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Stella Abrera to Take on New Role as Artistic Director of Kaatsbaan

Stella Abrera in Alexei Ratmansky's The Seasons. Rosalie O'Connor, Courtesy ABT.

Yesterday, Kaatsbaan, the Tivoli, NY-based cultural park for dance, announced that Stella Abrera will join the organization as its new artistic director, effective January 1, 2020. This news come just weeks after we learned that Abrera will be taking her final bow with American Ballet Theatre in June.



While we'll miss seeing Abrera on the ABT stage, we're excited to see her grow into this new role. As artistic director, Abrera's position will including working with artists to develop their projects and strengthen their ties to Kaatsbaan. She'll also continue to teach and coach dancers in her role as the head of Kaatsbaan's ballet intensives and the Pro-Studio/Stella Abrera program, which launched last summer.

Since its inception, Kaatsbaan has been closely linked to ABT, making Abrera's appointment all the more natural. ABT artistic director Kevin McKenzie and ABT Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School faculty member Martine van Hamel are among the organization's four co-founders, and McKenzie still chairs its board. As part of this transition, Van Hamel will take on the role of principal ballet teacher for Kaatsbaan's ballet and special weekend intensives.

Abrera brings much more than her decades at ABT to her new position. In 2014 she founded Steps Forward for the Philippines to benefit victims of Hurricane Haiyan, and since 2018 has directed an annual benefit gala in Manila to raise money for the Stella Abrera Dance and Music Hall at CENTEX (Center of Excellence in Public Elementary Education) in Batangas. She was also part of ABT's first Crossover Into Business class at Harvard Business School, and has been recognized by the New York State Assembly and New York's Philippine Consulate General for her service to the community. "Dancing at American Ballet Theatre for 24 years has been a realization of a dream," says Abrera in a statement, "and now I'm inspired to impact the art form from the other side of the proscenium."

Francisco Estevez, Courtesy Colorado Ballet Academy

When you're looking for a ballet program to take you to the next level, there are a lot of factors to consider. While it's tempting to look for the biggest name that will accept you, the savvy dancer knows that successful training has more to do with the attention and opportunities you'll get.

We put together a few of the most important things for dancers to look for in a summer or year-round training program, with the help of the experts at Colorado Ballet Academy:

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Courtesy Nichols

On Instagram this week, Misty Copeland reposted a picture of two Russian ballerinas covered head to toe in black, exposing the Bolshoi's practice of using black face in the classical ballet La Bayadère. The post has already received over 60,000 likes and 2,000 comments, starting a long overdue conversation.

Comments have been pouring in from every angle imaginable: from history lessons on blackface, to people outside of the ballet world expressing disbelief that this happens in 2019, to castigations of Copeland for exposing these young girls to the line of fire for what is ultimately the Bolshoi's costuming choice, to the accusations that the girls—no matter their cultural competence—should have known better.

I am a black dancer, and in 2003, when I was 11 years old, I was dressed up in blackface to perform in the Mariinsky Ballet's production of La Bayadère.

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Rosalie O'Connor, Courtesy US Prix de Ballet

The US Prix de Ballet is taking an unconventional approach to the ballet competition—by putting the competitors' health first. After a successful first year in 2018, the Prix is returning to San Diego, CA this February with an even more comprehensive lineup of wellness workshops and master classes, in addition, of course, to the high-level competition.

Though the talent is top-notch, the environment is friendly, says HARID Conservatory faculty member Victoria Schneider, who serves on US Prix de Ballet's elite panel of judges. "The wellbeing of the dancer is the main focus," says Schneider, who awarded three scholarships to HARID at last year's competition.

US Prix de Ballet was born after its founders traveled to the Japan Grand Prix International Ballet Competition in 2016. "The company ran every aspect of the competition with professionalism, dignity, honor and precision," says founder Neisha Hernandez. "We knew we wanted this level of experience for America."

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