcracker December 3rd-5th, 2021 at Playhouse Square! Learn more and buy tickets: https://clevelandballet.org/the-nutcracker-2021/ 

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Migration is Economic Development

Executive Summary

The sponsor of this analysis, Global Cleveland, is an organization, but global Cleveland is also a reality. Elaborating, when it comes to the task of economic and community development, think of a city as a feather in the wind, or a stick in a rapid of water. Global forces push and pull at places, affecting a city’s relevance, or it’s standard of living. Yet some indicators are better measures of where a city fits into the global order of things than others. This analysis shows that standard measures of “success”, like population size, are relics of a bygone era where size mattered. In today’s idea economy, a better measure is gauging the quality of life in city, not the quantity of lives. This analysis looks at GDP per capita for the nation’s large metros, defined as “the amount of output or income per person in an economy…that’s indicative of average productivity or average living standards.[i]

The GDP per capita in the Cleveland metro is currently $ 57,700 and ranks 78th out of 374 metros. This is up from an inflation-adjusted $51,320 in 2010. To the extent Cleveland can prepare for progress entails examining what explains progress. The analysis looked at what features are driving GDP per capita growth across America’s metros from 2010 to 2019. To do this, Rust Belt Analytica deployed a machine learning algorithm called permutation feature importance. This is our “Progress Model”. Out of hundreds of variables analyzed, two clusters of features dominated the model results: educational attainment and migration. That is, the rate of a metro’s GDP per capita growth could be predictively explained by the educational attainment of a region, and the migration rates of a region. Migration features included the in-migration of college- and non-college-educated foreign born, and the in-migration of college- and non-college-educated native born, particularly if the domestic migrants were arriving from the Northeastern or Western parts of the U.S. This latter migration pattern of coastal-to-inland migration has been dubbed “The Rise of the Rest”, characterized as the convergence of American tech labor from the costly coast into the American heartland.

It is a pattern of migration that highly-educated immigrants have in fact been doing for some time. The analysis found that the percent of Cleveland’s immigrants with an advanced degree was 21.4%, which ranked 8th out the nation’s largest 40 metros. Interestingly, 6 out of the top 10 most highly-educated cities for immigrants were in the geographic area of the Rust Belt, led by Pittsburgh.

The analysis finds that migration is crucial to the evolution of cities. Migration does not only allow for the accumulation of human capital, but for global connectivity as well. Connectivity is part and parcel with the act of migration, allowing for the deepening of a city’s “thought bank”. This depth of ideation is crucial to the process of innovation which, in turn, is crucial economic evolution. Put another way, migration is economic development. It is today. It was yesterday. And it will be tomorrow. The issue for Cleveland is whether the region can leverage its global assets to incur its global relevance, and ultimately the increased well-being of its people.

Read the Survey Here