Axelrod Contemporary Ballet Theater (AXCBT) will present 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, at the Axelrod Performing Arts Center in Deal, New Jersey, from February 2-11.
This fifth 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.
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 Devulapalli, founder of the award-winning school of classical and contemporary Indian dance, the Kalanjali School of Dance in Kendall Park, New Jersey. “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.
“The Jungle Book promises to be a visual and auditory feast, with dazzling costumes and striking masks and headpieces,” said AXCBT President Elise Feldman. “The production is a celebration of cultural diversity and artistic collaboration, offering a one-of-a-kind experience for audiences of all ages.”
For tickets and more information, visit www.axelrodartscenter.com/junglebook.