When you think of Atlantic City, you think of gambling, hotels, the boardwalk, and beaches. The last thing that may come to mind is professional ballet. But indeed, Atlantic City is the home of the Atlantic City Ballet, which has experienced as many ups and downs as the city itself.
When Ms. Papa, a professional dancer, was approached to start her own ballet company in AC in 1982, it was the icing on the top of a successful career. She accepted the offer and started a company that for many years would be one of the few performing arts groups who called AC their home.
After many years of performing up and down the boardwalk, including 64 performances of “The Nutcracker” at the Playboy Casino, public interest the ballet waned. Ms. Papa was forced to take her dancers out of the city and house them in her dance studio in Egg Harbor Township. The AC Ballet went into artistic exile and became a touring company, performing in theater, performing arts centers, and colleges up and down the East Coast.
But then a remarkable thing happened: in 2013, someone in Atlantic City thought having a resident ballet company would be a great idea. With the help of the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority, a rehearsal studio and offices were built in historic Boardwalk Hall, and Ms. Papa was asked to come back to the city that had forced her out 20 years earlier. A new space meant new recognition, and the best kept secret in AC was finally revealed.
Now in its third season in AC, the company performs monthly at the Circus Maximus Theater in Caesars and is planning a West Coast tour for its 35th season. So who says you can’t go home again? Not Ms. Papa or the Atlantic City Ballet.