A fine form of grit and grace, the principal dancer at the American Ballet Theater (ABT) and shining beacon of Filipino pride, Stella Abrera initiates a homecoming, featuring a stunning repertoire of art, dance and music for a two-night show aptly called, An Intimate Evening with Stella Abrera & American Ballet Stars.
Breaking through a palpable stillness that draped over the dimly lit hallway of the Maybank Theater were gentle but persistent patters that echoed through the silence. As the lights and a bare proscenium came into full view, there she was, taking in a few moments before the stage was bathed in a wash of blue that signaled the beginning of the memorable balcony scene in Shakespeare’s seminal classic, Romeo and Juliet.
A luminous pas de deux in the precise world of ballet, Stella Abrera commanded the stage with her able dance partner, Joowon Ahn. An effortless combination of grace and unbridled emotions, seamlessly coalescing with a sweeping series of arabesques and grand rond de jambes, it was heart-stopping as it was enchanting—even if it was just a few minutes of an excerpt. Aside from a display of sheer talent and elegant athleticism, the performance was a gripping reminder that the arts (in this case, ballet) is still relevant and transformative as it was in the world pre-social media and pop culture saturation. And Stella Abrera and her creative cohorts from the American Ballet Theater are the valiant strongholds sharing their gift to the Filipino audience.
Set to perform for the first in the country ever since being promoted as principal dancer at the prestigious ABT, Stella Abrera will take the stage on April 6 and 7, for two memorable nights of dance, music and art. Mounted for the benefit of the CENTEX Program (Center of Excellence in Public Elementary Education) of the Ayala Foundation, this intimated exhibition was actually a few years in the making, an idea that started over guacamole and a subsequent phone call to Sofia Zobel Elizalde, Committee Chair for the benefit performance and Founder and Managing Director of STEPS Dance Studio. “I’m taking you up on your proposal,” Stella recalled the conversation she had with Sofia. “Let’s do it.”
And thus the plans were set to motion.
“It’s a beautiful, well-oiled machine,” Stella mentions.” We’re able to come in and work on our craft and not be stressed about things in a theater.” A dream gig by all means, they are able to get into the zone and focus on their dances, thereby ensuring a memorable time for those who intend to catch their shows.
“This is quite a luxury for us. At ABT, we’re used to going into the theater and rehearsing for a bit on stage to kind of get acclimated to the space for a couple of hours. Then, we have to be ready for the show that night. We’re so grateful to be on stage, on this theater, this early in the process,” she says, to which the rest of the American Ballet Stars concur.
“We’re so grateful and excited to have Stella Abrera join us for this unbelievable opportunity,” says Sofia Zobel Elizalde. “She’s not only an amazing dancer and artist, but a true lady in every way. I am thrilled that our Filipino audiences will get a chance to see her live and be inspired by her spirit.” True enough, the tour de force of ballet, Stella is gracious and armed with a warm and genuine smile, one that she maintained all throughout the pockets of conversation.
“I had a dream to do this,” she shares. “And I know my friends are such spectacular dancers, so I knew we could definitely put on a show.” The show is set to feature a variety of pieces curated by Abrera herself, along with ballet master and husband Sascha Radetsky. A testament to the charisma to the night’s star? “We’d follow you to the moon and back,” volunteers one of her co-stars.
“There are so many reasons why we love to do what we do,” Abrera says of her years honing her craft, one that was marred by her fair share of setbacks. In fact, her entire career was put on hold after suffering a physical injury that threatened to put her out of commission for an indefinite period of time. “But in the end, it’s something that we’re born with, like there’s a drive and a passion that pushes us forward… You drive yourself forward through the ups and downs, you drive yourself forward through the hard times,” she said.
“I’ve been a professional dancer for 22 years and it seems too funny to say that it’s a fleeting moment, but it is. These 22 years have flown by even though I’ve been through so many stages of it. So there’s that element of it, too. There’s the appreciation of being able to do what I love to do that you wouldn’t think of why you love to do it. You just know you have to do it because you can’t live without doing it. I’m savoring every second.”
“A career in ballet is difficult,” she says of the lessons she wants to impart to aspiring ballerinas, the students of the CENTEX Program included. “It takes an incredible amount of dedication, perseverance, grit and luck—and most especially support…Not everyone will have a successful dance career, but the lessons we learn from our training in ballet are invaluable tools that help us in other facets of life.”
Despite it being a more internalized realization, this culmination of her life’s experiences is seen and felt with every pirouette and gentle flick of the wrist. With a heart swelling with pride at each performance, it is no wonder why Stella Abrera is where she is today, a well-placed glowing star among a pantheon of dance royalty.
An Intimate Evening with Stella Abrera & American Ballet Stars runs on April 6 and 7, 2018 at the Maybank Theater, Bonifacio Global City. For more information, head on over to Ayala Foundation and TicketWorld.
Bonus: Swipe through to see how Stella Abrera and the American Ballet Stars conquered El Nido, Palawan: