In 2014, first-generation Filipina-American ABT principal Stella Abrera traveled to Manila to guest-star with Ballet Philippines in Giselle. The same year, Abrera set up a small charity, Steps Forward for the Philippines, to help a school in nearby Guiuan that had been destroyed in a super typhoon. Now, four years later, Abrera is back in Manila, with a group of eight fellow ABT stars by her side. April 6-7 the group will dance at the Maybank Performance Arts Theater in Bonifacio Global City in a program titled An Intimate Evening with Stella Abrera & American Ballet Stars.
The performances will act as a benefit for CENTEX (Center for Excellence in Public Education), which is a subsidiary of the Ayala Foundation. CENTEX provides a holistic learning experience for promising students from underprivileged families. Abrera was led to CENTEX through Sofia Zobel Elizade, a former dancer with Ballet Philippines who founded and directs Steps Dance Studio in Manila. Elizade is acting as the committee chair for the benefit. The ABT dancers visited the CENTEX school this week; according to Abrera's Instagram page (see below), the young dancers put on a charming presentation for their American guests, and Abrera taught a master class.
Abrera said in a statement that this performance has been long awaited. When she realized that ABT was touring to Singapore and Hong Kong this spring and would have some time off afterwards, the moment seemed perfect. Alongside Gillian Murphy, Isabella Boylston, Blaine Hoven, Arron Scott, Roman Zhurbin, Catherine Hurlin, Jose Sebastian and Joowon Ahn, Abrera is presenting Manila audiences with a veritable tasting menu of all that ABT has to offer. Highlights includes excerpts from George Balanchine's Stars & Stripes, Sir Kenneth MacMillan's Romeo & Juliet and Ethan Stiefel's Bier Halle. As the first Filipina-American to become a principal with ABT, Abrera is an inspiration to aspiring ballerinas from all kinds of different backgrounds. "My advice to a young dancer would be to find the drive to work hard from within yourself," she says in a statement. "Strive every day to improve, so that in the end, no one can say that you didn't try your hardest."