American Ballet Theater's Stella Abrera Disrupts Ballet's Glass Ceiling

Photo by MIRA.  Dance Magazine .

Photo by MIRA. Dance Magazine.

Stella Abrera, a dynamic dancer who established a solid career as a veteran soloist with ABT for 14 years, nabbed the role of principal dancer, becoming the first appointed Filipina-American woman.

Her selection was praised by Asian-American and Filipino communities around the world. It sparked Filipina pride on social media with the hashtag #PinayPower. Abrera’s landmark appointment paves the way for young women to achieve and aspire in the field of dance.

As the "first" Asian American to break a racial barrier in ballet, a world dominated by young, privileged white women, Abrera said that she did not give much thought to race as a barrier to success. She grew up in a diverse community in Pasadena, California.

"Ever since my promotion, I’ve been asked how [race] has affected my career, and to be honest, in the 20 years that I’ve been a professional dancer at American Ballet Theatre, it’s never been an issue for me. It’s not positive, it’s not negative, it’s been irrelevant. I’ve had the luxury of fully focusing on the work. … So that’s why at first I found it a little disconcerting that my ethnicity was being brought up, but now I’m seeing a lot on my social media — I’m noticing that a lot of young dancers who are Filipino American, show support for me and I find that very heartwarming," Abrera revealed in an interview with Southern California Public Radio

Abrera may not have felt that her skin color was a barrier in ballet, but she faced other hardships on her tumultuous journey to the top.

After becoming principal dancer at 37 — way past the prime age of a typical ballerina — and surviving a devastating injury that nearly prevented her from walking several years ago, Abrera has said she is grateful to dance at all.

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