Left: Gary as Prince Gremin in Onegin, photo by Peter Saunders
Centre: Gary, photo by Andre Uspenski
Right: Gary as Dr Coppelius in Coppelia, photo by Bill Cooper.
Gary Avis MBE is a member of the Board at DanceEast and we wanted to find out more about his work life within The Royal Ballet, his other passions, and of course, what he’s been up to during the current lockdown.
What’s your name, and what do you do?
My name is Gary Avis and I am a Principal Character Artist & Senior Ballet Master with The Royal Ballet.
What is your favourite thing about your role within The Royal Ballet?
My most favourite thing about my job is performing! The feeling that I get (even now, in my 31st year professionally) when I step out onto the stage, wherever it may be in the world, it is a euphoric feeling of: relief – because I’m finally there, on stage; suspense – because I never know what will happen… even after hours of rehearsal; pride – because of the amazing company and theatre people I’m surrounded by; and pure joy – because performing to me is, everything!
What is the most challenging thing about your role?
I would say the most challenging aspect of my job as a dancer/actor is the ability to keep things fresh, reenergised and alive for every performance and every character. There is nothing worse than pressing the ‘copy button’ and just delivering the same performance time after time. I love the challenge of re-evaluating roles that I have done before. This doesn’t mean changing any of the choreography, mime or production values, it just means I try to create new qualities for each character as I revisit them.
What is something you are passionate about and why?
I am very passionate about being kind, generous and sharing experiences and knowledge, hence my ‘other job’ Senior Ballet Master with The Royal Ballet. Outside of dance and the ‘day job’, I am passionate about my home life and making that work alongside the demands of a dance career. I also try as best I can, to involve myself in whatever way I can with my hometown, Ipswich and our beautiful county of Suffolk, sharing my love of dance and theatre to help as many people through DanceEast and local charitable organisations.
Do you have any advice on how to stay creative during the current social distancing guidelines?
In these difficult and unprecedented circumstances, I think our main focus is to stay safe, well and look after our mental health. Never before have we had to shut ourselves away like this and it goes against everything we know. During this unusual period of time I think we have to be creatively motivated and learn ‘new’ or adapt ‘old’ skills to accommodate this moment in time and develop resistance and resilience against boredom, frustration and worry.
Lots of new and creative ideas have come out of our current situation, have you got a particular highlight?
I have been very impressed with the mass online community of dance and exercise classes (including DanceEast and their online tutorials). In a time when our daily ‘outside’ is limited there is no better way to get motivated and engaged with others than by joining an online group/class and get exercising with others. This is not only good for body and soul but also for mind, remembering you are not alone! I have also loved seeing friends/colleagues from The Royal Ballet pulling together and sharing their hobbies, cooking and photographic skills on a daily basis.
What music artists are on your Working from Home playlist?
It is strange because during this bizarre period of time I have listened more to the local radio than my usual playlists. I would normally be sat on the train on my daily commute to London, listening to a varied ‘eclectic’ selection of music, of all genres and styles but I guess due to the need for information the radio has become my working from home playlist.
What’s your favourite pastime at the moment?
Favourite Lockdown pastime… I guess would be gardening and walking the dogs, along with the occasional uplifting social media frenzy!
We’ve loved catching up with Gary, and we hope you’ve enjoyed a small insight into the work of a Principal Character Artist and Ballet Master at The Royal Ballet!
Our doors at the Jerwood DanceHouse may be closed but we are still here for you, working hard to support artists and to share great dance with you – you can help us by becoming a Friend, Best Friend or Patron. The DanceEast Team thanks you, as it is with your generosity and support that we are able to continue doing what we love most – providing great dance for everyone.