Roxey Ballet Premieres "Mowgli," The Jungle Book Ballet
A little boy is raised by wolves in a jungle in India with his pals, a bear and a black panther. The boy’s adventures include fighting a tiger, being abducted by monkeys, and returning to the human village. This wonderful tale is based on “The Jungle Book,” a collection of stories by English author Rudyard Kipling, and provides the basis for “Mowgli,” a full-length ballet performed by the Roxey Ballet.
Roxey Ballet, located in Lambertville, is a world class contemporary ballet company that uses dance to build community and cultural bridges. The company takes pride in its multicultural and all-inclusive organization, fostering a creative environment of growth for all. This performance certainly shows the company’s passion for bringing dance as an art form to all ages.
A unique offering for children and families to enjoy—with original choreography by Mark Roxey, original music by Milan Svoboda, and original costumes by Alicia Worden—this hour-long whimsical production tells the story of Mowgli’s love of the jungle and his ultimate return to the village.
Mark Roxey, founder and director of Roxey Ballet, was inspired to create the ballet because the tale has always been his favorite children’s story. Roxey and his son Benjamin have read the book a number of times and have seen many versions of the tale, so he was excited to bring the story to life through dance.
Roxey, who was trained at The Joffrey Ballet in New York City and went on to dance professionally with the Joffrey Ballet, has toured nationally and internationally with several ballet companies, including the American Repertory Ballet and Dayton Ballet. He has performed works by such noted choreographers as George Balanchine, Gerald Arpino, Robert Joffrey, and Alvin Ailey.
For the Roxey Ballet, Roxey has choreographed several full-length ballets including “The Nutcracker,” “Dracula,” “Othello,” “Peter and the Wolf,” “Carnival of the Animals” and “Cinderella.” A treasure to have working and choreographing here in New Jersey, Roxey holds many positions in the dance community throughout the state, including having served as the dance director of Matheny’s School’s Arts Access Programs, teaching at many of the universities and colleges throughout the state, and being an active member of Dance New Jersey, Dance USA, and the national Arts Access Task Force.
For the ballet “Mowgli,” Roxey closely follows the narrative set out by Kipling as some of the story’s most memorable characters, Mowgli (the boy), Kaa (the python), Baloo (a bear), Bagherra (a black panther), and many other jungle characters are introduced through the action. Inspired by the adaptation of the story, the dancers enjoy the unique movement found in the production and take pleasure in working on this family-friendly children’s ballet.
The score for the ballet is an original composition by Milan Svoboda. Roxey describes the music as “truly amazing” and Svoboda as “a genius.” Svoboda, one of the leading personalities on the Czech musical scene, has gained international renown as a jazz pianist and band leader. His composing and conducting skills span a wide range of styles, including modern jazz, musicals, film, theater, and contemporary classical music. Born in 1951 in Prague, he graduated from the organ class at the Prague Conservatory, and then went on to study musicology and composition in Prague and at the Berklee College of Music in Boston. In 1974 he founded his first jazz orchestra, and, as a conductor and arranger, Svoboda later led the combined Czech/Polish Big Band, which featured the finest soloists of both nations. “Mowgli” was composed for a symphonic orchestra and was originally directed and performed for the Vienna State Ballet.
Along with original choreography and an original score, “Mowgli” presented by Roxey Ballet includes original costumes by Alicia Worden and Nilda Roxey Jones. Worden—another New Jersey treasure—has been designing and creating costumes for Roxey Ballet since 2002. Her work with Roxey Ballet includes costumes for “Nutcracker,” “Othello,” “Dracula,” and “Carnival of the Animals” and more than 20 repertory works. Roxey is thrilled with the creativity and imagination used for the colorful costumes of “Mowgli.”
“Mowgli”is a family-friendly performance for children of all ages. The story itself teaches audience members that one should let go one’s fears and move forward. Roxey loves the end of the ballet when Mowgli conquers his fear and decides to leave the jungle for the man village. It is a lesson for us all.
The Roxey Ballet will perform “Mowgli” on Saturday, April 16 at 1:00 and 4:00 pm and Sunday, April 27 at 1:00 and 4:00 pm at J.P. Case Theater, at J.P. Case Middle School,300 Case Boulevard, Flemington. Ticket range from $38 to $50 and are available online at www.roxeyballet.org.