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ABT’s Stella Abrera goes back to her roots for fundraising gala

American ballet stars in performance. Photo by Jojo Mamangun..
American ballet stars in performance. Photo by Jojo Mamangun.
American ballet stars at the performance gala. Photo by Jojo Mamangun.

American ballet stars at the performance gala. Photo by Jojo Mamangun.

Stella Abrera, the first Filipino-American principal dancer at American Ballet Theatre, recently visited her birth land (Manila, Philippines) for a fundraising performance to benefit the Center of Excellence in Public Elementary Education (CENTEX). Surely a role model for young dancers in the community, Abrera brought several other American ballet stars, including husband Sascha Radetsky, Gillian Murphy, Isabella Boylston, Blaine Hoven, Arron Scott and more, who performed George Balanchine’s Stars and Stripes, Kenneth MacMillan’s Romeo and Juliet, James Whiteside’s On the Water and other works.

The fundraiser, An Intimate Evening with Stella Abrera and American Ballet Stars, was organised by Abrera and Sofia Zobel Elizalde, the owner and managing director of Steps Dance Studio in Manila. The event was made possible by sponsors such as the Ayala Foundation, Capezio and Patek Philippe. All came together to benefit the 20thanniversary of CENTEX, which gives free, top quality education to children who can’t afford tuition.

American ballet stars in performance. Photo by Jojo Mamangun.

American ballet stars in performance. Photo by Jojo Mamangun.

“[Stella and I] share the same passion of being able to give back and help in some way,” Elizalde shares.

While ballet is very popular in the Philippines and many ballet and dance schools exist across the country, it is rare for professionals of Abrera’s calibre to visit and perform there. “Thanks to Stella, we had a group of nine dancers made up of principal and soloist dancers, along with her husband, Sascha Radetsky, who was able to give master classes open to all students,” Elizalde says. “This was definitely a first in the Philippines!”

Audience members were delighted to see an exciting program, directed and curated by Abrera, in the Maybank Performing Arts Theater. In addition, students were treated to a technical rehearsal and Q&A session with the performers. Elizalde recalls that, at one point, a young student stood up and said, “I can’t believe I am watching you all live right now and not on my iPod! Thank you so much for coming to perform in our country!”

Stella Abrera giving a master class at Steps Dance Studio.

Stella Abrera giving a master class at Steps Dance Studio.

Aside from the performances, Steps Dance Studio hosted three days of master classes with Abrera and Radetsky. “We offered two levels – advanced and intermediate,” Elizalde explains. “It was open to all students and schools. It was hugely successful. Each of Stella’s classes ended with a 10-minute discussion on pointe shoes, her love of Capezio and why she chooses certain kind of pointe shoes. So enlightening for the students!”

The event was surely an inspirational one for young, aspiring dancers, and one that proved that dance is a powerful art form and one that can bridge gaps and unite people.

“I have seen how dance transforms lives and unites children from different economic backgrounds,” Elizalde says. “My school is made up of scholars from my Steps Foundation and regular paying students. When students enter the doors of my school, there is no division between them, just their shared passion to dance and be the best they can be.”

Elizalde adds that it was such a pleasure to work with Abrera, Radetsky and all of the American ballet stars, and she hopes there will be more fundraising events in the future.  

For more information on Steps Dance Studio, visit stepsdancestudio.ph. And for more on CENTEX, head to www.ayalafoundation.org/program/centex.

By Laura Di Orio of Dance Informa.

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