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AC Ballet Is Finally Home

By Gary Wien

originally published: 03/19/2015

AC Ballet Is Finally Home

If you didn’t know there was a professional ballet company in Atlantic City you’re not alone.  Founded in 1982 by the international ballerina, Phyllis Papa, the history of the Atlantic City Ballet is one of struggle and perseverance.  Decades after the company’s debut, it looks like they finally have a home and are trying to play a role in the city’s revitalization.

“Papa started the company because someone from one of the casinos saw her perform in NYC and asked her if she wanted to start a ballet company in Atlantic City,” explained Alexandria Pieroni, Managing Director, Atlantic City Ballet. “She was able to get a grant and her and about 10 dancers from New York came down to South Jersey.  At first she had a lot of support. The company performed in almost every casino and some even donated to the ballet so she could buy sets and costumes. Then there was a change in leadership in the city and in the casinos. The casinos felt gamblers didn’t want to see ballet but it was more like ballet audiences don’t just sit in the casinos and gamble, they want to do other things.  So the support dried up. They became strictly a touring company with no real home.”

The company’s problems continued when they soon found themselves not even being able to rehearse in the city.  Papa purchased a studio in Egg Harbor City and moved the company there.  It wasn’t until last year that the Atlantic City Ballet was able to move back to the city, which they were able to do with help from the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority (CRDA).   The goal now is to make people aware that there is a ballet company in Atlantic City, build an audience, and get people to come to performances on a regular basis.  One of the ways they’re trying to do that is productions of “Ballet on the Boardwalk” during the summer.

“Ballet on the Boardwalk” takes place at Kennedy Plaza.  They attract hundreds of people for each performance. “Some people come to them on a regular basis, some are just tourists walking down the boardwalk,” said Pieroni.  “Its great because the stage there has no room for backdrops or sets so you get to see the dancing in its purist form with no distractions. The stage has a cover but not for the audience, so we don’t perform in the rain.”

The company’s main performance spaces are the Celebrity Theater located inside the Claridge Hotel and their studio inside Boardwalk Hall.  On March 28, they have their Young Choreographers Series at The Celebrity Theater.   All of the choreographers are members of the company and the pieces are chosen by the dancers.  Ms. Papa is dedicated to nurturing the creative talent in the company, said Pieroni noting that the experience may help them when they are no longer dancing and possibly enter the next stage of their careers.

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 “There are not a lot of opportunities for young dancers to experiment with music or choreography,” Pieroni said. “Most companies don’t want to risk it. Ms. Papa has a lot of faith in our dancers. Actually when dancers present their own pieces they have a better appreciation for what Ms. Papa does every day. It is not always as easy at it looks. The dancers she has chosen are the ones that she feels are ready for this. This series will become a regular thing that we do every season, probably around the same time of year.”

In April, the company performs Carmen at The Celebrity Theater on April 18 and then brings the production to The Strand Theater in Lakewood, NJ.  They have performed there a few times in the past and are looking forward to returning and hopefully building an audience in that part of the state as well.  

Carmen is one of the company’s signature pieces.  Created by Papa, the full-length ballet premiered in 2013. Pieroni says that most ballet companies only tell a part of the Carmen story in a smaller work, which makes this production stand out.  Papa’s Carmen tells the entire story in a two hour performance.  Papa creates one or two ballets a year, but most are shorter pieces at around 45 minutes to an hour in length.  This was her first full-length ballet she’s created in a while.

 When asked what she would like people to know about the company, Pieroni said, “I think the biggest misconception about our company is that these are students or young kids. All of our dancers are paid professionals who range from ages 22-30 years old. They have danced all over the world with other companies. Most of them have trained since they were toddlers. When you come to see the Atlantic City Ballet you are coming to see a professional company not a dance recital. The quality of our dancing is just as good if not better than the more well known bigger ballet companies.   

“Our dancers come from all over the world. Currently they come from the following countries, France, Latvia, Brazil, Romania, Italy, Japan and the US,” continued Pieroni.  “At times we’ve had over 10 countries represented. Ms. Papa holds auditions in NY, Rome, London and various cities across the US. Ms. Papa’s style of choreography is very different from other ballet companies. It’s classical with many other forms of dance mixed in. This means our dancers must be classically trained but be able to perform other types of dance also.”

