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Snowy Night




December 1-10, 2023 at Axelrod PAC

Are you ready to climb aboard?

Step inside the immersive World Premiere of The Polar Express, based on the beloved children's book by Chris Van Allsburg, and be transported through the snowy mountains to the North Pole.


Through exuberant, original choreography by Gabriel Chajnik and classic holiday music, a boy’s Christmas Eve adventure unfolds in a story of friendship, bravery, and the power of belief. Brought to spectacular life with mesmerizing visual effects, and featuring the talented dancers of the Axelrod Contemporary Ballet Theater and the apprentices and students of the Axelrod Academy, the show’s blend of live performance and cinematic magic will captivate the entire family.

This December, your journey of wonder and rediscovery starts here.


Find Them In The Lobby for More Polar Express Fun!


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Christopher Pollak


Christopher Pollak ( Hero Boy) is so excited to make his Axelrod debut!  Previously seen performing in The Nutcracker, New York City Ballet and Earle Mosley’s Diversity of Dance. He would like to thank all his family, friends, and teachers who have believed in him and helped him along his journey.

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Emma Lightbody-McAllan


Emma Lightbody-McAllan plays one of The Polar Express' HERO GIRLS.




Jake Ward (Hero Boy) is thrilled to be making his Axelrod debut in The Polar Express! Previous credits include The Who's Tommy (Young Tommy), A Christmas Story (Tap Dance Soloist/Classmate), and Peter Pan (Lost Boy). Jake was a 2023 title winner for his jazz solo at the Backstage Nationals dance competition. He is so grateful for this opportunity and would like to thank his family, friends and Dance For Joy for their constant love and encouragement on this exciting journey!




Julia Westby plays one of The Polar Express' HERO GIRLS.


Taylor Jr.


Robert Taylor Jr. received a B.A. in Dance with a minor in Musical Theatre from Marymount Manhattan College. He was in the top 16 contestants of So You Think You Can Dance Season 8, Hairspray national tour (2008), CBS Network Rundown at Carnegie Hall for L.L. Cool J (choreographed by Geo Hubela), Sweden's Peace and Love festival with Rihanna (2012), Rihanna's Budweiser commercial (2015), and America's Got Talent (finalist, The Mothmen). Robert made his Broadway debut in SpongeBob SquarePants, Has appeared on "Law and Order: Organized Crime," and “And Just Like That," with his latest television appearance being with Queen Latifah for “The Equalizer” portraying the role of “Young Marlon”.

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Oliviannah Cesario


Oliviannah Cesario is delighted to return to the Axelrod Stage with this amazing cast in The Polar Express!  Oliviannah attends Monmouth Beach Elementary School where she is in 7th grade. Recent credits include The Addams Family, Nutcracker Rocks, The Descendants Musical, Sponge-Bob Musical, & Annie Jr.

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(Company Dancer)

Arianna Tsivkin is a performing artist from New York City. She received her early dance training at the School of American Ballet and then the JKO School of American Ballet Theatre, performing as a student in productions with NYCB and ABT.

Arianna has also trained at French Académie of Ballet, received scholarships to dance at Belvoir Terrace Performing Arts Camp, and has studied under Mignon Furman, Merle Sepel, and her mother Rebecca Tsivkin. She graduated from Laguardia High School of Performing Arts as a dance major, and has studied Fosse repertory and theatre jazz with the Verdon Fosse Legacy. Arianna was honored to be part of the inaugural class of Pa’lante Scholars in the Professional Studies Program at Ballet Hispánico under the direction of Rodney Hamilton. While there she helped originate roles in works by Norbert De La Cruz III, Tsai Hsi Hung, and Juan Rodriguez, performed in works by Annabelle Lopez Ochoa, Michelle Manzanales, Pedro Ruiz, Gerald Arpino, Gustavo Ramirez, Alberto Alonzo, and more, and was a representative student at Canada's National Ballet School's Assemblée Internationale '23. Arianna is currently performing with Cherylyn Lavagnino Dance, and is very excited to join Axelrod Contemporary Ballet's The Polar Express.

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(Company Dancer)

Rohan Zhou-Lee They/Siya/祂(Tā)/Elle is a queer/nonbinary Black Asian dancer based in New York City. Major credits include a soloist role in the 2019 Off-Broadway concert revival of Over Here!, which received warm reviews on Broadway World, a dance and voice role in François And The Rebels (Public Theatre, 2023 and New York Theatre Barn, 2022) The Bluebird from Sleeping Beauty (Victoria Ballet Theatre, 2019) and Lovecraft Country (HBO, 2018.) In 2022, they choreographed and performed Homage at the Unite Festival in Zürich, Switzerland; this piece, which honors Asian Americans killed by police, premiered at the 2016 A-Squared Theatre Asian American Performing Arts Festival in Chicago. Zhou-Lee also set choreography on the cast of siya’s own play The Soldier’s Home at Circa Pintig, Chicago’s premiere Filipino theatre company in 2015. They trained at the Ruth Page Center For the Arts under Birute Barodicaite, Vanessa Lake, Dolores Lipinski Long, Randall Newsom, and Tracy Vonder Haar and 2015 Dance Theatre of Harlem summer intensive. Zhou-Lee dedicates all dance work to the memory of their grandmother, Julia McLeveighn, aka Nimble Toes, a ballerina at then the Virginia State College for Negroes. Zhou-Lee holds a Bachelor of the Arts degree in Ethnomusicology from Northwestern University.

