Axelrod Ballet First Professional Company To Feature Classical Indian Dance In World Premiere

Axelrod Ballet First Professional Company To Feature Classical Indian Dance In World Premiere

The Axelrod Contemporary Ballet Theater, New Jersey's newest professional ballet company, is breaking ground and crossing cultural boundaries with the world premiere of "The Jungle Book," an exciting meld of American as well as Indian classical and folk dance.

According to Axelrod Contemporary Ballet Theater Artistic Director and Choreographer Gabriel Chajnik, "'The Jungle Book' is a 'dance-musical,' that fuses an exotic mix of east and west in terms of music, culture and dance."

This innovative production will feature Bharatanatyam dance, a type of classical Indian dance, choreographed by Sudha Shekhar Devulapalli, founder of the Kalanjali School of Dance in Kendal Park, NJ, and will showcase several Indo-American students alongside the professional company.

"This is the first time an American ballet company has produced an Indian-based story and featured traditional choreography," said Devulapalli. "Meshing south Indian classical and folk-dance elements with contemporary ballet is an exciting development in the world of dance and encourages greater cultural diversity. It's also an amazing opportunity for my students!"

A leading school for classical and contemporary Indian dance, the Kalanjali School of Dance has received numerous awards in dance competitions including the most coveted East Coast Bollywood dance competition, Naya Andaz, FIA and Naach Revolution to name a few.

Devulapalli trained and received diplomas in both the Kathak and Bharatanatyam genres of dance from Prayag University in Allahbad, and she performed in India and abroad before starting her school in N.J.

"Gabriel's vision is very grand and very exciting, and I'm learning so much about what goes into a professional American dance production as we collaborate together," noted Devulapalli. "He's an extremely versatile choreographer and he knows exactly what he wants."

Devulapalli is also impressed by Chajnik's cultural sensitivity, noting that he encouraged her to compose a short dance sequence to introduce the performance in honor of the Hindu deity Ganesha.

"It really shows how much Gabriel respects our relationship and is striving to bridge the two cultures," said Devulapalli. "Lord Ganesha is widely revered as the god of beginnings, and he is traditionally honored at the start of rites and ceremonies."

"The Jungle Book" is an exciting retelling of Rudyard Kipling's collection of stories about a boy adopted and raised by wolves, who fulfills his quest for identity, love, and belonging.

The performance will also feature original music by composer and sitar player Neel Murgai, juxtaposed with classical and folk music. Performing live onstage, Murgai and tabla percussionist Shivalik Goshal are both members of the highly regarded Brooklyn Raga Massive. Music Director Jason Tramm is arranging the score and leading a small ensemble of exceptional string players.

To subscribe to the Axelrod Contemporary Ballet Theater's season or to purchase individual tickets, visit or call the box office at (732) 531-9106 ext. 14. Ticket prices for "The Jungle Book" are: Premium Adult $54; Regular Adult $48; Premium Senior $46; Regular Senior $40; Students $26. Group, senior and student discounts are available.

The Axelrod Performing Arts Center is New Jersey's newest professional theater, offering main-stage musicals with casts and production teams from New York City and beyond as well as original concerts throughout the year. The Axelrod fosters artistic excellence by showcasing varied and distinct cultural programs that enrich the imaginative, intellectual, and creative soul, while cultivating an appreciation of diverse communities through the pursuit of the arts. For more information, please visit

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