Ballet Stars

ABT Principal Stella Abrera Shares Her Best Agility Training Tips

Stella Abrera in Romeo and Juliet. John Grigaitis, Courtesy ABT.

This American Ballet Theatre principal has jump training down to a science.


Jump To It 

Abrera in Harlequinade. Erin Baiano, Courtesy ABT.

If you're preparing for a role with a lot of jumping, consider stealing a page from Stella Abrera's cross-training regimen. The American Ballet Theatre principal focuses on agility the month leading up to allegro-heavy performances. "I start off easily, with low reps and low intensity," she says, adding difficulty as the weeks go on. To warm up, she alternates five minutes on the elliptical with one minute of jumping rope to build stamina. Then, she draws an imaginary line on the ground and repeatedly hops over it in parallel, side to side and front to back.

​ Power Up

"To target the upper leg and help strengthen takeoff and landing, I do box jumps," says Abrera. She'll do 10 reps of the following: from a small, parallel second position, she jumps onto a foot-tall wooden box—"taller if I'm getting stronger"—holds the deep plié landing there for a few seconds, then steps down to avoid the impact of hopping off the box. She incorporates the series into a circuit of exercises, which she switches up depending on the other areas she's conditioning that day. "I have quite an arsenal, a variety of exercises, that I use to target body parts that need extra strengthening or engagement."

Core Stability

Abrera with James Whiteside in Jessica Lang's Her Notes. Rosalie O'Connor, Courtesy ABT.

Strong abdominals are integral to Abrera's dancing, especially after she suffered a serious back injury 10 years ago. "I do a core stabilization workout almost every day," she says, mentioning a physio ball as her go-to prop. From a plank position with her hands on the floor and feet on the ball, she does exercises like piking up with straight legs or drawing her knees toward her chest to strengthen her abs and the front of her body.

On the Flip Side

Abrera also uses the physio ball to condition her back, hamstrings and glutes. She'll lie on her back, rest her calves and ankles on the ball, and lift into a series of bridge variations.

​ Balanced Body

Abrera in Whipped Cream. Gene Schiavone, Courtesy ABT.

Despite Abrera's rigorous rehearsal and conditioning schedule, she doesn't sacrifice self-care. "I try to get a massage once a week. If the schedule is really crazy, I'll get two."

In the Kitchen

Getty Images

"I try to eat as healthily as possible. Not a lot of refined carbohydrates and a good balance of proteins and vegetables." For a homemade winter meal, Abrera roasts chicken thighs with garlic, lemon slices and butternut squash and pairs it with a small salad.

Rehearsal Fuel

During packed rehearsal days, Abrera brings small snacks to keep herself nourished throughout the afternoon. "I love sugar, but if I eat too much of it or don't balance it well with protein, I have a really horrible crash an hour later." Her favorites include:

  • nuts
  • cheese
  • apples
  • banana with almond butter
  • yogurt with granola
  • RXBARs

Ballet Careers
Lenai Alexis Wilkerson. Christopher Duggan, Courtesy Michelle Tabnick Public Relations.

This is one of a series of stories on recent graduates' on-campus experiences—and the connections they made that jump-started their dance careers. Lenai Alexis Wilkerson graduated from University of Southern California with a BFA in dance (dance performance concentration) and a political science minor in 2019.

As Lenai Alexis Wilkerson looked at colleges, she wanted a school that would prepare her for two totally different professions: dancing and law. "I knew, pretty much when I was 16, that I wanted to go to law school," she says. "So I wanted the opportunity to have a dual college experience, where I could have a conservatory training style within a university and I could focus equally on my academics." When she auditioned for the inaugural class of University of Southern California's Glorya Kaufman School of Dance, she knew it was the right fit.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored by Ballet Arizona
Tzu Chia Huang, Courtesy Ballet Arizona

These days, ballet dancers are asked to do more than they ever have—whether that's tackling versatile rep, taking on intense cross-training regimens or managing everything from their Instagram pages to their summer layoff gigs.

Without proper training, these demands can take a toll on both the mind and the body. But students can start preparing for them early—with the right summer intensive program.

The School of Ballet Arizona's summer intensive takes a well-rounded approach to training—not just focusing on technique and facility but nurturing overall dancer growth. "You cannot make a dancer just by screaming at them like they used to," says master ballet teacher Roberto Muñoz, who guests at the program every summer. "You have to take care of the person as well."

Keep reading... Show less
News
Nicolas Pelletier in Carmina Burana. Francisco Estevez, Courtesy Colorado Ballet.

Last week, Colorado Ballet interrupted Nutcracker rehearsals for an exciting announcement: Four dancers were being promoted. Though all made the jump from the company's corps de ballet, Nicolas Pelletier ascended directly to the rank of soloist, while Sean Omandam, Emily Speed and Melissa Zoebisch were promoted to demi-soloist. This news comes hot on the heels of last August's promotion of Francisco Estevez to principal.

Keep reading... Show less
Courtesy School of Pennsylvania Ballet

While many of us are deep in Nutcracker duties, The School of Pennsylvania Ballet director James Payne has been looking further ahead, finalizing preparations for the school's summer intensive programs. In January, he and his staff will embark on a 24-city audition tour to scour the country for the best young dancers, deciding whether or not to offer them a spot—maybe even a scholarship—in the school's rigorous 5-week intensive focused on high-caliber ballet instruction. Though he'll be evaluating aspirants, he urges that as a student, you should be equally selective in choosing programs that could galvanize your training—and possibly even your career.

We got Payne's advice on strategizing your summer intensive plan before the audition cycle kicks in:

Keep reading... Show less