American Ballet Theater’s Fil-Am Principal Ballerina Stella Abrera And Dance Colleagues To Perform for Centex’s 20th Anniversary
STEPS Dance Studio founder and teacher Sofia Zobel-Elizalde’s family are the owners of Ayala Foundation, creators of the CENTEX educational program. Sofia was raised as a ballerina, and she took her outlet of passion and fun seriously. “I started when I was about four years old, and I stopped dancing when I was 25.” To commit one’s life to an art form is what a ballerina does; in turn the art form enriches the dancer’s life. Her role with CENTEX fuses ballet performance art with the academic program and provides opportunities for children also gifted in the area of the performing arts.
“One of my most memorable roles was probably Carmen. Maybe, personally, as a woman I believe in women being strong, speaking out, and having a voice. So Carmen was that role for me. I got to do it at a very young age. Technically, I loved the choreography which was by Alice Reyes at the time who is now a national artist. So I was very fortunate to be able to play that role under her. I actually stopped [ballet] early because I wanted to get married and start a family, but then when I married, I decided to start a school. I went from being a dancer to becoming a teacher.”
In her brief yet passionate career as a dancer with some of the best performers in the country Sofia learned a lot about how dance can improve the quality of a child’s life. “I find with all the stress that goes on in life when a child is able to go everyday into a dance studio and physically release energy and focus on technique and movement that releases stress and that gives them an outlet to release emotion. Number two: Dance is a way to express one’s self without speaking. It gives each and every child a chance to express themselves in their own way.”
Sofia also outlined the purpose of CENTEX and how it benefits intelligent children with marginalized backgrounds “Ayala Foundation actually heads many charities and one of them is CENTEX which runs two schools; one in Tondo and one in Batangas. It goes under our family’s foundation, but I got more involved with it because I brought a dance program to the schools. It’s a partnership between the department of education and the Ayala Foundation. It was a school created for children who are from demarginalized families but who are very intelligent.”
What might constitute a more holistic education for children? A core issue present in a lot of educational systems is that children are bombarded with “what they ought to learn” and rarely have a chance to express themselves in alternative ways. An in-depth educational experience is never a one-way street. Beyond the default classroom culture of listening to lectures, doing reading rounds, and scribing answers on a hard surface sometimes the cultivation of cognitive expression and creativity finds itself in the backseat.
Ayala Foundation, through the focused workings of the CENTEX scholastic program, (Center of Excellence; its flagship educational progeram) seeks to improve the quality of public education culture drastically. This year is CENTEX’s 20th anniversary; what better way to celebrate than by giving back together with some of the world’s top performers?
Two years ago Sofia was fortunate to meet American Ballet Theater’s principal Fil-Am ballerina, Stella Abrera who expressed a desire to give back to education with her gift of dance. Sofia recounts “…she was born here but she grew up in the US. This year she called me up and Stella said ‘I want you to know that American Ballet Theater is going to Hong Kong to do a full-length ballet.’ I said ‘Stella, can we make this a fund-raiser event?’ and she said ‘Wonderful, I would love to be able to give back to education’ ”
Sofia shares that when the dance scholars of Centex were told they would be given a chance to share the stage alongside Stella and her colleagues from American Ballet Theater, student jaws dropped open. Sofia relates “I’m also a believer that no two dancers should be the same. Everybody’s given the same steps, everyone is given the same technical objectives, but then you can put your own style into it. I find when a child is given that creative freedom, it just releases so much of you.”
Sofia pointed out that unlike a full-feature production this will be somewhat of an intimate performance on a small stage in Taguig. “It’s not the whole company coming. It’s Stella and friends if you want to call it that. So they’re actually a group of eight dancers. I also asked her to curate the show.” There will be well-loved renditions from famous ballets like Romeo and Juliet, The Flames of Paris, and Don Quixot. The set designer who came on board for this petite ballet production is also none other than Ang Larawan’s production designer, Gino Gonzales.
“An Intimate Evening with Stella Abrera and American Ballet Stars” is co-presented by Patek Philippe and will be staged at the Maybank Performance Arts Theater in Bonifacio Global City from April 5 to 7. It is also made possible by the Ayala Corporation, Ayala Land, Bank of the Philippine Islands, Globe Telecom, Airswift, Raffles Makati, Seda Hotels, El Nido Resorts and Steps Dance Studio.
Tickets will be available at TicketWorld starting Feb. 5. For more information, visit ayalafoundation.org or (02)-8919999 ticketworld.com.ph.