Every ballet student dreams of dancing new works with a world-class company. But for Beatriz Stix-Brunell, that dream came true a little early. About a year ago, Christopher Wheeldon picked the 16-year-old wunderkind to dance in his elite troupe, Morphoses/The Wheeldon Company.
Stix-Brunell, who trains with renowned instructor Fabrice Herrault in New York, has found working with Morphoses to be an invaluable—and heady—experience. Just a few years ago, she watched New York City Ballet principal Wendy Whelan perform Wheeldon’s Polyphonia; last fall, she danced in the piece with Whelan during Morphoses’ season at New York City Center. And Stix-Brunell was part of the original cast of Wheeldon’s Commedia, along with the likes of Royal Ballet principal Leanne Benjamin and freelance star Drew Jacoby.
It might seem like a risk to take a relatively untested teenage dancer into a company like Morphoses, but Wheeldon knew that Stix-Brunell would be a good fit. “Beatriz has a great sense of humor and handles the occasional ribbing with poise and sharp wit,” he says. “Although I’m keenly aware that sooner rather than later she will fly off to bigger things, this time we’re having together is precious.”
Stix-Brunell is on the roster for Morphoses’ third trip to the Vail International Dance Festival this July. The company plans to perform Commedia, the central duet from Wheeldon’s Mercurial Manoeuvres and William Forsythe’s Slingerland Pas de Deux. During Morphoses’ weeklong residency at the festival, Stix-Brunell will also rehearse a new ballet that Wheeldon is creating in collaboration with musician Martha Wainwright, set to premiere in August at SummerStage in Central Park. The process, Stix-Brunell says, is bound to be as entertaining as it is eye-opening. “During rehearsals for new pieces, Mr. Wheeldon finds the perfect balance between hard work, collaboration, and humor,” she says. “Once in a Commedia rehearsal, he showed us a step where we had to walk across the floor, sticking our hips out as we moved. It was beautiful when he demonstrated, but we quickly discovered that it wasn’t as easy as it looked. Then he told us to pretend we were roosters crowing. We cracked up—but it instantly made sense.”
The trip to Vail is only the most recent of the many treks Stix-Brunell has made with Morphoses. As exciting as touring can be, it makes it difficult for Stix-Brunell—a rising junior at New York’s prestigious Nightingale-Bamford School—to keep up with her intense academic load. But the young ballerina manages to juggle it all. “I remember Beatriz coming into the studio one afternoon and telling us how she was excited to be learning about the Byzantine period,” says Wheeldon. “We’re talking about a well-rounded kid here!” —Margaret Fuhrer