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ABT Studio Company in the Philippines

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ABT Studio Company, Stella Abrera and James Whiteside performing in Manila, Philippines. Photo by Jojo Mamangun.
ABT Studio Company, Stella Abrera and James Whiteside performing in Manila, Philippines. Photo by Jojo Mamangun.

ABT Studio Company, along with the ABT Apprentices and ABT Principal Dancers Stella Abrera and James Whiteside, had the opportunity to travel to Manila, Philippines this past November for a program called “Stella Abrera and Rising Stars of American Ballet Theatre, Featuring James Whiteside.” Presented by The Ayala Foundation and made possible by Sofia Zobel Elizalde, Founder and Managing Director of Steps Dance Studio, the group performed two different programs at Manila’s Maybank Theatre. Ticket sales from the perfomances supported CENTEX Schools, which provide quality education for bright children from economically disadvantaged families in the Philippines. Take a look at our photo journal for a peek inside our adventure!

Arrival in Manila

Day 1

We landed in Manila in the morning and were greeted by the warmest welcome imaginable at our hotel, Seda BGC. There was a live band and we were all given festive leis. After taking some photos and getting settled in, we enjoyed a beautiful welcome lunch with our presenters and sponsors. In the evening, Stella and ABT Studio Company Artistic Director Sascha Radetsky taught master classes at Steps Dance Studio, which offers scholarships to talented CENTEX students to study ballet.

Ribbon cutting at CENTEX Batangas

Day 2

While ABT Studio Company took a warmup class at the theater with James Whiteside, Stella and Sascha traveled to the town of Batangas to celebrate the opening of a new CENTEX School campus. Stella cut the ribbon on the new dance studio, which is named after her, and she and Sascha took in moving performances by the CENTEX students. After returning to Manila, the group began technical rehearsals at the Maybank Theater. We were delighted and surprised to see beautiful photographs of Stella, James, and the Studio Company and Apprentice dancers throughout the City and even projected onto the side of the theater itself.

Apprentice Leah Baylin and students from CENTEX Manila

Day 3

On our third day, the full group had the very special opportunity to visit CENTEX Manila. Stella and ABT Studio Company dancer Elwince Magbitang, who is an alumnus of CENTEX Manila and the CENTEX Steps Scholarship Program, gave moving remarks to all assembled. We then split into groups to visit different classrooms throughout the school, from kindergarten through sixth grade. Afterwards, we had some delicious homemade treats and mingled with the CENTEX students. We then headed back to the theater to finish technical rehearsals and turned in early to get ready for our first performance day.

Cy Doherty and Seon Mee Park in technical rehearsal

Day 4

Opening day! We traveled straight to the theater for dress rehearsal. Before the performance, we dedicated our show to the students of CENTEX, who had inspired all of us the day before. It is truly a privilege for us to dance for a cause greater than ourselves and to use our art for good. The performance was sold out, and we gathered afterwards for a meet-and-greet with the audience and a celebratory post-performance dinner.

La Bayadere pas d'action, photo by Jojo Mamangun

Day 5

Our second performance was also sold out, and the audience was even more animated than the first night – we could feel the energy onstage. We’ve had such a great experience performing in this beautiful new theater and for the most open, welcoming, responsive audiences we could ask for.

The group in Tagaytay, Philippines

Day 6 & 7

After a very busy week, our hosts treated us to a beautiful weekend in the Philippine countryside. We had the rare chance to relax and enjoy one another’s company before heading back to the US for the next leg of our tour in Los Angeles. We are so grateful to The Ayala Foundation, Sofia Elizalde, and all of our event sponsors to have had this special opportunity, and hope to return to the Philippines again soon. Thank you for following along!