Dancer Spotlight: A Prodigy Grows Up

The second chapter of Beatriz Stix-Brunell’s fairytale life finds her at The Royal Ballet.
Published in the June/July 2011 issue.

Rehearsing at the Royal

Photo by Andrej Uspenski

Most talented ballet dancers follow a predictable school-to-company route. Not Beatriz Stix-Brunell. Currently in The Royal Ballet’s corps, she has carved out an unconventional—and already high-profile—career path.

 

Stix-Brunell, who grew up in New York City, began her training at the School of American Ballet. But something, she felt, was missing. “The Balanchine style is beautiful, and I was getting performance opportunities that were so much fun,” she says. “But I wanted to get my classical training up to par.” So at 12, she auditioned for the Paris Opéra Ballet School. Being one of the “petits rats” for a year not only added polish to her technique (she ranked at the top of her class in the year-end exams), but also introduced her to the European ballet scene. “The work ethic and the quality of dance there, the sense of tradition, was overwhelming,” she remembers. “I thought it was magical.”

 

Hooked on the purity of the POB style, Stix-Brunell sought out master teacher Fabrice Herrault, a POBS alum, when she returned to New York. They began a demanding training regimen that combined Herrault’s classes at Steps on Broadway with private lessons. “Fabrice taught me that there are no tricks in ballet,” Stix-Brunell says. “He’d compile footage for me of Anna Pavlova, Mikhail Baryshnikov and Gelsey Kirkland. And he’d explain that they all made it by working extremely hard.” Though Herrault proved a trusted mentor, Stix-Brunell decided to return to SAB in her junior year to accommodate her academic schedule at a private girls’ school. But she continued classes with Herrault, “to keep up my classical work,” she explains.

 

All of Stix-Brunell’s training choices show a bright, inquisitive mind, and they’ve resulted in an unmannered technique that’s the perfect canvas for both classical and contemporary work. It didn’t take long for people to notice. Christopher Wheeldon put Stix-Brunell on the professional map when he asked her to join Morphoses, then under his direction, when she was just 15. “She was a rose in the room,” Wheeldon says of her audition. “Even at such a young age, she had an intelligent approach to the work.” Stix-Brunell held her own performing alongside seasoned professionals from New York City Ballet and The Royal Ballet. “I treated her like one of the gang, and she got on with it,” Wheeldon says. “Before long, Maria Kowroski was giving her makeup tips.” It was a fairytale story, and Vogue and New York magazine wasted no time printing it. Suddenly Stix-Brunell was, by ballet standards, a household name.

 

The young dancer took her newfound fame in stride—and kept her eyes wide open as she toured with Morphoses. “When we were performing at Sadler’s Wells in London, we took class with The Royal, and it was like love at first sight,” she says. “The dancers were gorgeous. I thought, ‘I have to pursue this.’” She began an email exchange with director Monica Mason that resulted, by the spring of 2010, in Stix-Brunell’s corps contract with The Royal—no audition required.

 

During her first year with the company, she learned a slew of ballets, among them Onegin, Sylvia and Theme and Variations. She was also reunited with Wheeldon when he arrived to choreograph Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. (Stix-Brunell was a jack-of-all-trades swing in the ballet, portraying everything from a bird to a playing card.) “I’m very proud to see Beatriz showing the kind of confidence and beauty that were mere seeds at Morphoses,” Wheeldon says. “The Royal’s a perfect fit for her. She’s versatile and strong in the contemporary work, but she also has the delicacy and strength needed in the company’s Ashton rep and the dramatic qualities needed for MacMillan.”

 

And the 18-year-old recently passed another milestone: She graduated from high school, after a senior year full of Skype sessions with her teachers in New York. Next up? College. “I’m applying to the University of London. They have a part-time course in humanities that only takes six years,” she says. “This might sound weird, but school has always been a source of relaxation for me. When my body is exhausted, it feels good to exercise my mind.”

at a glance
Name: Beatriz Stix-Brunell
Age: 18
Company: The Royal Ballet
Training: School of American Ballet, Paris Opéra Ballet School, Fabrice Herrault
Dream Roles: Juliet, Giselle, Alice in Christopher Wheeldon’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
Idols: Ekaterina Maximova, Alla Sizova, Fred Astaire, Nadezhda Pavlova