South Pas native Stella Abrera will dance her final performance as principal dancer of New York’s American Ballet Theater on June 13. Photo by Rosalie O’Connor/ABT

South Pasadena native Stella Abrera has announced her retirement from the American Ballet Theater in New York.

The group’s 24-year veteran principal dancer’s farewell performance will be June 13 at the Metropolitan Opera House, dancing the title role in “Giselle.’’

“It feels like a good time (to retire), like the right thing,” Abrera told The New York Times after the announcement. She is currently traveling and unavailable for further comment.

She is turning her creative energies to being artistic director of Kaatsbaan, the Tivoli, N.Y.-based cultural park for dance. That announcement was made Jan. 1.

Since its inception, Kaatsbaan has been closely linked to ABT.

“Dancing at American Ballet Theater for 24 years has been a realization of a dream,’’ the 41-year-old Abrera said in a statement, “and now I’m inspired to impact the art form from the other side of the proscenium.’’

As artistic director, Abrera’s position will include working with artists on their projects. She will also teach and coach dancers as the head of Kaatsbaan’s ballet intensives and the Pro-Studio/Stella Abrera program, which launched last year.

“Giselle’’ holds special significance for Abrera. In 2015, the then 37-year-old soloist made a triumphant debut in the title role, stepping in for an injured dancer at the last minute.

She was made a principal dancer shortly after that performance. The appearance culminated years of recovering from a serious injury.

In recent years, 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.

“I’ve been fortunate for a challenging and rewarding 24-year journey with this company. I arrive at this decision with a heart full of gratitude and love,’’ she posted on Instagram.

Abrera dreamed of dancing with ABT while growing up, and she was invited to audition in October 1995 after being seen while performing at a dance summer camp by the then-assistant director of ABT. She got a call in December that there was a contract open in January that would make her dream come true.

She was in her junior year at South Pasadena High School, but off she went to New York.

“It’s very rare that something happens like what happened to me,’’ she said in an interview with the Review. “Imagine the millions of ballet students there are, and there are 90 spots in ABT.

“I was really lucky to get my dream company. I wanted to dance with ABT since I knew what ballet was.’’

Alice Miller, the owner of The Red Shoes store on Mission Avenue in South Pasadena, has known Abrera since she and her mother came in to her store buy ballet equipment. Abrera worked at the store before she went off to New York City.

“Anyone who comes in here strives to be who and what she has become,’’ Miller said. “I feel wonderful and proud of her accomplishments and that I know her.

“She has always kept me in the loop and taken me along on what will continue to be a wonderful journey.’’

Andy Lippman
Author

A former Los Angeles bureau chief for the Associated Press, Lippman writes weekly about some South Pasadena person, business, issue or trend.

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