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(Company Dancer)

Sarah Takash is originally from Brielle, New Jersey and is thrilled to return to Monmouth County to join AXCBT for the Polar Express! Sarah graduated Summa Cum Laude from the Ailey School and Fordham University with a BFA in dance and a double major in visual arts. As a student at the Ailey School, she had the honor of performing with the Ailey Company for 3 of their New York City Center seasons in “Memoria” by Alvin Ailey. Additionally, she danced the works of William Forsythe, Robert Battle, and Jessica Lang on stages including New York City Center, the David Koch Theater at Lincoln Center, and the Ailey Citigroup Theater. She had the privilege of working with Francesca Harper, Ronnie Favors, and Kanji Segawa among others. Upon graduation, Sarah performed with Boston Dance Theater on stages such as the Henry J. Lier Outdoor Stage at Jacob's Pillow and the ICA Boston. Prior to her education at Ailey and Fordham, Sarah began dancing at the age of 3 at the Spring Lake School of Dance and completed all Royal Academy of Dance vocational exams with distinction. She later trained at The Academy of Dance Arts in Tinton Falls where she danced leading roles in The Nutcracker, Cinderella, and the Wizard of Oz. Sarah supplemented her training at summer programs with Art of Ballet Zurich, Nederlands Dans Theater, The Juilliard School, Arts Umbrella, and American Ballet Theater NYC. 



(Company Dancer)

Alyssa Harris began her ballet training under Katya Strelnikova and grew up traveling and competing in numerous prestigious ballet competitions, including World Ballet Art Competition where she was awarded 3rd place in the contemporary solo section and qualified for finals in Niagara Falls Canada. Alyssa completed her BFA in Dance at Adelphi University in Long Island training under Frank Augustyn (National Ballet of Canada) and Orion Duckstein (Paul Taylor Dance Company). Upon graduating Alyssa began dancing professionally with the Axelrod Contemporary Ballet Theater in New Jersey where she has danced leading roles in Threes a Crowd, Dancing in The Dark, The Nutcracker Rocks, and Something's Coming. While dancing professionally Alyssa also holds a passion for teaching dance focusing on ballet, pointe, and repertoire classes.

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John John Tarrayo

(Company Dancer)

John John has been dancing and performing since the age of 12. His passion for dance began with Hip-Hop and Breaking. Wanting to grow as a well-rounded dancer he trained in Ballet, Modern, Jazz, Contemporary and African and was very active in choreographing and performing in both high school and college.


John John was featured in America's favorite dance television show, SO YOU THINK YOU CAN DANCE SEASON 16, performed in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, and was a featured dancer performing in the world’s biggest cruise line Royal Caribbean in the “Aqua 80” show. He has appeared in music videos and worked with platinum artists such as The Jonas Brothers, J Balvin, Daddy Yankee, Natty Natasha, Sebastian Yatra and Ingrid Michaelson. He has performed at the Radio City Music Hall with Soave, has been a featured dancer on MTV’s TRL, and danced on a national tour with Raymix. He also worked with well-known choreographers such as Talia Favia, Luther Brown, Cat Rendic, Theresa Stone, Stacey Tookey, Mandy Moore, Ashle Dawson, Anthony Rue, etc. 


John John has developed a unique and distinct style by mixing contemporary and breaking when he freestyles and choreographs movement. He continues to strive in diversifying his skill set by training in classes at Broadway Dance Center, Peridance Capezio Center, and Brickhouse. He succeeded in winning 1st place in Monsters of Hip Hop LA. He strongly grasps every opportunity to educate him further in becoming successful in the dance industry.  
His main endeavor is to travel, teach, inspire, and perform all over the world and to create a name for himself.  “Dance is My Passion. My Reason. My Life.”  

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(APAA Graduate)

Sealth has recently returned from the Bucks County Playhouse in New Hope where he reprised his role as Paolo, u/s Michael, in The Bridges of Madison County directed by Hunter Foster. Sealth made his off-Broadway debut last summer in the original Camp, A New Musical as Cubby. He has been seen before on the Axelrod stage in The Prom (Teen Ensemble), The Addams Family (Lucas Beineke), The Bridges of Madison County (Paolo, u/s Michael), and The Spongebob Musical (Spongebob). Other credits include Les Misérables (Marius) and The Crucible (Reverend John Hale), both roles earning him Basie Awards for Outstanding Actor. Sealth is currently taking a gap year to pursue acting! Instagram: @sea.Ith

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(Company Dancer)

In his second season with Axelrod Contemporary Ballet Theater, Dennzyl Green was born and raised in Long Beach, California where he was a performing artist for over a decade. His college career began at California State University, Sacramento and the following summer,  Dennzyl had the honor to attend the American Dance Festival at Duke University in North Carolina. From there, he attended Long Beach City College.  He also performed various choreographies including Ebony Suite by guest artist Bernard Gaddis, both at American College Dance Association and Jacob’s Pillow’s Inside/Out Summer Series 2017. The same summer, he attended Alvin Ailey Summer Intensive. There he performed Curious Dream by the former Artistic Director of Phoenix Dance Theatre (UK) Darshan Bhuller. Finally, he graduated from California State University, Fullerton with a Bachelor of Arts, Dance, Cum Laude 2020. During his college career, had the opportunity to perform various repertories by the faculty and guest artists such as Recent Arrival by former Artistic Director of Limón Dance Company, Colin Connors, and an excerpt of Doug Varone’s In the Shelter of the Fold- MASS.


