Sofia Zobel Elizalde organizes fundraising dance concerts with American Ballet Theater | Lifestyle.INQ

OCTOBER 27, 2022

Sofia Zobel Elizalde: Dance is egalitarian.
Sofia Zobel Elizalde: Dance is egalitarian.
Stella Abrera: ABT principal with an advocacy
Ayala Foundation’s Ruel Maranan and Joanna Duarte
Mia Borromeo and stage designer Gino Gonzales


Eight dancers of American Ballet Theater (ABT) will appear in  fundraising dance concerts this summer.

    Event is organized by Stella Abrera, the first Fil-Am principal dancer of ABT, to aid the Center for Excellence in Public Elementary Education (Centex), Ayala Foundation’s (AF) flagship education program for the poor.  Zobel-Elizalde is founder of Steps Dance Studio.

“An Intimate Evening with Stella Abrera and the American Ballet Stars”  will run April 5-7 to coincide with the 20th year of Centex.  As classical ballet performances are moving to nontraditional  and informal venues, the concerts will be held at the experimental  Maybank Theater in Bonifacio Global City.

  Repertoire will consist of romantic, bravura and abstract pas de deux.  The classical and neo classical numbers are  famous works that are rarely performed here.

Abrera and ABT principal  Alban Lendor  will dramatize Kenneth McMillan’s “Romeo and Juliet Balcony Scene.” Her close friend and ABT principal Isabella Boylston—she with the  227,000 Instagram followers—and multiawarded soloist Blaine Hoven  will dance George Balanchine’s exuberant pas de deux in “Stars and Stripes.”   The virtuoso-duet “Flames of Paris” will be danced by rising corps member Catherine Hurlin and soloist Arron Scott.

   Abrera’s other close friend, principal Gillian Murphy, will dance two contemporary pieces with Hoven and corps member Jose Sebastian. Abrera will also make her third outing in  a neoclassic “Concerto” with soloist Roman Zhurbin.

   Second part of the program will present excerpts from “Don Quixote.” Abrera and Lendorf, both known for their regal presence, will dance the “Wedding Adagio.” The brilliant and slick Lendorf will also perform “Basilio.”  Boylston will do her trademark soaring leaps and speedy turns in “Kitri’s solo.”

As a bonus, Abrera requested the Centex dance scholars from Steps to perform as the cape-twirling matadors in the market scene. Steps’s most advanced girls will execute the jumpy and saucy “Flower Sellers Duet.”

     To local balletomanes, Bolyston and Murphy are the most recognizable names. Boylston’s speed and eloquent upper torso make her ideal for Balanchine’s work. Murphy is known for her authoritative presence.

   Abrera has been a favorite of critics for her subtle dramatics that complement her flawless technique. She debuted in Ballet Philppines’ “Giselle” with ABT principal James Whiteside. Abrera established a charity, Steps Forward for the Philippines, to help rebuild a school in Guiuan, Eastern Samar after Tropical Storm “Yolanda.” During her trip, she bonded with the victims.

  At the press conference at Raffles, Elizalde  quoted Abrera as saying that the concert would be a vehicle to show how dance could build the lives of the poor. It will also show what the Centex dance program has accomplished, said Elizalde, who founded the program.

AF president Ruel Marananan said Centex scholars’ exposure to the arts provided them better-rounded formation.

  Philippines-born Abrera was trained in the English style under the Royal Academy of Dancing (RAD) in Sydney, Australia, where her family had migrated. She’s the only Filipino woman to win the gold medal in the RAD Adeline Genée competition in London. ABT assistant artistic director Ross Stretton saw Abrera’s talent and invited her to audition in  New York.

  Centex scholars from Tondo have been given the same opportunity for quality dance education like Abrera, Elizalde said.  Starting at 8 or 9 years old, Centex boys get eight years of RAD syllabus at Steps.  

Elizalde said scholars consistently received high scores in dance exams.  

   Through Steps, Centex scholars are given allowance for transportation and meals, dance wear, and dance exam fees at P10,000 each.

   Elizalde said she was proud that dance was a great equalizer in her school. Centex scholars take the jeep and affluent students arrive in fancy cars, but they see each other as equals in the classroom, she explained.

Elizalde called on potential donors to watch the concerts.  “It’s rare that you get to see the stars of the ABT up close and personal,” Borromeo said.

   Her “powerhouse team” for the concert, she said, consisted of sister-in-law Katherine Zobel, Maranan and Duarte. Editor and style maven Mia Borromeo will dress up the venue to make it a special experience for both the ABT and the audience. Gino Gonzalesis production designer.

   Because the concerts are a fundraiser, ticket prices range from P4,000 to P15,000 for April 6 and 7 shows. Tickets for the technical dress rehearsal, geared for students, on

April 5 will be sold at a discount.–CONTRIBUTED

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