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New Jersey Dance Theatre Ensemble To Perform The Nutcracker On Sunday
(SUMMIT, NJ) -- New Jersey Dance Theatre Ensemble, a pre-professional training and performing company for young dancers based in downtown Summit, will host a free community story time event of their holiday production The Nutcracker at NJDTE Studios at 315B Springfield Ave in Summit on Sunday, November 18, at 4:00pm.
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(MORRISTOWN, NJ) --  New Jersey Ballet's seasonal presentation of the holiday classic Nutcracker comes to Mayo Performing Arts Center for 14 performances beginning Friday, December 14 at 7:30pm and ending on Thursday, Dec. 27 at 1:00pm. New Jersey Symphony Orchestra will provide live orchestral accompaniment. Tickets range from $29-69.  
Rowan Percussionists and Dancers To Share The Stage
(GLASSBORO, NJ -- The Rowan Percussion Ensemble features an original dance piece as part of its fall semester concert on Monday, November 19 at 8:00pm in Pfleeger Concert Hall. Under the direction of Dr. Matthew Witten, the ensemble will present a collaboration with choreographer and performer Melanie Stewart, associate dean of the College of Performing Arts at Rowan, on a dance piece set to John Cage’s “Credo in Us.” The work, developed in collaboration with California-based performer, choreographer, and educator Lorelei Bayne, will feature 18 Rowan students.
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(EWING, NJ) -- Roxey Ballet will present its 25th Annual American Holiday Classic "Nutcracker" from November 24-December 2 at The College of New Jersey's Kendall Main Stage Theater. This acclaimed annual holiday event has become a favorite tradition of area residents and visitors alike. Both adults and children marvel at the magical spectacle created by the collective vision of Mark and Melissa Roxey, founders of both The Roxey Contemporary Ballet and The Mill Ballet School. It's the perfect way to begin the holiday season.  
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​​​​​​​(ATLANTIC CITY, NJ) -- This Thanksgiving weekend the Atlantic City Ballet will be bringing back It’s A Shore Holiday to help kick off the holiday season. It’s A Shore Holiday blends classical and contemporary dance set to beloved holiday tunes. This “Radio City-esque” review will feature the AC Ballet Professional company along with live singers and a six piece band. Performances will take place on Saturday, November 24th at 7:00pm in Circus Maximum Theater (inside Caesars Hotel) in Atlantic City and Sunday, November 25th at 3:00pm in the Stafford Township Arts Center in Manahawkin.

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Swan Lake: The Atlantic City Ballet LIVE! at The Strand Lakewood
On Saturday, September 22, 2018, The Atlantic City Ballet presented their version of Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake at The Strand Theatre in Lakewood, NJ. Featuring spellbinding choreography by Phyllis Papa, the talented members of the ACB transported an enthusiastic audience of all ages to another world, and Love Imagery was on hand to capture the magic in this photo-essay.
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Event calendar
Saturday, Nov 17, 2018


THE GAY BLADES @ The Saint, Asbury Park - 7:30pm

HERMAN'S HERMITS STARRING PETER NOONE & THE BUCKINGHAMS @ Bergen Performing Arts Center (bergenPAC), Englewood - 8:00pm

Nelson Riveros Trio: “The Latin Side of Wes Montgomery” @ Englewood Public Library, Englewood - 7:00pm

Hawaiian Music and Hula @ 1867 Sanctuary at Ewing, Ewing - 8:00pm

Pop 2000 Tour @ iPlay America, Freehold - 7:00pm

THE MACHINE PERFORMS PINK FLOYD @ The Strand Theater, Lakewood - 8:00pm


Todd Barry at SOPAC @ South Orange Performing Arts Center (SOPAC), South Orange - 8:00pm

Swamp Boogie Trio @ Lizzie Rose Music Room, Tuckerton - 7:30pm


Annie @ Broad Street United Methodist Church, Burlington - 8:00pm

An Actor's Carol @ Cape May Stage, Cape May - 3:00pm and 7:30pm

Annie @ Axelrod Performing Arts Center, Deal Park - 2:00pm and 8:00pm

Apples In Winter @ Centenary Stage Company - Kutz Theater of the Lackland Center, Hackettstown - 8:00pm

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat @ The Levoy Theatre, Millville - 8:00pm

Billy Bishop Goes to War @ Bickford Theatre at the Morris Museum, Morristown - 2:00pm

Kiss Me Kate @ Broadway Theatre of Pitman, Pitman - 2:00pm and 8:00pm

Phoenix Productions Presents: The Hunchback of Notre Dame @ Count Basie Center For The Arts, Red Bank - 8:00pm

Enchanted April @ The Summit Playhouse, Summit - 8:00pm

Heathers, The Musical High School Edition @ Pebble Players, Oakes Center, Summit - 7:30pm

Junie B. Jones The Musical at Black Box PAC @ Black Box PAC, Teaneck - 11:00am

Into the Woods @ Studio Playhouse Upper Montclair, Upper Montclair - 8:00pm

The Drowsy Chaperone @ Lauren K. Woods Theatre at Monmouth University, West Long Branch - 8:00pm


Todd Barry at SOPAC @ South Orange Performing Arts Center (SOPAC), South Orange - 8:00pm


BALLET FOLKLORICO DE MEXICO @ Mayo Performing Arts Center (MPAC), Morristown - 8:00pm


ROALD DAHL’S WILLY WONKA JR. @ Ridgewood Ave School Theater, Glen Ridge - 1:00pm and 7:00pm

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