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Tropical Plant




February 2–11, 2024 at Axelrod PAC

Join AXCBT in a celebration of the timeless story about Mowgli, a human boy who is raised by wolves and gains wisdom from the jungle animals. Author Rudyard Kipling’s memorable characters swing, chase, prowl, and soar through the jungle. Audiences are swept into this adventurous dance-musical with mesmerizing projections, a percussive score, culturally authentic costumes, and striking masks and headpieces by Tentacle Studios (The Masked Singer).


A cast of professional dancers and talented young fellows and trainees from AXCBT fuse Contemporary dance, Hip hop, ballet, Bharatanatyam and Bollywood styles in this collaboration between director and choreographer Gabriel Chajnik and classical Indian dance choreographer Sudha Shekhar Devulapalli

Search with Mowgli as he leaps across worlds – animal/human, eastern/western, untamed/cultivated  –  to find his place of true belonging.



GRACE SELLINGER graduated in May 2023 from Muhlenberg College in Allentown, Pennsylvania with a double major in Dance and International Studies. Grace has performed in recent dance shows such as: Axelrod Contemporary Ballet Theater’s The Jungle Book 2019, Alice in Wonderland, Summer Showcase 2021, Three’s A Crowd, and The Lost Princess of Oz; Muhlenberg College’s Dance Gallery 2019, Master Choreographers 2020, Reset: New Dances 2022, and In Motion 2023; Sarah Bui’s Between the Dreams 2021 dance film; Somerset County Vocational & Technical High School’s Beyond 2019. Sellinger has choreographed for shows including: Roxey Ballet Company’s River Dance Festival 2023; Muhlenberg College’s Dance Works 2019, Move, Diverge, Advance 2022, and Dance Emerge 2023; Sarah Bui’s Between the Dreams 2021 dance film; Axelrod Performing Arts Academy’s 2021 Summer Showcase and 2022 Summer Showcase; Somerset County Vocational & Technical High School’s 2019 Beyond; original choreography to music by artists such as BlackPink, AshNikko, DalSoobin, and HyunA. Grace has studied at the following institutions: Muhlenberg College in Allentown, Pennsylvania (2019-2023), Edge Hill University in Ormskirk, United Kingdom (Fall of 2021), and Yonsei University in Seoul, South Korea (Spring of 2022). By actively pursuing a diverse education, Sellinger aims to create and perform work that every person can relate to and feel touched by.


GIANNA CARROLL began her dance training at the age of five with South Jersey Ballet where she studied ballet, modern and jazz. She participated in their annual Nutcracker and spring productions in which she performed lead roles. Giana holds a BFA in dance from Adelphi University where she graduated in May 2022. While studying at Adelphi, she had the opportunity to perform works choreographed by Frank Augustyn, Orion Duckstein, Larry Keigwin, Juan Rodriguez, Paul Taylor and Rasta Thomas. Currently, she is a company member at Axelrod Contemporary Ballet Theatre. While dancing with Axelrod, she has performed works by Gabriel Chajnik, Andrea Weber and Blakeley White-Mcguire.


ROLAND JONES was born and raised in Poolesville, Maryland. He began training at Maryland Youth Ballet in 2012, before continuing his development as a trainee at Ballet West Academy under Jeff Rogers from 2017-2019. At Ballet West, he had the opportunity to perform as Oberon in George Balanchine’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream and guest performed as Colas in the University of Utah’s production of La Fille Mal Gardée, before being promoted to Ballet West II. In 2021, Jones joined Richmond Ballet II under Igor Antonov and Malcolm Burn, performing in ballets Romeo and Juliet and Balanchine’s Allegro Brillante. Jones joined ARB as an apprentice in 2022, and performed in Da’Von Doane’s Kaleidoscope Mind, Caili Quan’s Circadia, Claire Davison’s Bewitched. Jones also had the opportunity to perform as the Snow King and Cavalier in ARB’s The Nutcracker. Roland Jones appear courtesy of American Repertory Ballet, Princeton/New Brunswick, NJ.


JOHN JOHN TARRAYO 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. 


KATHLEEN PEARLBERG 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 Roof, The Music Man, How to Succeed in Business ... , and Kinky Boots.


