Stella Abrera ready to dance!

AUG 12 2015, 10:52 AM ET

Stella Abrera Battles Back From Pain to Ballet’s Ultra-Elite

After a long stint as company soloist, Abrera became the first Filipino American to be promoted principal dancer at the ABT. GENE SCHIAVONE / Courtesy ABT

Stella Abrera calls herself an unabashed ballet nerd – “a total bunhead,” she laughs.

But after some rough patches, it’s once again a happy time for this dedicated dancer. August signals the start of her tenure as a principal dancer at New York’s American Ballet Theatre, making her the first Filipino American to reach the highest rank in the elite ballet company.

While her good friend Misty Copeland recently received much attention for being named ABT’s first black principal dancer, Abrera’s ascendancy was nothing short of a miracle. Just six years ago, after a near-crippling back and leg injury, she wasn’t sure she’d ever dance again.

“All the things that have happened pointed to me not being chosen [as a principal dancer],” Abrera said in an interview with NBC News. “And if that happened, no one would have batted an eye. I wouldn’t have. It’s crazy at 37, this doesn’t happen in our world. Thank God, it did. It’s a wonderful thing.”

NBC Asian America caught up with Abrera to talk about her career, her recovery, and the childhood ballet fantasies that fueled her determination to get back on her feet.

Stella Abrera as Clara, the Princess in Alexei Ratmansky’s The Nutcracker. Rosalie O’Connor / Courtesy ABT

Abrera: I started lessons as a five-year-old, and I loved it from day one. I was totally in my element with my leotard and pink tights, and pink ballet slippers. And my bun. It was heaven. But I was just doing stuff like playing leap frog to music. Later we got into ballet technique. By the time I was 8 and 9, I got to play one of those little kids in “The Nutcracker.” Basically, I was a bon-bon.


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