Morphoses—and Beatriz Stix-Brunell—Head to Vail

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

Latest Posts


Complexions Contemporary Ballet's Tatiana Melendez Proves There's No One Way to Have a Ballet Career

This is Pointe's Fall 2020 cover story. Click here to purchase this issue.

Talk to anyone about rising contemporary ballerina Tatiana Melendez, and one word is bound to come up repeatedly: "Fierce." And fair enough, that's a perfectly apt way to describe the 20-year-old's stage presence, her technical prowess and her determination to succeed. But don't make the mistake of assuming that fierceness is Melendez's only (or even her most noteworthy) quality. At the core of her dancing is a beautiful versatility. She's just as much at ease when etching pure classical lines as she is when boldly throwing herself off-balance.

"Selfish choreographer that I am, I want Tatiana to stay with Complexions for all time," says her boss Dwight Rhoden, Complexions Contemporary Ballet's co-artistic director and resident choreographer. "She has a theatricality about her: When the music comes on, she gets swept away." Not too shabby for someone who thought just a few years ago that maybe ballet wasn't for her.

Keep reading SHOW LESS
Erik Tomasson, Courtesy SFB

The Anatomy of Arabesque: Why Placement and Turnout Are Key to Achieving This Crucial Position

Audition for any school or company, and they'll likely ask for a photo in arabesque. The position not only reveals a great deal about a dancer's ability, but it is also a fundamental building block for more advanced movements, like penché or arabesque turn. Beyond technique, it can be the epitome of grace and elegance onstage, creating unforgettable images—just try to imagine Swan Lake or Balanchine's Serenade without an arabesque.

Yet many dancers are unsatisfied with their arabesque lines, and students frequently ask how to improve their extensions. (Social media posts of dancers with extreme flexibility don't help!) In an attempt to lift the back leg higher, dancers may sacrifice placement and unknowingly distort their position in the process. How can you improve the height of your back leg while maintaining proper placement and turnout? We talked to a few experts to better understand the science behind this step.

Keep reading SHOW LESS

#TBT: Gelsey Kirkland and Mikhail Baryshnikov in "Coppélia" (1976)

Gelsey Kirkland and Mikhail Baryshnikov share the unique experience of having danced at both American Ballet Theatre and New York City Ballet during their careers. The two overlapped at ABT in the mid-'70s, where they developed one of the best-known partnerships in ballet. They were both celebrated for their dynamism onstage; however, in this 1976 clip of the pas de deux from Coppélia, Kirkland and Baryshnikov prove they are also masters of control.

Keep reading SHOW LESS

Editors' Picks