Four years ago Stella Abrera danced the lead in “Giselle” for the first time at American Ballet Theater. For her farewell performance with the company, on June 13, she will take on the role again at the Metropolitan Opera House. Her retirement, after 24 years with the company, was announced on Monday.
“It feels like a good time, like the right thing,” Ms. Abrera said in an interview about her decision to retire.
“Giselle” is particularly meaningful to her. When she danced the lead in 2015, she was stepping in for an injured Polina Semionova. It happened to be the company’s alumni night. “About 200 ex-A.B.T. dancers were in the audience, so they all very much knew what was up,” she said. “I had to put all the fears aside and get on that stage and do what I had been dreaming of doing my whole life.”
In his review for The Times, Alastair Macaulay commended Ms. Abrera’s performance. “Some of her dancing was luminous, and all of it was stylish and heartfelt,” he wrote. Her work in Act II received special praise: “She made it clear that dance was a spiritual act.”
Ms. Abrera, 41, joined Ballet Theater in 1996. Five years later she was promoted from the corps de ballet to the rank of soloist. A serious injury in 2008 made further advancement difficult, but she fought her way back to health and was made a principal dancer in 2015. Ms. Abrera, who was promoted on the same day as Misty Copeland, became the company’s first Filipino-American principal.
In recent years, Ms. Abrera has had lead roles in Kenneth MacMillan’s “Romeo and Juliet,” Frederick Ashton’s “Monotones I” and Twyla Tharp’s “Bach Partita,” among other productions.
Ms. Abrera said that after retirement what she would miss most is the connection with her fellow dancers. “There’s nothing like creating a bond with people who you work with in live performance,” she said. “It’s a sense of community unlike any other.”
Ms. Abrera said she would remain involved with dance: “I plan on continuing to contribute to the dance world from a different angle than with point shoes.” She added that she’s also excited to explore other dance projects as a performer.
She is to perform once more during American Ballet Theater’s fall season. She’ll appear on Tuesday as “The Spirit of the Corn” in Alexei Ratmansky’s “The Seasons.”
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