MARGATE — The Atlantic City Ballet is one of the premier fine arts institutions in South Jersey.

Unfortunately, many people are not aware it even exists. The organization is trying to change that.

The group will celebrate its 30th anniversary at a special event at Resorts Atlantic City this year. And last year it was awarded a $25,000 grant from the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority to put on a five free performances.

But Founding Artistic Director Phyllis Papa, of Galloway Township, recently challenged board members to outdo each other in holding a series of fundraisers.

“We need to raise money, and we need to raise awareness of the ballet,” said board member Cynthia Walker. “It isn’t just classic ballet, it’s exciting, and modern, and sexy.”

Sunday’s event, “26 on the 26th,” at Johnny’s Cafe in Margate, featured local up-and-coming performers assembled through the “Open Minded Mic” program — including board member Diane DeLuca, of Ventnor, part of the Acoustic Wave duo with John Oelkers.

“This was a great opportunity to use her talents and still raise money,” Papa said. “The ballet company receives $21 for every ticket, and Open Mic receives $5. And it was wonderful for Johnny’s Cafe to allow us to do this.”

The event was an opportunity for the ballet company to be in the audience for once, instead of at the center of attention, but they prefer to be performing.

“We have a good month of nothing to do, just rehearsing,” said Mark McCormack, of Egg Harbor City. “We need more awareness so we can do more. ... Atlantic City needs more ballet.”

“People talk to you, and they have no idea there is an Atlantic City Ballet,” said Emma Skinner, of Hammonton. “Some people you talk to say they don’t want to see ballet, and I say that we don’t just do ballet.”

The word is getting out there. Tsu Basa, of Galloway Township, said that the recent free concerts “got a lot more of an audience than we would have thought.”

“It’s a good area,” said Jeilson Serrano, also of Galloway.

“But it could be a lot better,” added Rondalyn Coble, of Baltimore.

Those in attendance spoke of the importance of supporting the arts.

“When we lose our fine arts, the finer parts of our society,” Theresa Rodriquez said, “We need those things.”

The ballet received the support of some who were simply at Johnny’s Cafe for lunch — kind of.

Asked if she knew Atlantic City had a ballet, Christine Brandt, of Voorhees, said “I would assume so ... But I’d never heard of it before.”

Would they be interested in going to see it?

“It’s a good idea,” said Ken Brandt. “Well, some day.”

For more information

The Atlantic City Ballet performs regularly at the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey and has

also performed at Rowan University, in New York City, Pennsylvania and the Hamptons. A 30th anniversary celebration is slated for June at Resorts Atlantic City. For information, visit acballet.org, or call 609-804-1995.

Contact Steven Lemongello:

609-272-7275