Arts & LifeCulture

Trading the plié for the p-set: Royal Ballet star is new frosh

Sept. 26, 2021, 7:33 p.m.

At age 12, Beatriz Stix-Brunell ’25 joined the Paris Opera Ballet School after auditioning on a whim. At 14, she became a professional dancer in Morphoses, and at 17, she joined the renowned Royal Ballet in London. Now at 28, she’s a frosh at Stanford.

Stix-Brunell applied to Stanford in 2019, using her decade-old SAT scores. She had taken the test in full stage makeup between matinee and evening performances during her first year with the Royal Ballet. Stix-Brunell decided to start her college career now because “it just felt like the right time.”

As she retires from ballet, Stix-Brunell is leaving an astounding career in her wake, having toured everywhere from Vail, Colorado, to Sydney, Australia. In 2012, she was nominated at the Critics’ Circle National Dance Awards for Outstanding Female Performance (Classical), and she has been a First Soloist with the Royal Ballet since 2016. She has danced several notable roles, including ​​the title role in Cathy Marston’s “The Cellist,” Kenneth MacMillan’s “Romeo and Juliet” and Christopher Wheeldon’s “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.”

The Guardian has hailed Stix-Brunell for the “vivid simplicity of her movement” and “communicative presence” on stage.

Those who have worked with the new frosh also sing her praises. International choreographer and Director of Ballet Zurich Cathy Marston wrote to The Daily that Stix-Brunell is “an utter joy to work with — full of creative ideas.” Vice-Chair for the Governors of the Royal Ballet Companies Leanne Benjamin echoed these comments: “Beatriz has an extraordinary talent for telling stories on stage, and is able to put a unique stamp on any performance.”

Despite her terpsichorean accomplishments, Stix-Brunell said that at Stanford she is ready to take a step back from dance. She instead hopes to focus on her academics, and is considering a major in Symbolic Systems.

“My identity has been really tied to ballet, and I know that I have so many other parts to me, but I just haven’t had the chance to explore them,” Stix-Brunell said.

She grew up in New York, with her father in banking and her mother in interior design. Creativity seems to run in her family; her brother, Alexander Stix-Brunell, works in music composition for film and television.

Stix-Brunell came to dance from a perspective of physicality. She comes from a family full of boys — an older brother and ten boy cousins — so she grew up interested in sports. But she fell in love with dance because it combined her interest in the physical with the beauty of music and the stage. Even today, Stix-Brunell still describes herself as someone who loves outdoor activities like swimming and biking, although she also appreciates more relaxed hobbies like reading and visiting museums.

Nevertheless, academics have also always been important to Stix-Brunell. During her senior year of high school, she balanced a full performance schedule with Skype classes to keep up with her studies. Stix-Brunell graduated from the prestigious Nightingale-Bamford, the school that inspired the teen-drama series “Gossip Girl.”

At times, her academic curiosity overlapped with her ballet prowess. When Stix-Brunell got to dance the role of Juliet, she kept thinking back to her experiences analyzing Shakespeare in high school.

“I just remember sitting in my classroom reading it, and then just being able to live those words out on the stage,” Stix-Brunell said. “That to me was a really momentous part of my career.”

Although she is excited to refocus on her studies, Stix-Brunell said she is excited to train her brain, but acknowledged that this challenge will be new.

“I won’t be exercising a million times a day; I’ll be sitting and listening and reading,”  Stix-Brunell said.

While her former colleagues are sad to see her leaving the dance world, they also could not be prouder. “I will miss her terribly, but I’m utterly delighted that she is leaping over the pond to grab this incredible opportunity to study at one of the finest universities in the world,” Benjamin wrote.

Marston shared a similar sentiment: “I am so glad to see the world will benefit from another side of this talented woman, and that she will get to pursue more than one dream in her lifetime.”

Secretly, though, Marston hopes that Stix-Brunell might make her way back to dance some day “as the incredible leader I am sure is within her!”

Whatever she pursues next, on some level, Stix-Brunell’s dance background will likely stay with her.

“I think the arts will always be a part of what I love and who I am,” Stix Brunell said.

Kirsten Mettler '23 is the Managing Editor for Arts & Life. She is the former desk editor for Vol. 259 Academic News and writes for both News and Arts & Life. Contact The Daily’s Arts & Life section at arts ‘at’ stanforddaily.com.

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