Monmouth County’s first professional ballet company has been established at the Axelrod Performing Arts Center, led by Juilliard alum and Ocean Grove resident Gabriel Chajnik.
Chajnik, a former dancer with American Repertory Ballet, will serve as artistic director and choreographer. The first production from the Axelrod Contemporary Ballet Theater (AXCBT) will be Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” with perform- ances Aug. 29 and 30.
“The production is very whimsical and has space for young, energetic dancers to be showcased in the play’s many fun characters,” said Chajnik.
The performance will feature professional dancers from AXCBT as well as young trainees and a live 20-piece orchestra performing the music of Felix Mendelssohn, conducted by Ocean Grove resident Jason Tramm.
“I picked ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ because it’s a ballet that has a lot of roles for children,” said Chajnik. “The music is also a big draw. The score is one of the most beautiful scores by Felix Mendelssohn. We’re also using some incidental music by him, drawing from different symphonies – pieces that aren’t performed very often. This experience for the students, the professionals, for all of us really is to understand and live his music. It’s all quite danceable.”
Chajnik has taught in Europe and Argentina, as well as at the Brooklyn Music School, Princeton Ballet, the Academy of Dance Arts and Gotta Dance in New Jersey. His work has been featured at Juilliard, the Manhattan School of Music, the Shakespeare Theater in Washington D.C. and Lincoln Center. After meeting with a group of passionate advocates for the arts in Monmouth County, he conferred with local schools and dance programs to see what was needed in the area.
“The Axelrod Contemporary Ballet’s educational program will be a hub for dancers in the area to expand, refine and add new elements to their training,” Chajnik said. “Our intention is to build the reputation of the Jersey Shore as a preeminent place for dance. We have already hosted over 150 dance students through our master class series, our winter and partnering intensives and a Paul Taylor master class.”
The company’s training program is open to students ages 10-19, some of whom have been incorporated into “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”
“We want the students to have a chance to dance with professionals from New York and New Jersey so they can not only look up to them but also be mentored and dance alongside them,” said Chajnik.
Some of the trainees will have the opportunity to perform alongside one of the professionals in the opera “Carmen” Sept. 15 and 16. The AXCBT will also be performing at the Axelrod Gala Oct. 13, and Elise Feldman, the ballet board president, will be one of the honorees. The company will soon announce its three major ballet productions for 2019.
“I’m very excited for the community to be exposed to high quality dance without hav- ing to go into New York City,” said Chajnik.
Tickets for “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” are $25 to $35. For more information, visit axelrodartscenter.com.
Arts and entertainment writer Mary Ann Bourbeau can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article was first published in the August 23-30, 2018 print edition of The Two River Times.
If you liked this story, you’ll love our newspaper. Click here to subscribe