ABT’s Stella Abrera
- February 26, 2017
- by Allison Gupton
American Ballet Theatre (ABT) Principal Stella Abrera was recently named a Capezio Athlete by the iconic dancewear brand. Here, Abrera spills about what it is like to be a principal dancer and shares her favorite Capezio products.
What’s it like to be a principal dancer for one of the most prestigious ballet companies in the world?
“The title of principal dancer with ABT is an immense honor and privilege, and not without its responsibilities. Each day, I endeavor to uphold the rank’s high standards, both technically and artistically. Each day is a wonderful, fulfilling challenge.”
What do you love most about being a ballet dancer?
“I love the entire process of preparing a role for performance: the daily ballet class that hones our skills and prepares our body for the day; the rehearsals during which we learn choreography, etch the movement into our muscle memory, and develop personal characterization; then, finally, the exhilaration of being onstage, the culminating moment. A performance is over in the blink of an eye; all that work and preparation, and then it’s over when the curtain falls. It’s such a fleeting but rewarding life experience.”
What are your greatest challenges about being a principal dancer in a ballet company?
“No matter what rank you occupy in a ballet company (and I’ve occupied all four at ABT — apprentice, corps de ballet member, soloist, principal), the challenges are the same. I am constantly striving to expand my technical and dramatic capacities, to keep my muscles and my stamina robust through cross-training, and to safeguard against injury. Just as importantly, I make time to pursue my outside interests and enjoy time with my husband and friends.”
What style of pointe shoe do you wear?
“My style used to be called ‘Ariel’, but now it is simply referred to as Style 190. Since joining ABT, Capezio has customized this shoe for me.”
Why do you choose Capezio pointe shoes?
“I love that my shoes are ready to wear almost as soon as I pull them out of the packaging. There are very few things I like to do in order to prepare them for a day’s dancing. I bang the platform, bend the shank and wet the vamp. The shoes conform to my feet soon after I put them on. They’re supportive, helping me sustain long adagio pas de deux, but they’re supple enough to allow agility in quick movements. I like that they are lightweight, streamlined, and quiet — also that they require very little padding.
I appreciate the aesthetics and symmetry of the shoe; I feel that they nicely extend the line of my leg. Over the years, as my feet have continued to change in subtle ways, Capezio has always been extremely accommodating and efficient in modifying my shoes. There is consistency in the workmanship. With so many things for which to prepare and worry about before and during a performance, I’m deeply grateful for this consistency.”
What other favorite Capezio products do you wear?
“For every classical ballet that requires pink tights, I wear Capezio’s 1916 Ultra Soft Transition Tight. I also wear many styles of Capezio leotards, but I especially love the super basic style and the Bradon Collection. I find these garments to be flattering, durable and partner-friendly. I can wear as many as four leotards over the course of one full day of rehearsals. Feeling good in my ‘power suits’ is very important to me.”
You recently did a photo shoot with Capezio. How was the photo shoot experience?
“The photo shoot day was hard work for everyone involved, but it was also fun. My longtime friend and sometime guru, Craig Salstein, and I reported for duty at 8:30am. While Craig helped me warm up for the day, the rest of the production team arrived. The creative director gave us a rundown of the plan for the day: the wardrobe options, locations around the warehouse studio, best moments for natural lighting. The make-up/hair artist created a look for me to wear throughout the shoot, and he touched up his work throughout the day. The wardrobe stylist assembled various outfits for me to try on.
With every new look and location, the creative director showed Craig and me an image to help us find poses or movements that embodied the mood he had in mind. As I danced, Craig would help coordinate timing so that the photographer could catch the peak of my movement (‘5-6-7-8-GO!’). This went on until around 6pm. It was a long but rewarding day.”
What are some pointers for dancers modeling for a photo shoot?
“Make sure you do a really good warm-up; you want all your positions captured to be the sharpest and cleanest they can be. And obviously warming up will help prevent injury. Actively try to release any tension in your face and upper body.
In between shots and set-ups, stretch out and stay warm. Often you will shoot one position several times, which can create an imbalance in your body. Be aware of how your body is feeling. Never be afraid to tell the photographer that you need to change the position or move on to the next shot.”
What is some advice for dancers who aspire to dance on a professional level?
“A baseline of talent is necessary to enter the professional dance world, of course, but you also need a serious work ethic, a passion for dance, physical and emotional resilience, and perseverance. Those are some of the personal prerequisites, but there are many factors to achieving success that are outside your control — wild cards like timing, luck and the subjective taste of a potential employer.”
What does it mean to you to represent the iconic Capezio brand?
“To me, Capezio’s story epitomizes the ‘American Dream’. I love that the company, founded 130 years ago by the Italian immigrant Salvatore Capezio, first entered the dance world when the legendary prima Anna Pavlova walked into Mr. Capezio’s Manhattan cobbler shop and requested that he make pointe shoes for her and the other ballerinas in her company. Nearly a century-and-a-half later, despite widespread success in the dance world, Capezio’s shoes are still handmade by master craftsmen. As an American ballerina and Capezio gal, I’m proud of this history and pedigree.”
Article produced by Dance Informa.
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