American Ballet Theatre's Stella Abrera. Photo by Gene Schiavone, Courtesy ABT.

Stella Abrera Heads to Philippines to Help Victims of Super Typhoon Haiyan

When Super Typhoon Haiyan struck the Phillippines last November, the results were catastrophic: The storm left 6,300 dead and four million people displaced. And while the typhoon is no longer headlining the evening news here, it's still an everyday reality in Guiuan, the area hit hardest by the typhoon, where rebuilding efforts remain slow. As a result, child labor is on the rise as increasing numbers of children leave school to help support their families. Those not in the workforce face overcrowded classrooms in makeshift buildings and a lack of basic supplies.


American Ballet Theatre soloist Stella Abrera, a first-generation Filipino American, is doing her part to help. She teamed up with disaster relief organization Operation USA to form Steps Forward for the Philippines, a charitable fund dedicated to providing educational supplies to the school children of Guiuan. Her goal is to raise $30,000 to ensure schools receive basic necessities such as desks, chairs, chalkboards, computers and A/V equipment.

Abrera heads to Manila this month to perform the title role of Giselle with Ballet Philippines alongside ABT principal James Whiteside. But her trip also serves a charitable purpose. “I knew my upcoming visit to the country needed to somehow contribute to the relief effort," she says in a statement. After the performance on September 19, she'll travel to Guiuan to survey Operation USA's educational initiatives, meet with school children and present them with school supplies. For more information, or to donate, click here.

Latest Posts


Getty Images

The History of Pointe Shoes: The Landmark Moments That Made Ballet's Signature Shoe What It Is Today

Pointe shoes, with their ability to elevate a dancer both literally and metaphorically to a superhuman realm, are the ultimate symbol of a ballerina's ethereality and hard work. For students, receiving a first pair of pointe shoes is a rite of passage. The shoes carry an almost mystical allure: They're an endless source of lore and ritual, with tips, tricks and stories passed down over generations.

The history of pointe shoes reveals how a delicately darned slipper introduced in the 1820s has transformed into a technical tool that offers dancers the utmost freedom onstage today.

Keep reading SHOW LESS
Getty Images

How Coming Back to Ballet After Years Away Has Saved Me During the Pandemic Shutdown

I was 4 years old when I took my first ballet lesson. My mom had dressed me in a pink leotard with matching tights, skirt and slippers. She drove me on a Saturday morning to a ballet academy in downtown Caguas, the town in Puerto Rico where I grew up. I don't remember much from the first lesson, but I do recall the reverence. My teacher Mónica asked the class if someone wanted to volunteer to lead. She was surprised I—the new girl—was the one to raise my hand.

I made up most of the steps, mimicking the ballerinas I had seen on TV and videos. At one point, Mónica stepped in and asked me to lead the class in a bow. I followed her directions and curtseyed in front of the mirror with one leg behind me and a gentle nod. I looked up to find myself in awe of what I had just done.

This was the same feeling I had when, after years away from dance, I finished my first YouTube ballet class at home in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

Keep reading SHOW LESS
La'Toya Princess Jackson, Courtesy MoBBallet

Join Memoirs of Blacks in Ballet for Its 2020 Virtual Symposium

Memoirs of Blacks in Ballet, founded in 2015 by writer and activist Theresa Ruth Howard to preserve and promote the stories of Black ballet dancers, is offering three weekends of interactive education and conversation this month through its 2020 Virtual Symposium. The conference, titled "Education, Communication, Restoration," encourages participants to engage in candid discussions concerning racial inequality and social justice in ballet. While it is a space that centers on Blackness, all are welcome. Held August 14, 15, 21, 22 and 28, MoBBallet's second annual symposium will allow dancers to receive mentorship and openly speak about their personal experiences in a safe and empowering environment.

The first event, For Us By Us (FUBU) Town Hall, is a free community discussion on August 14 from 3:30–4:30 pm EDT via Zoom, followed by a forum for ballet leadership. The town hall format encourages active engagement (participants can raise their hands and respond in real time), but the registration invoice also contains a form for submitting questions in advance. The following discussions, forums and presentations include topics like company life as a Black dancer, developing personal activism, issues of equity and colorism in ballet companies, and more. Tickets range from free to $12 for each 60- to 80-minute event.

Keep reading SHOW LESS

Editors' Picks