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







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Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre's 'The Nutcracker.' Photo by Rich Sofranko

Catching a performance of The Nutcracker has long been a holiday tradition for many families. And now, more and more companies are adding sensory-friendly elements to specific shows in an effort to make the classic ballet inclusive to children and adults with special needs.

While the accommodations vary depending on the company, many are presenting shorter versions of the ballet with more relaxed theater rules. Additionally, lower sound and stage light levels during the performance, as well as trained staff on hand, make The Nutcracker more accessible for those on the autism spectrum and others with special needs.

Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre's performance will take place on Tuesday, December 26th, and they are one of the pioneer companies in presenting sensory-friendly performances of The Nutcracker (their first production was in 2013). PBT also offers sensory-friendly versions of Jorden Morris' Peter Pan and Lew Christensen's Beauty and the Beast throughout the year.

See our list of sensory-friendly performances, and check out each site for all of the details regarding their offerings.

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Your Best Body
Pilates hundred intermediate set-up, modeled by Jordan Miller. Photo by Emily Giacalone.

The Pilates hundred is a popular exercise used by many dancers for conditioning and warming up, but it's also one of the most misunderstood. Pumping your arms for 100 counts sounds simple enough, but it requires coordinated breathwork, a leg position that suits your abilities and proper alignment. Marimba Gold-Watts, who works with New York City Ballet dancers at her Pilates studio, Articulating Body, breaks down this surprisingly hard exercise. When done correctly, the benefits are threefold: "If you're doing it before class," she says, "the hundred is a great way to get your blood flowing and work on breath control and abdominal support all at once."

To Start

Lie on your back with knees bent and feet on the floor. Nod your chin toward the front of your throat, and reach your fingertips long.

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Pointe Stars

At just 16 years old, the Bolshoi Ballet's Maria Alexandrova already had the makings of a great artist. In this variation from Coppélia, she portrays the carefree Swanilda with blithe, youthful ease.

When she bounds on stage in her perky pink tutu, you immediately notice her legs–they just go on forever. In the first sequence of steps she keeps her jetés and développés low, but then the phrase repeats and she lets her gorgeous extensions fly. She sails through Italian fouettés and whirls around in piqués en manège that get faster and faster. While she nails all the virtuosic movement, Alexandrova also pays beautiful attention to detail throughout the variation. Even the simplest steps become something exciting, like her precise pas de bourrées beginning at 1:03 that sing with musicality.

Swanilda has been one of Alexandrova's signature roles throughout her career. For a fun side by side, watch her perform the same variation almost 20 years later in this video. Although Alexandrova formally retired from the Bolshoi in February, she still performs frequently in Moscow and internationally as a guest artist. Happy #ThrowbackThursday!


Pointe Stars
Ingrid Silva and her dog, Frida Kahlo. Photo by Nathan Sayers for Pointe.

You're probably already following your favorite dancers on Instagram, but did you know that you can follow many of their dogs, too? We rounded up some of our favorite dog-centered accounts and hashtags to keep you pawsitively entertained (sorry, we can't help ourselves).

Cora and Maya (American Ballet Theatre's Sarah Lane and Luis Ribagorda)

Sarah Lane and Luis Ribagorda's pups Cora and Maya update their profile pretty frequently. Often accompanying Lane to the ABT studios, they can also be seen using tutus or piles of pink tights as dog beds.

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Pointe Stars
Vladislav Lantritov and Ekaterina Krysanova in "Taming of the Shrew." Photo by Alice Blangero, Courtesy Bolshoi Ballet.

If you haven't checked your local movie listings yet for this weekend, hop to it. The Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema series and Fathom Events is broadcasting a performance of Jean-Christophe Maillot's The Taming of the Shrew to theaters nationwide on Sunday, November 19. (To see if it's playing near you and to purchase tickets, click here.) While the rest of the Bolshoi's cinema season features 19th- and 20th-century classics, The Taming of the Shrew gives audiences a chance to see the revered Moscow company in a thoroughly modern, 21st-century take on Shakespeare's famous play.

Aside from a limited run in New York City this July, American audiences have had little exposure to Maillot's 2014 production. To learn more, check out these two exclusive, behind-the-scenes webisodes below. Principal dancer Ekaterina Krysanova, who stars as the hotheaded Katharina, gives an intimate play-by-play of two major scenes in Act I. The first is her fiery rejection of three potential suitors (who all would prefer to marry Katharina's younger sister Bianca).

The second scene breaks down Katharina's first encounter with Petruchio (danced by the larger-than-life Vladislav Lantritov), the only man who seems to be able to challenge her. Here, too, we see the shrew's heart start to soften. (Don't miss her time-stopping attitude turn at 4:27.)

The Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema Series continues through June; for more details on upcoming screenings, click here.

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Smuin Ballet dancers Erica Felsch, Rex Wheeler, Mengjun Chen and Tessa Barbour in "White Christmas," choreographed by dancers Ben Needham-Wood and Michael Smuin. Photo by Keith Sutter, Courtesy Smuin Ballet.

Nutcracker-ed out? Or just can't get enough holiday ballets? These unique Nutcracker interpretations and non-Nutcracker productions will make your season bright.


The Hip Hop Nutcracker

Through December 30

Tchaikovsky's masterful Nutcracker score isn't just for classical ballet…

Hip Hop + a live DJ + an electric violinist unite in The Hip Hop Nutcracker, currently touring the U.S.

Familiar characters such Drosselmeyer, the Nutcracker, Mouse King and Marie (here called Maria-Clara) dance through an updated New York City storyline with choreography by Jennifer Weber, artistic director of the Brooklyn-based theatrical hip hop company Decadancetheatre.

Premiered in 2014, The Hip Hop Nutcracker is produced by New Jersey Performing Arts Center.

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