KATHERINE (KATIE) JAFFIE was born on Long Island, New York. She danced at Amy Tyler School of Dance for 13 years, studying ballet, tap, lyrical, theater jazz, and hip hop. As well as dancing with Amy Tyler, Katie participated in Harbor Ballet Theatre’s annual production of The Nutcracker for eleven years, performing such roles as Spanish Coffee, Merlitons, Flower Soloist, and Snow Queen. After graduating high school, she attended Adelphi University’s BFA Dance program where she achieved Dean’s List every semester and ultimately graduated Magna Cum Laude. Under the direction of Chair Orion Duckstein, who danced with Paul Taylor for over 15 years, Katie studied many styles of ballet, Taylor, Graham, floorwork, contemporary, Horton, and Pilates with names such as Frank Augustyn, former principle with the Canadian National Ballet, Jennifer Kreichmann, current director of the Steps on Broadway Youth Program, along with Adelheid B. Strelick, Bivi Kimura, Kelby Brown, Marnie Wood, Oliver Tobin, Flavio Salazar, Tamara Babic, Isaac Lerner, Maggie Joy, Sloan Pearson, and Fernando Carrillo. Katie performed many works by the above faculty as well as restaged variations and student works, one highlight being Four Brubeck Pieces by Murray Louis, restaged by Alberto del Saz. She even got the chance to perform in the Baroque Style under Catherine Turocy. Since graduating, Katie has returned to Amy Tyler School of Dance to teach ballet technique, as well as guesting Sugar Plum Fairy at Harbor Ballet Theatre. In addition to paying tribute to her roots, Katie has been a part of original works by Seth Gertsacov with Ballet Virite. Jungle Book is Katie’s first show with Axelrod Contemporary Ballet Theatre and she looks forward to many more.

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CHRISTOPHER POLLAK is thrilled to be performing with Axelrod again! Previously seen performing as Hero Boy in The Polar Express (Axelrod), The Nutcracker, New York City Ballet, and Earle Mosley's. He is thankful for all his family, friends, and teachers who have believed in him and helped him along his journey.


LILAKOI GROVER, a high school junior, is an apprentice with the Axelrod Contemporary Ballet Theater and has been performing with them since their inception. She recently received a Superior ranking at the state Thespian Festival, qualifying her for the International Finals in Indiana, with her self-choreographed musical theater piece set to Maybe This Time from Cabaret. She also choreographed her high school's production of Little Shop of Horrors. This past fall, Lilakoi made her Off-Broadway debut dancing on The Triad Theater stage in NYC. Performances with the Axelrod Contemporary Ballet include Gabriel Chajnik's reimagined The Polar Express, The Nutcracker Rocks (Clara, Rat King, Android), A MidSummer Night's Dream (Puck), Alice in Wonderland (Dormouse) and The Lost Princess of Oz (Dorothy). She was a "Contemporary Top 12" at YAGP last season and holds numerous titles/first place finishes at regional dance conventions/competitions. Lilakoi also enjoys musical theater, performing in Axelrod's Freaky Friday, The Addams Family and Spongebob the Musical. She is currently in production with her high school's Young Frankenstein. Lilakoi is very excited to return to the jungle with Axelrod, this time portraying Monkey King. IG@lilakoi


AVERY SNYDER began her dance training locally at the Wilson School of Dance at the age of 3. When her interest in ballet grew into a passion for the art form, Avery sought private training to refine her technique. She took 2 years of private lessons with Nicole Busse McGurn before attending the newly formed Charlottesville Ballet Academy in 2011. Avery trained at the Charlottesville Ballet Academy until 2016 when she joined the professional company as a trainee while she simultaneously completed her junior year of high school. In 2018, she decided to attend the University of North Carolina School of the Arts high school classical ballet program for her senior year. Avery continued her training under the esteemed faculty of UNCSA at the collegiate level and graduated in May of 2021 with a BFA in classical ballet. Following her graduation from UNCSA, Avery accepted a traineeship with American Repertory Ballet and was promoted to ARB2 in May of 2023. Under her traineeship, she was given the opportunity to perform various soloist roles such as Dew Drop in The Nutcracker, Lilac Fairy in The Sleeping Beauty, and Moyna in Giselle. With ARB, Avery has been given the opportunity to premiere Ethan Stiefel’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream in 2022 and, most recently, appeared as a Peasant and Willi in Ethan Stiefel and Johann Kobborg’s Giselle. Avery Snyder appears courtesy of American Repertory Ballet, Princeton/New Brunswick, NJ.


ARIANNA TZVIKIN 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.


