Support America’s National Ballet Company® DONATE NOW

ABT's Pointe of View

Stella Abrera: Notes on a Career

Browse This Section...
Stella Abrera in Giselle. Photo: Rosalie O'Connor.
Stella Abrera in Giselle. Photo: Rosalie O'Connor.

Stella Abrera:
Notes on a Career

by Carla Escoda

Reflecting on the season that was to have been her farewell at American Ballet Theatre but has now been engulfed in the unprecedented turmoil of a pandemic, Stella Abrera sounded a pensive note: “In this completely upside down world, how grateful am I that I’ve had 24 years to cherish.”

In the era of the jet-setting ballerina, Abrera found her home at ABT at age 17, and stayed. She was named Soloist in 2001 and Principal Dancer in 2015. It was somehow fitting that this homegrown ballerina danced her first Giselle with the Company for an audience that included 200 former ABT dancers who had flown in for an alumni gathering. The first Filipino-American to be promoted to Principal Dancer at ABT, Abrera has also become a role model for many young Asian dancers.

Stella Abrera in The Leaves Are Fading. Photo: Rosalie O'Connor.
Stella Abrera in The Leaves Are Fading. Photo: Rosalie O'Connor.

Celebrated for her elegance and ethereal quality, her finely etched lines and crisp, delicate footwork, Abrera dances with a lack of artifice, a vulnerability to her acting, and a flair for comedy. Looking back to her early years on stage, she recalls first feeling “some kind of magic” in Paul Taylor’s Airs. “I was able to be in the moment… without feeling anxious on stage. I felt like all the stars aligned. The music was gorgeous, I felt a freedom of spirit.”

Another memorable moment for her was dancing the pas de deux in The Leaves Are Fading with Sascha Radetsky soon after they’d married. “We were both Soloists. We partnered, but not often. To do something that had that romance with someone you actually loved was special.”

Over the years, she has felt a particular resonance dancing the works of Twyla Tharp and Alexei Ratmansky, choreographers “whose passion and intensity make me feel like I can go beyond what I’m capable of doing.”

Of Giselle, which was to have been her final performance this season, Abrera mused, “Each time I’ve done it, I get more of that sense of redemption and forgiveness.”

The fallout from the pandemic, she believes “will change us. But we have to be creative, resilient, resourceful.”