Abrera’s impressive career in dance spans over two decades, during which she worked with leading choreographers of the 20th and 21st centuries and performed leading and title roles in major classical ballets. Her extensive experience in training and teaching also includes her role as Artistic Director of Kaatsbaan Cultural Park in Tivoli, New York, and Acting Artistic Director of the ABT JKO School.
In her new role, Abrera will oversee all artistic aspects of the ABT JKO School Children's Division and Pre-Professional Division, as well as the ABT National Training Curriculum. She will work closely with Jaffe, CEO & Executive Director Janet Rollé, and ABT Studio Company Artistic Director Sascha Radetsky to develop young dancers into professional artists of excellence, imagination, and character.
Jaffe emphasized Abrera’s deep knowledge of the skills and strengths a dancer needs to succeed in a major ballet company, and her long-standing history with ABT, making her the perfect candidate to lead the ABT JKO School into the future. Abrera’s appointment marks a significant step forward for women in leadership at ABT, as she joins the ranks of only two other women leading the prestigious ballet company.
Abrera’s journey in dance began in Manila, Philippines, and she grew up in South Pasadena, California, where she started her ballet training with Philip and Charles Fuller and Cynthia Young at Le Studio in Pasadena. She joined ABT’s corps de ballet in 1996 and was promoted to Soloist five years later. In 2015, Abrera was appointed Principal Dancer, cementing her place in ABT’s history as the company’s first Filipina-American principal ballerina.
Abrera’s appointment as the new Artistic Director of the ABT JKO School marks an exciting new chapter for the renowned ballet company. With her vast experience and commitment to developing young dancers, Abrera is well-equipped to lead the next generation of ballet dancers towards excellence, imagination, and character.
Early Life and Training
Stella Abrera was born on June 8, 1979, in Pasadena, California. Her parents were immigrants from the Philippines, and she grew up in a large, supportive family. Her interest in ballet began at a young age, and she started taking lessons at the age of five.
Abrera trained at the Le Studio in Pasadena, California, and later at the San Francisco Ballet School. She was also a member of the San Francisco Ballet's apprenticeship program before joining the American Ballet Theatre Studio Company.
Abrera joined the American Ballet Theatre (ABT) in 1996 as a member of the corps de ballet. She was promoted to soloist in 2001 and to principal dancer in 2015, becoming the first Filipina-American to hold that position in the company's history.
Throughout her career, Abrera has performed leading roles in many ballets, including Giselle, Swan Lake, The Sleeping Beauty, Romeo and Juliet, and Don Quixote. She has also performed contemporary works by choreographers such as Twyla Tharp, Mark Morris, and Christopher Wheeldon.
Abrera has received numerous accolades for her work, including the Princess Grace Award, the Choo-San Goh Award for Choreography, and the Dance Magazine Award. In 2019, she was awarded the Philanthropy in the Arts Award by the Philippine American Foundation for Charities.
In addition to her work as a dancer, Abrera is also a teacher and mentor. She has taught master classes around the world and served as a guest teacher at the American Ballet Theatre's Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School.
Challenges and Triumphs
Abrera's career has not been without its challenges. In 2014, she suffered a devastating injury during a performance of The Nutcracker. She tore her meniscus and had to undergo surgery and extensive rehabilitation. She was out of commission for several months, but she returned to the stage in 2015, stronger and more determined than ever.
Abrera has also been a vocal advocate for diversity in the ballet world. As a Filipina-American dancer, she has often felt like an outsider in a field dominated by white, European dancers. She has spoken out about the need for more representation and inclusion in ballet, both on and off the stage.
As Abrera approaches the end of her career as a dancer, she is looking ahead to the next chapter of her life. She has expressed interest in pursuing a career in choreography and teaching, and she hopes to continue advocating for diversity and inclusion in the dance world.
Stella Abrera is a true trailblazer in the world of ballet. She has overcome countless challenges to become one of the most respected and admired dancers of her generation. Her dedication to the craft and her passion for diversity and inclusion have inspired countless dancers around the world, and her legacy will continue to shape the future of ballet for years to come.