People may come to Atlantic City to get away from it all, but a stroll on Friday or Saturday nights near California Avenue on the Boardwalk takes visitors and residents to another world.
On a recent Friday evening, the theatrical troupe ArcheDream for HUMANKIND from Philadelphia took its turn at expanding spectators' minds and opening their imaginations. With their masked faces and multi-color, blacklight costumes, the performers moved their bodies in a synchronized fashion to the music coming from the loudspeakers at the site of the large-scale optical illusion by artist John Roloff known as Etude Atlantis.
Dressed to represent day, night, fire and other archetypes, the entertainers didn't speak, so what they were actually portraying was open to interpretation.
Even with the ambiguity, the audience that gathered to watch applauded the performers at the conclusion of each song. Even before the show started, people were pulling out their smartphones and digital cameras just to take pictures of the outfits.
"We walked by and saw them setting up and asked what they were doing," said Tara Rossiter, 42, of Barrington, Camden County, who arrived in Atlantic City that morning and watched the show with her two girls, Melody, 15, and Isabelle, 10. "We are actresses, singers and dancers ourselves. This is perfect... As I'm a single mom, anything that's free, that's theatrical, is wonderful."
In the "Mind, Body & Soul ARTLANTIC" series offered by the Atlantic City Alliance, the Friday and Saturday live theatrical performances may be the strongest appeals to the mind that were arranged.
Each weekend, either ArcheDream for HUMANKIND or Lux Arati, an all-female bellydance and fire troupe, also out of Philadelphia, performs.
Bill Egan, the Atlantic City Alliance's program coordinator, knew the ArcheDream group, which has been around for 13 years. He asked it to be a part of the "Mind, Body & Soul ARTLANTIC" program.
"ArcheDream was chosen because they are an acclaimed company that has performed all over the world. They rely solely on universal symbolism in their costumes and express their themes and emotions through music and movement without any spoken words. Since no language is involved and the symbolism is universal, they can be enjoyed and understood by people from any country, regardless of the language they speak," Egan said.
The costumes that spectators see ArcheDream wearing are from a show called Deep Blue, which is about the elements - earth, air, fire, water and spirit, said Patrice Caron, director, choreographer and performer with ArcheDream since March 2007.
"We usually do a whole show, but this is just having fun dancing on the Boardwalk for the kids, families and tourists," Caron said.
The evening performances at Etude have been the most attended of all the 97 days of free daily public events at the ARTLANTIC public parks, Egan said. At the busiest times, there are close to 100 visitors lined across the art exhibition to partake in the experience, he said.
"It has been going fantastic," Caron said. "It has been really wonderful to see the crowd's response and to see all the different kinds of people that we are reaching. I'm really excited for ARTLANTIC just as much as us. We have the kids coming in towards the end. We will have bachelor and bachelorette parties walk by, families and just drunk people. We're reaching everybody."
Contact Vincent Jackson:
If You Go
ArcheDream performs 9 to 11 p.m. Sept. 13 and 14 and LuxArati performs 9 to 11 p.m. Friday, Saturday, Sept. 20 and 21. All performances are free and held at Etude Atlantis: California Avenue and the Boardwalk, Atlantic City.