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San Francisco Ballet in class during World Ballet Day 2016. Photo Courtesy SFB.

Here at Pointe, every day feels like World Ballet Day, though the official 2018 event took place on Tuesday. While WBD is a thrill for any bunhead, it can also be overwhelming. How are you supposed to sit in front of your computer all day when you have class and rehearsal and work and a life? We get it, and we're here to help.

To give you a chance to catch up, we've rounded up WBD videos from 26 companies. So grab some popcorn, a backlog of pointe shoes to sew, and settle in. If you start watching now, you might just be done in time for WBD 2019.

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News

Two Pointe cover stars, two Japanese dancers and a woman who rocketed through two ranks in one year are among the dancers newly promoted to The Royal Ballet's highest ranks. With artistic maturity far beyond her 23 years, we knew it was only a matter of time before Francesca Hayward, who we featured in our February/March 2016 cover story, rose to the top. She'll start next season as a principal along with Alexander Campbell, Ryoichi Hirano and Akane Takada.

With these newly promoted dancers, The Royal's principal roster reflects more diversity. Hirano and Takada, both Japan-born, came to The Royal Ballet fresh off of Prix de Lausanne triumphs. Campbell is a native of Australia and Hayward, who grew up in England, was born in Nairobi to a Kenyan mother and a British father. Yet while there's been much public interest in her African heritage, she's more vocal about her English training. In our February/March issue, Hayward told writer Laura Cappelle, “It's only when people ask me what it's like to be a mixed-race dancer that I realize that I am. I've never been made to feel different, or like I shouldn't be doing it."

American dancer Beatriz Stix-Brunell (our 2012 October/November cover girl) is a new first soloist. Before joining The Royal, Stix-Brunell was a protégé of artistic associate Christopher Wheeldon. She trained in New York and at the Paris Opéra Ballet School, and she joined Wheeldon's Morphoses when she was just a teenager. Claire Calvert and Yasmine Naghdi are also newly appointed first soloists, and Matthew Ball and Mayara Magri have been promoted from first artist to soloist.

English dancer Tierny Heap was promoted to first artist in the middle of the 2015/2016 season. She danced the title role in Carlos Acosta's Carmen among other featured roles, and artistic director Kevin O'Hare evidently decided that Heap needed even greater tests for her talents. She will start the 2016/2017 season as a soloist.

See The Royal's website for a full list of promotions, new hires and departures.

Ballet Stars
Photo by Andrej Uspenski, Courtesy Beatriz Stix-Brunell.

Beatriz Stix-Brunell is standing in front of the choreographer Christopher Wheeldon, frowning intently. It is early March at The Royal Ballet in London, and just one day before she is due to make an unexpected debut in the title role of his Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, replacing the injured Marianela Nuñez, one of the company's most acclaimed ballerinas. As if that weren't enough pressure, The Royal Ballet is streaming class and rehearsals live online all day, with four camera crews moving between studios.

Wheeldon is fine-tuning (in front of a “worldwide online audience," as he jokingly puts it) the first step of one of Alice's solos. It's an arabesque renversée, in which she must balance for a split second after the turn, before stepping gracefully backwards and repeating the step. After watching Stix-Brunell perform the sequence, Wheeldon gets out of his chair. “Think of somebody taking your arabesque foot and pulling you back," he tells her, demonstrating the openness and breadth he wants for the movement. Stix-Brunell nods briefly and tries again. It's a perfect, dreamy fall, arms floating down with exquisite airiness as she turns out of the arabesque.

“Beautiful," says Wheeldon. “Just three of those would be nice."

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Ballet Stars

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

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

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