Chiara Ajkun of New Rochelle Creates a Legacy in the Ballet World

Blending her love of the arts with her knowledge of physiology, this New Rochelle woman took the ballet world by storm with her methodology and creativity.

Since 2000, New Rochelle’s own Chiara Ajkun has cultivated the Ajkun Ballet Theatre, a professional ballet company dedicated to creating an inclusive community for professional dancers, students, art connoisseurs, and first timers. Credited with a repertory of original ballets performed in theaters in Asia, Australia, Europe, and South America, its unique methodology attracts students from 135 countries. While its reach is global, Ajkun Ballet Theatre remains deeply connected to the Westchester community where it regularly offers professional shows and dance programs for children and teens.

Ajkun Ballet’s artistic director and former principal dancer, Chiara Ajkun, noticed early in life that there was a fissure between traditional ballet technique and the art’s implications on the human bodies that bear this exertion. The “syllabus” that was rigorously followed internationally, codified by Russian teacher Agrippina Vaganova, had been created in 1934. Ajkun saw the gaps between modern science and traditional ballet pedagogy. An eager scholar, Ajkun spent years of biomedical study to coin her own methodology, which addresses concerns for the safety of dancers and refutes historically accepted old dogmas, such as the “indisputable teacher’s authority” and body aesthetics set forth by 19th century standards. Instead, Ajkun’s methodology centers itself on a symbiotic relationship between science and ballet training, emphasizes a positive approach, and tailors ballet education for different body types. “I’ve always compared ballet to microsurgery, an intricate procedure performed through microscopic lenses,” Ajkun says about the symbiosis of her methodology and teaching style. “In ballet, the constant improper training on the body, especially with the demands of a professional setting, can cause musculoskeletal disorders and cumulative trauma. It takes professional lenses to notice the small changes before a problem manifests.” After floods of requests from international and US-based dancers who had been following Ajkun’s innovative methodology to get in-person, hands-on experience, the first of the Ajkun Ballet Theatre’s projects, a summer intensive in 2001, was established. The intensive paved the way for the Ajkun Ballet Theatre to offer a training program — the first of its kind in the US — and to grant international visas for Ajkun’s globally recognized methodology.

Chiara Ajkun
Chiara Ajkun

“There is something incredible in the opportunity to bring to the stage your own art, with no restrictions.”
—Chiara Ajkun Artistic Director, The Ajkun Ballet Theatre

Ajkun found her passion for choreographing after an accident interrupted her performing career. While working for RAI television in Italy as a choreographer, she was invited by the prime minister and the minister of culture of Malta to create her own work to be performed at the Royal Opera House. “There is something incredible in the opportunity to bring to the stage your own art, with no restrictions, no audience scores, only your imagination and the emotions you hope to share,” she says. Ajkun’s Carmen was set to the score of Bizet and the voice of Maria Callas. The concept was a colossal risk, as the ballet was performed to opera, a blasphemous concept to both ballet and opera traditionalists. No stranger to taking risks, Ajkun also reinterpreted the libretto to portray the protagonist’s autonomy of thought and women’s right to freedom of choices. Sealed “superb” by Times of Malta dance critic Maria Ghirlando, Carmen had paved the road for Ajkun’s legacy.

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Now, Ajkun has created more than 50 original ballets, collaborated with artists from 76 countries, and brought her ballets to theaters in 27 countries. She still writes the stories, chooses the music, and creates the choreographies, digging into historical facts, legends, unknown composers, and forming close relationships with her dancers “who are kind enough to let me experiment in the unknown of difficult movements and dramatic lifts.” Anna Karenina, Mozart, the Epilogue of the Genius, We, Ivan the Terrible, and Dracula are Ajkun’s original strokes of genius that captured the attention of Netflix. Despite her rise to international acclaim, Ajkun’s mission sticks to the company’s humble, New Rochelle beginnings: Be the best dance company for the performers she serves.

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