Atlantic City Ballet interprets commotion of Sandy in new dance


For the first anniversary of Superstorm Sandy, the Atlantic City Ballet is premiering an original dance based on the hurricane that devastated the Jersey Shore.

A 20-minute excerpt of “In the Eye of the Storm” will be staged Tuesday at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark as part of a program of performances related to Sandy. The full 45-minute work will premiere Nov. 2 at Dante Hall in Atlantic City.

With a $27,000 grant from the New Jersey Recovery Fund, the Atlantic City Ballet created events over the summer for people to share their memories of the storm and its aftermath. Founding director Phyllis Papas and choreographer Kristaps Kikulis helped participants express their recollections through movement.

“There were all walks of people — seniors, children. Kristaps gave them moves to start them off,” said Papas, who created the ACB 31 years ago. “We got all these movements, and we created this ballet.”

Kikulis, who trained in classical ballet in his native Latvia, is a longtime ACB company member. Relatively new to choreography, he blended traditional ballet movements with edgy modern dance gestures. The 14 dancers deliver an athletic performance with music pulled mostly from popular film composers including John Williams, Hans Zimmer, and Danny Elfman.

The dance is in roughly three parts — before, during, and after the storm — through which Kikulis invented a narrative.

“I tried to show different people’s stories, little stories,” said Kikulis in thickly accented English. “Maybe give them little memories of what happened, and what’s happened after the storm.”

Many of the dancers were in New Jersey when the storm hit last year. They are residents of the Atlantic City Ballet, hailing from around the world to audition for the company and live in a communal house in Egg Harbor Township. While the house sustained only minor damage, the dancers were literally in the eye of the storm like so many others along the Shore.

“Some of the people on [Long Beach] Island were hit pretty bad,” said Papas. “A lot of people lost their homes. Our accountant lost her home. People really close to us. So, I think it is an effort to heal, and to say, we went through this together and, look, we’re out of it. We’re pulling together. Things are happening. Even art is coming out of it.”

You can hear the company rehearse via the audio button at the top of the page.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal