Lilia Sevastyanova, an artistic director from Uzbekistan, gained confidence and new insights on theater management during an International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) focused on the arts. Upon return to Uzbekistan, she overcame her reservations about leading her own theater and now actively promotes her own theater called Visage Movement Theater.
“I would always put the sponsoring organizations on a higher hierarchical level than my theater,” admits Lilia. “The exchange program helped me to get rid of this mindset, as the directors of various artistic entities [that I visited in the United States] would explain that it’s the sponsors and donors who should feel honored by having a chance to support culture.”
During her exchange program, she not only gained insights into her craft but also modified her perceptions about America. Although the elderly couple who hosted Lilia in the U.S. were both doctors, she noted that other Americans worked their whole lives in a simple factory. “It’s the families like these that keep this country running,” admires Lilia. “Physically, [the host couple] might have been feeble, but you could feel their inner strength. The younger generation, although with more discipline and businesslike approach to life, still shared the same curiosity in foreigners like us.”
Moments like these helped Lilia shed stereotypes and offered her new creative ideas to incorporate into her work. She returned to the U.S. in 2009 to explore how to integrate dancers with disabilities into her productions. She now hopes to bring an American dance teacher to Tashkent to organize master classes for children with disabilities and to bring the children to an arts festival in the U.S.
U.S. Ambassador to Uzbekistan George Krol attended Lilia’s December 2011 production of “The Presence,” a dance project that combined young people with disabilities and professional dancers. Afterwards, he spoke with her backstage and she commented, “I spoke for a long time with the Ambassador about the arts in Uzbekistan, the importance of sharing our cultural heritage, increasing our support for children with disabilities, and about the future of our company. In the end, Ambassador Krol said that ‘it’s our duty to help you as you help people to understand that problems of people with disabilities have no borders.’ We were touched beyond words to see that people like him were sharing their sincere interest in the work that we do.”