The Jungle Book Opens at Axelrod Performing Arts Center

Wednesday, January 31, 2024. 

Pictured Above: Jungle Book Cast. Photo Credit: Sarah Takash. 

The Return of the Family-Friendly ‘Dance-Musical’ Includes New Music and
Choreography by AXCBT Artistic Director Gabriel Chajnik and
Associate Choreographer Sudha Shekhar Devulapalli


Runs February 2 – 11th, 2024 



Deal, NJ – 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, Performances will take place at the Axelrod Performing Arts Center in Deal, N.J. from February 2 through February 11, 2024

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. 

Pictured Above: Jungle Book Cast. Photo Credit: Sarah Takash. 

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. 

Pictured Above: Jungle Book Cast. Photo Credit: Contributed. 

“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, N.J. “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.” 

Pictured Above: Jungle Book Cast. Photo Credit: Contributed. 

Performances are Friday, February 2 at 7PM; Saturday, February 3 at 1PM and 7PM; Sunday, February 4 at 3PM; Friday, February 9 at 7PM; Saturday, February 10 at 1PM and 7PM; and Sunday, February 11 at 3PM. Tickets prices are: Premium: $42; Regular: $36; Standard: $28; Student: $20; and Groups of 10 or more: Premium/Regular $32 with no fees.  

Axelrod Performing Arts Center is located at 100 Grant Avenue, Deal Park, N.J. For tickets and information, contact the box office at 732-531-9106 x14 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 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. 

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 Vice 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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