Stella Abrera (born 1978 in Manila, Philippines) is a Filipina-American principal ballerina with American Ballet Theatre, one of the three leading classical ballet companies in the United States. In 2015 she became the company's first Filipina ballerina promoted to rank of principal dancer in ABT's history.
Early life and training
The youngest of five children, Abrera was born in Manila. Shortly after her birth, her family moved to the United States. Abrera began dancing at the age of five at a local school in Pasadena, California. Due to her father's job as a civil engineer, her childhood was spent living all over that world in far-flung locations including Australia, Jakarta and São Paulo. In Sydney, she trained in the Royal Academy of Dance method at the Halliday Dance Centre. In 1995, she traveled to London to compete at the Royal Academy of Dance’s Adeline Genée Awards, where she was awarded the Gold medal. There she was seen by Ross Stretton who offered her the opportunity to audition for American Ballet Theatre in New York.
In 1996, Abrera joined ABT at the age of seventeen as an apprentice. She was promoted into the Corps de Ballet three months later. She had an affinity for contemporary ballet and received featured roles in the 19th century classics. According to an interview with the LA Times, Paul Taylor's 1978 lyrical Airs is among her favorites which she danced in 1999. Abrera received a positive critical response from The New York Times dance critic Anna Kisselgoff, stating that Abera “gave each shape a gorgeous fullness.”
In 2001, she was promoted to Soloist. Abrera suffered a serious sciatic nerve injury that nearly ended her career in 2008. Over a lengthy two year recovery period, she eventually returned to dancing. Seven years later she would debut in Giselle, the same role she was set to perform prior to her back injury. Of that role, Abrera said, "there was some neat poetic justice for me personally. I really put all of my soul into that one.” Alastair Macaulay, dance critic for The New York Times, remarked that, "the audience greeted her with the warmth usually reserved for the most revered ballerinas." He further noted that "her dancing was luminous, and all of it was stylish and heartfelt; but above all in Act II, where the dead Giselle dances to save her living lover, Albrecht, from death, she made it clear that dance was a spiritual act. Her steps were filled with yearning for him and devotion to dance itself."
She was promoted to Principal dancer in August 2015, making her the first Filipina-American to reach the rank in ABT's history. This promotion also coincided with Misty Copeland's promotion as the first African American women promoted to Principal in the company's history. Fellow Principal dancer Daniil Simkin captured the moment and shared the news on social media in June 2015. Irina Kolpakova, a senior member of the ABT artistic staff and former Mariinsky Ballet ballerina, coaches Abrera on her more demanding roles. In 2016, she danced leading roles in Alexie Ratmansky's reconstruction of The Sleeping Beauty, Lise in Frederick Ashton's La Fille Mal Gardée; the Queen of Shemakhan in Ratmansky's The Golden Cockerel; Maiden in The Firebird; and a role she created in his Symphony #9.
- Tablang, Kristin (August 8, 2016). "Spotlight on ABT Principal Dancer Stella Abrera". Forbes. Retrieved 2017-06-26.
- Ortile, Matt (October 20, 2015). "Stella Abrera Is Making Histry - And She's Just Getting Started". BuzzFeed. Retrieved 2017-06-26.
- Guillermo, Emil (August 17, 2015). "Stella Abrera Battles Back From Pain to Ballet's Ultra-Elite". NBC News. Retrieved 2017-06-26.
- Reiter, Susan (July 5, 2016). "Principal ballerina Stella Abrera, a South Pasadena native, returns to SoCal as one of ABT's finest". LA Times. Retrieved 2017-07-16.
- Escoda, Carla (2014-09-14). "Stella Abrera: Ballerina on a Double Mission". Huffington Post. Retrieved 2017-09-24.
- Kisselgoff, Anna (June 10, 1999). "DANCE REVIEW; From Light to Dark, Allusive to Literal". The New York Times. Retrieved 2017-07-16.
- Milzoff, Rebecca (December 13, 2015). "Because the Same Day Misty Copeland Made History, Stella Abrera Did Too". NY Magazine. Retrieved 2017-07-16.
- Macaulay, Alastair (May 24, 2015). "Review: American Ballet Theater's 'Giselle' Bounds as Past Giselles Watch". The New York Times. Retrieved 2017-07-16.
- "Passionate Partnerships". Dance Magazine. August 3, 2011. Retrieved 2016-06-26.
- Stella Abrera - American Ballet Theatre biography