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Axelrod Contemporary Ballet Theater presents "The Polar Express"

originally published: 11/15/2023

Axelrod Contemporary Ballet Theater presents "The Polar Express"

Christopher Pollack and Robert Taylor Jr., photo by Sarah Takash

(DEAL PARK, NJ) -- Axelrod Contemporary Ballet Theater (AXCBT), the Jersey Shore's professional ballet company renowned for innovative and captivating productions, presents Gabriel Chajnik's The Polar Express, based on Chris Van Allsburg's beloved children’s book from 1985, at the Axelrod Performing Arts Center in Deal Park from December 1-10, 2023.

Chajnik’s work is an inspiring theatrical journey of uplifting holiday music and exciting original choreography that will captivate the imagination of children and adults alike. On Christmas Eve, a young boy embarks on a magical adventure to the North Pole on the Polar Express. Through dazzling dance scenes and heartwarming holiday songs, he learns about friendship, bravery, and the spirit of Christmas. With hot chocolate in hand and snowy landscapes whizzing past the windows, he meets amazing characters who will have audiences dancing in their seats. Using state-of-the-art videography techniques, AXCBT will bring the enchanting world of The Polar Express to life with stunning visual effects, and audiences will be immersed in a seamless integration of live performance and cinematic magic.

The Polar Express is a timeless tale of belief, wonder, and the boundless magic that resides within the hearts of all,” said Gabriel Chajnik, AXCBT Artistic Director and Choreographer. “It beautifully captures the essence of childhood innocence and the power of faith in something extraordinary, even when faced with skepticism or doubt. The journey aboard the Polar Express symbolizes the passage from doubt to belief, signifying that the most wondrous adventures in life often begin with a single step of faith.

“The holidays bring a message of peace and unity, weaving a tapestry of love and joy that transcends age and time,” Chajnik continued. “The Polar Express embodies this spirit, inviting audiences to embark on a journey of wonder and rediscovery. The timeless, familiar melodies of the holiday season will fill the theater, setting the stage aglow with the magic of Christmas."

Said Elise Feldman, Vice President of the Axelrod Performing Arts Center board of trustees, “We are immensely proud of our young artists and grateful for the dedication and support of our company dancers. Together, they will bring the enchanting world of The Polar Express to life in a way that promises to be breathtaking and memorable.”

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At the heart of The Polar Express is the Conductor, portrayed by actor/singer/dancer Robert Taylor Jr., who embodies the guiding hand on an enchanting journey. Taylor made his Broadway debut in The SpongeBob Musical, and was in the National Tour of Hairspray. He performed as an honorary member with The Amountboyz and with Jared Grimes in "Broadway Underground.”

The Polar Express also stars Christopher Pollack of Wall Township and Jake Ward of Brick alternating in the role of Hero Boy, and features the dancers of Axelrod Contemporary Ballet Theater and apprentices and students of Axelrod Academy. Christopher’s previous performances include New York City Ballet’s The Nutcracker and Earle Mosley’s Diversity of Dance. Previous credits for Jake, who is making his Axelrod debut, include The Who's Tommy as Young Tommy, A Christmas Story, and Peter Pan. He was a 2023 title winner for his jazz solo at the Backstage Nationals dance competition. In addition, The Polar Express showcases a large ensemble of young performers who were chosen from community auditions, adding a heartwarming touch to the production.

Axelrod Contemporary Ballet Theater presents "The Polar Express"

Jake Ward and Robert Taylor Jr., photo by Sarah Takash

The Polar Express provides a unique and invaluable learning opportunity for our young artists – including more than 125 young cast members through our collaboration with Gotta Dance Studio at the Jersey Shore – as they embark on a journey of movement and expression,” said Chajnik. “Our talented young dancers will have the privilege of being mentored by our seasoned company dancers as they showcase their skills and creativity. This collaborative effort aims to not only bring the magic of The Polar Express to life on stage but also to nurture the growth and development of our budding artists.”

Performances are December 1 at 7:00pm, December 2 at 2:00pm & 7:00pm, December 3 at 1:00pm & 5:00pm, December 8 at 7:00pm, December 9 at 2:00pm & 7:00pm, and December 10 at 1:00pm & 5:00pm. Tickets are $42, $36, and $28, and $20 for students. For tickets, call 732-531-9106, ext. 14 or visit

Axelrod Contemporary Ballet Theater (AXCBT) strives to cultivate an environment rooted in diversity, inspiration, encouragement, and equality where all are welcome and heard. Listening and learning are at the heart of its commitments to change policies, attitudes, and habits that do not align with its core values. Gabriel Chajnik has assembled a community of skilled artists, each unique and necessary to the growth of AXCBT and its audience. AXCBT prides itself on its perseverance through the challenges of the COVID pandemic and the company’s continuation of dance education. Chajnik and his dancers aim to expand creativity and appreciation for the arts throughout New Jersey, inviting patrons, students, and artists to join them on their gratifying endeavor.

Gabriel Chajnik received undergraduate dance training at The Juilliard School, studying under legendary instructor, mentor, and Juilliard faculty emeritus Maestro Héctor Zaraspe. Chajnik’s work has been featured at The Juilliard School, Manhattan School of Music, Shakespeare Theatre in Washington, D.C., Alice Tully Hall, Clark Theatre at Lincoln Center, Manhattan Movement and Arts Center, and the Lambs Theatre. As an educator, he has taught various dance technique classes at Brooklyn Music School (NY), Princeton Ballet School (NJ), the Academy of Dance Arts (NJ), and Gotta Dance (NJ). He merged his passions for choreography and education by establishing the Axelrod Contemporary Ballet Theater (AXCBT), the first professional dance company in the Monmouth County area, and the Axelrod Performing Arts Academy (APAA), both with the help of Axelrod Performing Arts Center’s President Elise Feldman. Chajnik has been honored by the Jewish Federation of Somerset, Hunterdon, & Warren Counties. In September 2021, Monmouth Arts honored Gabriel for his work in the community during the pandemic.

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