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Doing It Their Way: Atlantic City Ballet, Swing and Sinatra

By Patricia Kiernan Johnson,

originally published: 03/23/2017

Doing It Their Way: Atlantic City Ballet, Swing and Sinatra

There are some big changes underway for Atlantic City Ballet’s 34th season, including a new home in Atlantic City, some touring projects and special ticket prices for their neighbors. On top of that, this week they are offering a fun performance of two ballets entitled “Caught Up in the Swing” and “Papa & Sinatra: Their Way.”

At this point, I know my Hoboken relatives are now asking, “Wait, does that latter ballet somehow involve Saverio Antonio Martino Sinatra?” But no, in this case “Papa” does not refer to Old Blue Eyes’ father, but rather to Atlantic City Ballet’s Founding Artistic Director, Phyllis Papa.

This season, Atlantic City Ballet has formed a partnership with Caesars this season to perform at the Circus Maximus Theater, a change from their previous home venue at The Claridge in Atlantic City. But you’ll need to return to see another Atlantic City Ballet performance if you want to see them at Caesar’s (and why wouldn’t you want to?) because this next performance takes place at The Strand in Lakewood, about an hour’s drive north of Atlantic City.

On Saturday, March 25, at 7:00 p.m., Atlantic City Ballet takes their show on the road to Lakewood, performing two ballets in one evening: “Caught Up in the Swing” and “Papa & Sinatra: Their Way.” That beautiful old theater was designed by famous architect Thomas Lamb and originally opened in 1922, making it the perfect location for “Caught Up in the Swing.” That ballet takes place in the glamorous heyday of the 1920s in Atlantic City (the AC Ballet brings the Atlantic City, and The Strand brings the 1920s glamour).

“Caught Up in the Swing” is a fun, 55-minute comedy consisting of 10 scenes taking place at a hotel. And it’s not just ballet-style dance that you’ll see here, Founding Artistic Director Phyllis Papa tells me, but also Broadway and tap. You’ll also spot tennis players, bellhops, showgirls, a Charlie Chaplin-esque dancer, mobsters, sunbathers and more. The music is also wide-ranging, featuring works from Scott Joplin to Strauss. “Caught Up in the Swing” was first created for the company’s 30th anniversary in 2012, and has seen some updates and changes since then, such as the showgirls section. It was last performed two years ago.

ACBallet1After intermission, you’ll get a second ballet: “Papa & Sinatra: Their Way,” which features live musicians performing instrumental versions of classic songs made famous by Frank Sinatra, including “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered,” “The Way You Look Tonight” and “New York, New York.”  This piece doesn’t have a story line (called a “plotless ballet”), but is full of beautiful, pure dance. “Papa & Sinatra” was first created by Papa two years ago and performed on the same program as “Caught Up in the Swing.”

This two-ballet evening, Papa tells me, is great both for people who have never been to a ballet before, as well as those who are balletomanes (yup, that’s a real word). For newbies, not only will you be familiar with the music going in, but you’ll be drawn into the comedic storyline of the first ballet, and experience a wide range of engaging dance styles – not just the usual, formal ballet one. And aficionados will enjoy a troupe of dancers from around the world, performing this tour-de-force of dance styles. Atlantic City Ballet boasts 25 dancers: including four Americans, with the remaining 21 from all over the globe, including countries in Europe, South America and Asia.

And no, I didn’t forget that I opened this piece by teasing you about some big changes for Atlantic City Ballet this season. Let’s see: I’ve already told you about their new home at Caesar’s in Atlantic City. And as for touring, the AC Ballet has been seen in other venues in the state this year, not only in Atlantic City and Lakewood, but in Galloway, Manahawkin and Monroe Township. And next season, Papa tells me, they’ve been booked for a tour that so far includes stops in Los Angeles, Napa Valley and Arizona (so be sure to let your west coast friends know).

Finally, I mentioned a special ticket price for their neighbors. If you are an Atlantic City resident, listen up: for their performances at Caesar’s, you can purchase $12 tickets at the box office or at the ballet office. (Note that this doesn’t apply to this upcoming performance in Lakewood, or the other non-Caesars venues.) This lower ticket price aims to encourage all city residents, no matter their income or experience with ballet, to give AC Ballet a try. For me, this is a great way for Atlantic City Ballet to invest in its home community and if it’s successful, the community will invest in its home ballet company. And that’s a win-win situation in my book.

The Details

Atlantic City Ballet performs “Caught Up in the Swing” and “Papa & Sinatra: Their Way” on Saturday, March 25 at 7:00 p.m. The performance takes place at The Strand, located at 400 Clifton Avenue in Lakewood, NJ. Tickets are $25/$35 ($20 for seniors and $15 for students). For more information or to purchase tickets, visit or call 609.348.7201.

About the author: About the author: Patricia, Jersey born and bred, is a lifelong arts lover, arts patron, performer and artist. One of the very few people who actually cheers when The Dreaded Opera Category shows up on Jeopardy, Patricia is also an avid Yankee fan (from birth) and is learning to become an Eagles fan (from marriage).

Content provided by Discover Jersey Arts, a project of the ArtPride New Jersey Foundation and New Jersey State Council on the Arts.

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