(DEAL, NJ) -- Axelrod Contemporary Ballet Theater (AXCBT) is presenting a newly revised and revitalized version, with a new score, of Artistic Director Gabriel Chajnik's ballet The Jungle Book, based on Rudyard Kipling's beloved stories about a boy adopted and raised by wolves fulfilling his quest for identity, love and belonging, Performances conclude this weekend at the Axelrod Performing Arts Center. Photographer John Posada was on hand to take photos.
This 5th anniversary version of The Jungle Book, directed by Chajnik, has additional choreography by Associate Choreographer Sudha Shekhar Devulapalli, the renowned classical Indian dance teacher. The innovative, immersive production of the ballet, which premiered in 2019, features a fusion of Bharatanatyam, contemporary dance, hip hop, ballet and Bollywood styles, and mesmerizes with extraordinary athleticism.
Each character is portrayed with captivating energy; audiences will witness Mowgli's soaring jumps, Baloo's playful antics, Shere Khan’s powerful movements, and Kaa the Serpent’s sinuous grace. The family-friendly experience promises a thrilling showcase of physical artistry, where the magic of dance seamlessly intertwines with Kipling's timeless tale. The ballet will be performed by a cast of professional dancers and talented young fellows and trainees, with elaborate costumes designed by José Solis and masks and headpieces designed by Tentacle Studios, who create for Lady Gaga, Kesha, and The Royal Ballet.
Remaining performances include Friday, February 9 at 7:00pm; Saturday, February 10 at 1:00pm & 7:00pm; and Sunday, February 11 at 3:00pm. Tickets prices are: Premium: $42; Regular: $36; Standard: $28; Student: $20; and Groups of 10 or more: Premium/Regular $32 with no fees. Tickets are available for purchase online or by contacting the box office at 732-531-9106 x14. Axelrod Performing Arts Center is located at 100 Grant Avenue, Deal Park in New Jersey.
The Jungle Book celebrates cultural diversity with a deep commitment to authenticity, which ensures that each movement captures the essence of the cultural traditions it represents. The choreography, blending traditional South Indian dance with contemporary ballet, is a testament to the respectful fusion of diverse dance forms.
"The Jungle Book is a ‘dance-musical’ that fuses an exotic mix of east and west music, culture, and dance for a performance that transcends cultural boundaries," said Chajnik. “This new version of the ballet is a testament to the power of collaboration, blending diverse artistic elements to create a truly unique and unforgettable experience for our audience. As artists, our responsibility is to bridge gaps, reconcile differences, and promote unity. The fusion of two cultures in The Jungle Book highlights the inherent nature of humanity—community and peace. Through the universal language of art, we strive to inspire understanding and celebrate the beautiful mosaic of our shared human experience."
"This is the first time an American ballet company has produced an Indian-based story and featured traditional choreography,” said Shekhar Devulapalli, founder of the award-winning school of classical and contemporary Indian dance, the Kalanjali School of Dance in Kendall Park, NJ. “I am delighted that my Indian dancers will be in the ballet.”
A highlight of the production is the collaboration with composers Pramath Kiran and Praveen D Rao, who have reimagined the original score. Kiran, a renowned percussionist from South India, is known for his traditional and intricate style. He is the founder of Layatharanga, one of India's top world music bands, and part of Chakrafonics, which explores genres from Indian classical fusion to world music. Rao has created his own musical style incorporating Hindustani and Carnatic music with Western techniques. He has created music for theater, ballet, film, and television productions, and has toured internationally as part of Chakrafonics.
Here are more photos from the production.
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 commitment 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.
John Posada is a New Jersey based photographer specializing in live theatre and music performances. For more than 10 years, John has photographed live music events where he mastered the techniques of timing and capturing fast moving action under challenging lighting conditions to capture that perfect moment that tells a story in a single image. Currently, John has photographed over 110 productions for over 70 different theatres and venues. Click here for John's website.