Cupcakes & Conversation with Beatriz Stix-Brunell, Soloist, The Royal Ballet

ballet dancer on royal ballet stage
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Cupcakes & Conversation with Beatriz Stix-Brunell, Soloist, The Royal Ballet

ballet dancer with royal ballet
Beatriz photographed by Fabrice Herrault

What motivates you at 8am on a Monday morning ?

I’m fully ready to ‘get at it ‘on Monday. Sunday is my day off and I use it to fully decompress and recharge. Company class on Monday morning is the lead-in to a busy and exciting week of rehearsals and performances.

Why ballet ?

It’s an all-consuming profession that requires discipline, respect, and work. It never gets easy, and that’s what I love about it.

I think Laura Jacobs of The New Criterion got it right: “Ballet needs no context or explanation; it is …the most bewitchingly beautiful language in the world, the human anatomy at its most aspiring and celestial.”

What are you looking forward to dancing this coming year ?

I’m really looking forward to revisiting the role of Alice in Christopher Wheeldon’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. I stepped into the role at the last minute last season after a principal got injured, and it was my first time dancing the principal role in a full-length ballet. The role has lots of both dancing and acting. The character consumed me, and I had the time of my life. I’m really looking forward to seeing what else I can learn about Alice, and how I can bring her to life again.

Who would you most like to dance with and why ?

I’ve danced with many great partners so far. But I’d love to dance with Carlos Acosta. He was breathtaking in Sir Kenneth Macmillan’s Requiem. His movements are elegant and emotionally powerful.

ballet dancer on royal ballet stage
Beatriz in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland Photograph by Andre Uspenski

How do you prepare your pointe shoes ?

Like most dancers, I’m a little quirky about my shoes. I wear Freed Classics, which I love. They are custom-made, but I do a few personal tweaks.  I spray the boxes and stomp on them a bit. I also three-quarter the shank so that it bends with my foot, and I put a little squirt of Jet Glue by the shank so that they don’t die on me too quickly. Then I sew on the elastics and good-luck ribbons from my Paris Opera Ballet School days…and we’re ready to go!

What do you eat during the course of a typical working day ?

A lot!  I start out my morning with a bowl of Oatmeal, along with a papaya and an apple. This winter, I’ve also been on a Pomegranate kick. Lunch is usually a big salad with three shredded chicken legs and fresh vegetables. Mid-afternoon snack is often hard boiled egg whites. For dinner, I might have chicken (again!…I’ll easily eat a whole one, at Belgo’s in Covent Garden), or I’ll have meat or fish with vegetables. Dessert is usually yogurt – luckily I don’t have much of a sweet tooth.

You can ask six famous people to dinner. Who would you invite ?

Bach, Makarova, Michelangelo, Macmillan, Balanchine, and Rob Brydon (he was hysterical in The Trip with Steve Coogan).

What would surprise people about you ?

I’m quite good at doing different foreign accents.

Who inspired you to dance ?

My NYC teacher Fabrice Herrault has an amazing ballet video collection. We’d often watch vintage Baryshnikov, Gelsey Kirkland, Alla Sizova, Natalia Makarova, Nadezhda Pavlova, Fernando Bujones …they inspire me to this day.

What is your best piece of advice ?

When people speak, listen completely.

If you could dance anywhere in the world (not only a theatre, where you you dance ?

I’m lucky to have The Royal Opera House as my beautiful home. I would also love to dance at the Bolshoi or outdoors at the ancient Greek amphitheatre at Epidaurus.

How do you prepare in the hours before a show ?

It depends on what I’m dancing, but I always like to start getting ready early. I have dinner, do my hair and makeup, and start warming up about an hour and half before curtain. At the quarter hour call, I put on my pointe shoes and costume, and then I head down to the stage, try out a few steps, and I’m ready to go.

How do you deal with the stress of performing ?

I don’t really get stressed about performing because I feel fully prepared and rehearsed.

I love the stage because you simply can’t hide. I often remind myself of how lucky I am to be here, and to always give it everything I have. I think the audience would know if I’ve given anything less.  No one wants to come off the stage with regrets.

Which role has tested you the most and why ?

Probably Alice in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Princess Rose in Sir Kenneth Macmillan’s Prince of the Pagodas. Both of them are a fusion of dancing and acting. Choreographically they are complex, and it is an exciting challenge to ensure the character doesn’t get lost or fizzle out in the midst of carrying out the steps. I strive to make the stories my own.

ballet dancer on royal ballet stage
Beatriz in Pagodas Photograph : Johan Persson

What do you look for in a dance partner ?

Trust, communication, respect.  And a sense of humor helps.

What is your favourite quote ?

“Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out just how far one can go.” T.S. Eliot

What’s been your best onstage moment so far ?

I think my debuts in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Prince of the Pagodas have been my best onstage moments. They were the culmination of a lot of amazing coaching and one-on-one time in the studio with mentors, to whom I am so grateful. Little moments that you have onstage where you connect with your partners and everyone around you are unforgettable.

ballet dancer on stage
Beatriz in Titian Photograph : Johan Persson

In terms of your dance career, where would you like to be in a year from now ?

Right here at The Royal Ballet! Being pushed and challenged as much as possible, and getting wonderful opportunities on our beautiful stage.

Do you have a secret skill that no-one knows about ?

I’m a pretty good fisherman.

If you could dance in front of anyone, who would it be, and what makes them special to you ?

Family, clearly. Two of my grandparents passed away recently, and I regret that they were not able to see me dance at the Royal Opera House.  I do have a large extended family In the US – including nine male cousins—it would be a joy to have them all here for a performance!