OLIVIA MIRANDA , an original member of Axelrod Contemporary Ballet Theater, Olivia joined the company in 2018 after graduating from The Ailey School and Fordham University with a B.F.A. in Dance and English. She previously danced with Ballet Hispanico's BHdos and as a freelance artist in New York and New Jersey. Olivia has performed works by Alvin Ailey, Paul Taylor, Annabelle Lopez Ochoa, Colby Damon, Graham Lustig, Riccardo de Nigris, Andrea Weber, and Kanji Segawa. She has performed at Lincoln Center with Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and the Apollo Theater with Ballet Hispanico. Olivia has presented and performed choreographic works at Asbury Park Dance Festival, Ailey Citigroup Theatre, Dixon Place, Rider University, The Tank NYC, and Bell Works. She has taught dance in New Jersey for over six years and continues to teach at local studios as well as Princeton Ballet School. In addition to her dancing, Olivia is a passionate yoga practitioner and certified yoga instructor.


JAKE WARD (Young Mowgli) Previous credits include The Polar Express (Hero Boy), 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 National dance competition.


ALDEIR MONTEIRO began his training at the Centro de Arte e Dança de Campo Grande in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, coached by Daniel Mendéz and directed by Alice Arja. Monteiro won the Bronze Medal at the XVIII International Dance Seminar of Brasilia in 2008. He continued his training at the Miami City Ballet School and joined Miami City Ballet in 2012 under the direction of Edward Villella, followed by Lourdes Lopez. Monteiro performed in the original cast of Euphotic choreographed by Liam Scarlett for the Miami City Ballet in 2013. His repertoire includes Alexei Ratmansky’s Symphonic Dances; Sir Frederick Ashton’s Les Patineurs; George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker, Serenade, La Valse, and Slaughter on Tenth Avenue; Paul Taylor’s Piazolla Caldera; John Cranko’s Romeo and Juliet and others. Since joining ARB in 2016, Monteiro has performed principal roles such as Cavalier in The Nutcracker, Lysander in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Matador in Kirk Peterson’s Carmen, Franz in Coppelia, Paul Taylor’s Airs, José Límon’s There is a Time, Gerald Arpino’s Sea Shadow and Jean de Brienne in Peterson’s Glazunov Variations. Other credits include Trey McIntyre’s Blue Until June, Septime Webre’s Fluctuating Hemlines, and Riccardo De Nigris’ Beyond the Normal, Ethan Stiefel’s Wood Work and VARIANTS, Amy Seiwert World, Interrupted and Sight Line, and Arthur Mitchell’s Holberg Suite. Monteiro originated the role of Puck, dancing alongside ARB’s Artistic Associate Gillian Murphy in Stiefel’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Albrecht in Ethan Stiefel and Johan Kobborg’s Giselle. Aldeir Monteiro appears as guest artist, courtesy of The American Repertory Ballet Company.


SARAH TAKASH, originally from Brielle, is excited to return to Monmouth County and join AXCBT for The Polar Express! Graduating Summa Cum Laude from the Ailey School and Fordham University with a BFA in dance and a double major in visual arts, she brings a wealth of experience. At the Ailey School, Sarah had the honor of performing in "Memoria" by Alvin Ailey for three New York City Center seasons. Her epertoire includes works by William Forsythe, Robert Battle, and Jessica Lang on prestigious stages like the David Koch Theater at Lincoln Center. Sarah, who began dancing at the age of 3, completed Royal Academy of Dance exams with distinction and trained at The Academy of Dance Arts in Tinton Falls. She danced leading roles in productions such as The Nutcracker, Cinderella, and The Wizard of Oz. Sarah's diverse training includes summer programs with Art of Ballet Zurich, Nederlands Dans Theater, The Juilliard School, Arts Umbrella, and American Ballet Theater NYC.


LINDA KILPONEN has been a dance teacher for over 25 years. Linda graduated from Point Park University with a BA 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 Halloween Special, and in Just for Kix. Recently, Linda became a children’s book author for her book The Birthday Fairy as well. Linda teaches preschool, ballet, tap, jazz and adult classes and was an off-ice ballet teacher for competitive synchronized ice skating teams.


JUAN VIVEROS is a Colombian contemporary dancer based in New York. They are currently dancing at Alessandra Corona Performing Works dance company and recently got a scholarship to study modern dance at Limon Institute and was invited to rehearsing with Limon Dance Company as a guest artist. He performed at Thalia Theatre for showing called Navidad en Colombia on 2023 fall season and he was working during 8 years with CCDC dance company, a Colombian dance company of the renowned dance institution: Incolballet. for 8 years working with choreographes as Susana Pous Anadon, Julio Cesar Iglesias, Mathieu Gilhaumon, Redha Bentefoir as many others. Their artistic interest are focused in the gender and racial question, contact improvisation, choreography and filmmaking.

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