Dennzyl began his professional career by joining Nannette Brodie Dance Theater from 2017-2021 where he toured throughout Southern California and neighboring states. As of June 2020, Dennzyl joined Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Ensemble as a member of the Second Company- Cleo II. 

As of 2022, Green had the pleasure of performing a variety of ballets with Axelrod such as An American in Paris, The Red Shoes, and West Side Story, the Dance (in) Haus Contemporary Show and finally the Nutcracker Prince in The Nutcracker Rocks. Lastly, the greatest honor of performing original choreography by Andrea Weber, former Merce Cunningham artist, Michael Trusnovec, former Paul Taylor artist and Blakeley White- McGuire, former Martha Graham artist. 


Additionally, he is also in his third season EMERGE125 based in Harlem, New York under the direction of Tiffany Rae- Fisher. 

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(Company Dancer)

Giana began her dance training at South Jersey Ballet where she studied ballet, modern and jazz dance. She holds a BFA in dance from Adelphi University where she graduated in May 2022. Giana has performed works choreographed by Frank Augustyn, Orion Duckstein, Larry Keigwin, Juan Rodriguez, and Rasta Thomas. Currently, she is dancing with Axelrod Contemporary Ballet Theater and is excited to perform in The Polar Express.

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(AXCBT Apprentice)

Lilakoi Grover (AXCBT apprentice), a high school junior, is an inaugural dancer in the Axelrod Performing Arts Academy. She is so excited to perform in this world premiere of The Polar Express! She recently made her off-Broadway debut dancing on The Triad theater stage in NYC. She is currently choreographing her high school production of Little Shop of Horrors. Recent ballets include Gabriel Chajnik’s originals The Nutcracker Rocks (Clara, Rat King, Android) and The Lost Princess of Oz (Dorothy). Recent theater credits include APAA’s Freaky Friday, The Addams Family and Spongebob the Musical. Lilakoi was a “Contemporary Top 12” at YAGP last season. IG: @lilakoi



(Assoc. Choreographer)

Linda Kilponen is a Point Park University graduate with a BFA in Dance. She has performed with the Radio City Rockettes, Norwegian Cruise Ships, and in Will Rogers Follies. Linda provided group tours during Backstage Tours at Radio City Music Hall in New York City. She has also been featured as a model with Deal or No Deal on the Today Show and in Just for Kix. Linda will be the associate choreographer for  The Polar Express, bringing to the team a world of experience as a choreographer, mentor, educator and performer.

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Kathleen Pearlberg

(Ballet Mistress)

Kathleen joined the Axelrod Contemporary Ballet Company in September 2022 as ballet mistress.  She has over thirty years of teaching experience in New Jersey and California and is currently a classical ballet, jazz and musical theatre dance teacher at Dance For Joy studio in Brielle, New Jersey.   She is a former dancer with the New Jersey Ballet Company where she danced for 16 years. During her time with NJB she performed Nutcracker Suite, Swan Lake, Carmina Burana and other full-length ballets as well as George Balanchine’s Donizetti Variations, Allegro Brillante, Who Cares and original works by Jay Norman, David Bowen, George Tomal, Joseph Carow and Edward Villella.  
Theater performance credits include, Algonquin Arts Theater productions of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor  Dreamcoat, Annie Get Your Gun, Spamalot, Damn Yankees and Kiss Me Kate.  Choreography credits include Joseph and the Amazing  Technicolor Dreamcoat, Peter Pan, Jesus Christ Superstar, Fiddler on the RoofThe Music Man, How to Succeed in Business ... , and Kinky Boots

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Janessa Cornell Urwin

(Costume Designer)

Janessa Cornell Urwin began her career as a ballet dancer before transitioning into costuming.  She has designed costumes for numerous classical ballets and contemporary dance pieces for American Repertory Ballet, Stockton University Dance Program, Traverse City Dance Project, The Nutmeg Ballet, Rutgers University, Kun-Yang Lin/Dancers, and Nacre Dance Company, among others.  She has worked with esteemed choreographers Ethan Stiefel, David Fernandez, Kirk Peterson, Meredith Rainey, Stephanie Martinez, and Riccardo De Nigris. This is Janessa's third collaboration with Gabriel Chajnik and Axelrod Contemporary Ballet Theater, having most recently costumed "The Lost Princess of Oz".  Janessa has also designed for theater and film.  She holds a certificate in Costume Design from the Fashion Institute of Technology.

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