Beckanne Sisk Reflects on Her First Year With Houston Ballet

July 11, 2023

In June, Houston Ballet’s newest principal, Beckanne Sisk, closed the 2022–23 season with an outstanding performance of Odette/Odile in Stanton Welch’s Swan Lake. With her old-world glamour, polished technique, and dynamic attack, Sisk has brought welcome dazzle to the ranks.

The Longview, Texas–native joined the company after a lengthy career at Ballet West. She joined Ballet West II in 2010, was promoted to the main company in 2011 and then to principal in 2015. A Princess Grace Award winner, she rose to national prominence on The CW’s 2012–13 reality-television show “Breaking Pointe.”

In 2022, Sisk relocated to Houston with Chase O’Connell, her partner in life and onstage, who is also a new principal. She talked with Pointe over Zoom about her new city and new job.

You built your career at Ballet West. Why did you feel that you needed the change?

I love Ballet West. I owe my entire career to artistic director Adam Sklute. He will always be special to me, and I could not have done this change without him. I had been there since I was 17 and had never experienced another company. I was at the point in my career where I was dancing the same roles multiple times. I felt like it was time for me to experience something new and get out of my comfort zone. I needed a push.

Beckanne Sisk—wearing a bright magenta tutu, large sparkly crown, pink tights and pointe shoes—does a large saut de chat towards stage right during a performance of Nutcracker. She dances in front the the Land of Sweets set as other costumed characters watch.
Sisk with artists of Houston Ballet in Stanton Welch’s The Nutcracker. Photo by Lawrence Elizabeth Knox, courtesy Houston Ballet.

Has Houston Ballet gotten you out of your comfort zone?

Yes! To fit in here, I felt that I had to be my absolute best. And that lit a fire under me, knowing that I had to be giving 100 percent or more. Everyone here is so amazing, and even in class I am just blown away by the talent in the company.

Is there one role, experience, or performance where you felt as if you fully arrived?

Our first Nutcracker studio run-through. It was our one-and-only studio run-through with everyone in the room, and I remember feeling very excited. After Swan Lake, I felt even more of that feeling. This career is such a roller coaster, and every day we have to prove ourselves.

Houston Ballet’s artistic director, Stanton Welch, is a prolific dancemaker. Is it different working with a director who is also a choreographer?

Yes! We started working on Stanton’s Red Earth at the beginning of the season. I was nervous working with him for the first time because he’s my new boss. I wanted to be what he pictured for this role and what he envisions for the choreography. And so it was interesting, trying to figure that out. But I really enjoyed working with him in the studio—he really keeps you on your toes.

During a performance, Beckanne Sisk and Bridget Kuhns dance close together in arabesque, holding one arm up and holding each other's raised hand. Sisk is closer to the audience. Both dancers wear pink tights, pointe shoes, white leotards, and short white skirts.
Sisk and Bridget Kuhns in George Balanchine’s Concerto Barocco. Photo by Lawrence Elizabeth Knox, courtesy Houston Ballet.

Stanton’s pas de deux work is an essential part of his choreographic signature and is extremely difficult. How are you adjusting to that?

His pas de deux are so intricate; he really pushes the boundaries of partnering. You don’t see this kind of partnering in other places. There was some of that in his Red Earth and then Divergence, which was so much fun, like rope tricks.

What has been the biggest challenge so far?

It’s not like we didn’t work hard at Ballet West, but here you have to juggle so many ballets at a time. They also work very quickly here, so that has also been difficult. But this is what I wanted—I wanted to be pushed. I wanted to work harder.

Speaking of challenges, Houston takes some adjustment.

It is hot. The heat is something that I don’t think I will ever love, but the winter was amazing. Driving is very difficult—I feel like I’m stressed every time I get behind the wheel. The food has been amazing. The diversity here is also so different from Salt Lake City. And I have family in Longview, Texas, so now they can just take a long weekend and come see me. That has been great.

You ended your first season on a high point: leading the opening-night cast in Swan Lake. This ballet feels made for you. What was your experience like?

I love Stanton’s version. There’s so much acting, and we get to portray four different characters: first Odette as the maiden, then the White Swan. Then you get to be Odile as a maiden and then also the Black Swan. Swapping between each character constantly makes the ballet go by very quickly. It’s difficult, but it’s been so much fun to tackle.

Beckanne Sisk and Chase O'COnnell perform a pas de deux from Swan Lake onstage. Sisk does an arabesque allongé towards stage left, while O'Connell stands behind her in tendu, extends his right arm out and holds her waist with his left hand. She wears a white tutu and feathered headpiece, pink tights and pointe shoes, while he wears a dark tunic and tights with blue trim. They perform in front of a lakeside backdrop.
With Chase O’Connell in Stanton Welch’s Swan Lake. Photo by Lawrence Elizabeth Knox, courtesy of Houston Ballet.

Which of those characters feels the best fit for you?

Initially, my gut says Black Swan—she’s so much fun. But then whenever I’m out there as Odette, there’s something special about playing her, too.

You made this move with your partner, Chase O’Connell, who is also a new principal. Has he made the transition easier?

It’s been really good to have someone else to go through this transition with. It’s hard moving to a new place, with all new people. But I have to say that we couldn’t have done it without the Houston Ballet dancers. We love the dancers here and feel like we’ve made some really good friends. Meeting this new group of people has made [the transition] so much smoother.

What are your plans for this summer?

Chase and I got married! And now we are just going to just relax.

Congratulations! What are you looking forward to next season?

Well, of course John Neumeier’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Sir Kenneth MacMillan’s Mayerling. I am also really looking forward to working with Stanton on his new ballet for the company’s annual Jubilee in December. And I can’t wait for Julie Kent to arrive as our new co-director. I feel like it’s going to be a super-exciting time for the company.