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Getting Ready for a Show with Ballerina Stella Abrera

Written By: Susan Krupa A Vanity Affair at Segerstrom Center for the Arts Stella Abrera
Photographed By: Arielle Levy

Stella Abrera’s career has taken her around the world, including a three-year stop at the Royal Academy of Dancing in Sydney, Australia. She went on to win a gold medal at the Royal Academy of Dancing Awards in London and is now a principal dancer for the American Ballet Theatre. As a principal dancer, she has the opportunity to play lead roles in both classic and modern ballets from well-known productions of The Nutcracker to lesser known works like Here After. The beauty and grace of the ballet are a product of years of training, choreography, costuming and makeup. So, what does it take to go from the street to the stage? Stella Abrera gives us a behind the scenes peek at what she does in preparation before a show.

Q: How do you set up your vanity for a show?

Stella Abrera: I always set up my dressing room spot in the same way: Hairpins, nets, spray, and gel go in the top left corner, makeup brushes in a cup in the top right corner, shadows, blushes and liner pots in the bottom right corner, lipliners, lipsticks and eyelashes in the bottom left corner, and pancake makeup, sponges and mirror in the middle. Performances are exciting and often nerve-wracking; having my spot organized and orderly calms me.

Q: How long does it take for you to get ready?

SA: I can usually do my makeup in 15 minutes. Simple hairstyles take me another 15 minutes. If the role I’m doing requires a complex hairstyle, I either ask the hair and makeup team to help me, or I allot 45 minutes to tackle it myself. Then I warm up my body for the show for 45 minutes to one hour. Lastly, I put on my costume/headpiece and secure my pointe shoe ribbons; that takes about 15 minutes.

Q: What happens if there is a costume or makeup issue before a performance?

SA: Both the wardrobe and makeup/hair departments are fantastic at American Ballet Theatre (ABT). If a problem arises, a team of people assess and solve the problem within a few minutes. Rarely does the stage management have to hold the curtain [delay the start of the performance] due to such issues.

Q: How much time during the week do you spend rehearsing?

SA: It varies depending on the repertoire in the coming season. On some really tough days, I could rehearse for seven hours straight. But on average, I would say I rehearse about four  hours per day. That’s following the 90 ballet class we all take every morning to hone our technique and warm-up our bodies for the workday. Finally, I’ll cross-train for about an hour in ABT’s gym.  

Q: What is your favorite role that you have played?

SA: Giselle. It’s an iconic role from one of the oldest and most revered ballets. Giselle is a tale of love, intrigue, betrayal and redemption. This character embarks on an exhilarating, rewarding journey. In Act One, Giselle is an innocent, joyful peasant girl who ultimately dies of a broken heart. In Act Two, she floats up from her grave to forgive her transgressor and protect him from a badass army of vengeful ghost women. It’s pretty epic!  

Q: What advice do you give to young dancers hoping to make a career in ballet?

SA: Maintain your focus, work tirelessly and be patient with yourself. Cultivate friendships with your fellow students as good support systems are important. Be conscious of proper nutrition and health and well-being. Also, try to enjoy yourself!

Stella’s Favorite Beauty Products

She likes to try out different products and intentionally changes certain elements of her makeup collection, but there are some products she always has on-hand.

  • Mehron Pancake Makeup: This is a must have. She has used it her whole career; it’s specially designed for theatrical use.
  • Almay Waterproof Eyeliner: Can’t have raccoon eyes after a sweaty pas de deux!
  • Pantene 2-in-1 Shampoo and Conditioner: After the show, a timely rinse so she can make a quick getaway.

Segerstrom Center for the Arts
600 Town Center Ave
Costa Mesa, CA 92626
714.556.2787

B A L L E T /// Beauty. We Get a Look at Ballerina Stella Abrera’s Stage Ready Makeup Routine.