Stella Abrera is a principal dancer with American Ballet Theatre. When she's not on stage, the Filipina-American ballerina is focused on giving back to her community. Abrera serves as an ambassador for CENTEX elementary schools, which serve underprivileged, gifted children in Manila and Batangas Province in the Philippines. Stateside, she mentors young aspiring professional dancers during their summer off season. Here's what makes Abrera feel powerful...
I feel most powerful when...
There's a collective positive energy that propels me forward along with the people around me. In a big ensemble piece, where we’re all dancing our hearts out, getting to the end together, and pumping each other up, I find that my body somehow gets an extra boost.
Another time that I feel powerful is if there's a musical phrase in the score that just swells and transports all of us — the orchestra, audience, and cast members. That also really elevates my experience as a human, and makes me feel more powerful for sure.
Power to me means...
It's the physical and mental combination of harnessing one's energy and funneling it in a way that creates the most efficient explosion. I'm thinking of what I feel like when I soar across the Met Stage as Myrta in Giselle. Those moments are definitely super unique; it's not like I'm constantly doing gigantic leaps every single day of my life, but those moments stick out in my mind. To be able to do a big leap like that — after many years of training my body —is a powerful feeling that gives me a sense of accomplishment.
What do you do when you feel powerless...
Sometimes I tell myself, "One step at a time." I often feel overwhelmed, and when those moments come, all the training we’ve done in the studio kicks in. As a dancer, you just constantly strive for perfection, or strive for more stamina, or to be more disciplined. If I try my best, and it still doesn’t happen, then at least I won’t have any regrets. At least I know that I've put every single ounce of my effort into it, because that's what I've trained to do my whole life.
What's your power anthem...
Often they're female vocalists, like Janis Joplin was a big one for me for many years. I love me some Beyoncé, of course. Etta James has some serious soul and power.
Who's your power icon?
There are so many people whom I admire for different reasons. Obviously my mentor at work, Irina Kolpakova, she's a legendary ballerina and has decades worth of knowledge that she shares so graciously. There are also so many things that I admire about my husband; his constant striving for an elevated intellectual experience always motivates me.
What do you wear when you want to feel powerful?
Responses have been edited and condensed for clarity.