Fil-Am Stella Abrera ascends to the rank of principal dancer with American Ballet Theatre (ABT), the highest position for a dancer in a ballet company. She rises alongside Misty Copeland, who is similarly the first African-American female principal dancer with ABT.
Abrera performed with Ballet Philippines on Sept. 19, 2014 as the title role in “Giselle,” partnered by James Whiteside, a principal dancer with ABT. Her interpretation was described as “ethereal” and “another landmark Giselle at the CCP.”
When Abrera made her fortuitous ABT debut in that role during the company’s 75th anniversary, critics proclaimed her dancing “luminous, stylish and heartfelt.”
In between “Giselle” rehearsals, Abrera also shared her knowledge and technical mastery with Manila’s budding ballerinas through two master classes held at the Cultural Center of the Philippines.
Prior to her visit, she started Steps Forward for the Philippines, a charitable organization dedicated to providing for the educational and creative needs of children in the Philippines. During her weekend break between rehearsals, Abrera squeezed in a visit to Guiuan, Samar, one of the most devastated areas in the wake of the Supertyphoon “Yolanda.”
Born in Manila, Abrera began her ballet training with Philip and Charles Fuller and Cynthia Young in Pasadena, and continued her studies with Lorna Diamond and Patricia Hoffman in San Diego.
She then spent three years studying the Royal Academy of Dancing method with Joan and Monica Halliday at the Halliday Dance Centre in Sydney, Australia.
Abrera received the Gold Medal at the Royal Academy of Dancing’s Adeline Genée Awards in London in 1995.
Abrera joined American Ballet Theatre (ABT) as a member of the corps de ballet in 1996 and was appointed to Soloist in 2001. Her repertoire with ABT includes Cinderella in James Kudelka’s “Cinderella,” Gamzatti in Natalia Makarova’s “La Bayadère,” Myrta and the Peasant pas de deux in “Giselle,” Sugar Plum Fairy and the Snow Queen in Kevin McKenzie’s “The Nutcracker,” among many others.
Stella Abrera is the first Filipino-American to reach the rank of principal dancer with ABT. Past international Filipino principal dancers include Maniya Barredo and Nicolas Pacaña with Atlanta Ballet, Anna Villadolid with Munich Ballet, and Ballet Philippines alumni Rey Dizon with Les Grands Ballets Canadiens, and Toni Lopez Gonzalez and Brando Miranda, who danced with Washington Ballet and the Royal New Zealand Ballet, respectively.