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Feb 052013
 

Q&A

 Gary Avis answers the Gramilano Questionnaire… Dancers’ EditionWhen did you start dan­cing?
My first steps were taken in the sum­mer of 1981, at the tender age of 11. My start­ing point was Disco Dan­cing les­sons at Tom & Pat Lait’s Ball­room classes, and then in 1982 I star­ted ballet/modern les­sons with my local bal­let teacher at the Linda Shipton School of Dancing.

Why did you start dan­cing?
I was sent to Disco Dan­cing les­sons by my mum as I was very nervous and shy at fam­ily gath­er­ings, parties etc. I under­stand that my mum thought it would be a very good idea to bring me out of myself and gain some con­fid­ence! I found I really enjoyed dan­cing and move­ment and got involved in a few school plays and music­als. I was spot­ted by a par­ent who had a daugh­ter in a local theatre group called Co-op Juni­ors and she thought I had nat­ural tal­ent and that get­ting up on stage would be the best thing for me! Hav­ing audi­tioned and got into the group I then was sent to the Linda Shipton School of Dan­cing… the rest is history!

Which dan­cer inspired you most as a child?
As a child and teen­ager I was only inter­ested in dance that was on the tele­vi­sion and so I was inspired by all the amaz­ing per­form­ances I saw on the vari­ous Royal Vari­ety Per­form­ances and excerpts of West End shows which some­times fea­tured in light enter­tain­ment pro­grammes. It wasn’t until I star­ted bal­let les­sons that I star­ted to watch videos of  ‘real’ bal­let performances.

My first bal­let video was the Royal Ballet’s Mac­Mil­lan pro­duc­tion of Romeo & Juliet with Wayne Eagling and Aless­andra Ferri. I must have worn that video out as I watched it so many times!

Which dan­cer do you most admire?
I don’t have just one dan­cer that I admire, I have way too many to men­tion, but I do learn from and admire all those that I have worked with over my years in, not only the Royal Bal­let and Eng­lish National Bal­let, but also K-Ballet in Japan!

I have had the good for­tune to work with some incred­ible people, each with such amaz­ing qual­it­ies. But I did learn early on from my time in the Royal Bal­let that no role is ever too small and that char­ac­ters roles were as import­ant as the big dan­cing roles! I thank Leslie Edwards and Stephen Jef­fer­ies for this.

What’s your favour­ite role?
These ques­tions are so dif­fi­cult… I have had some fab­ulous roles: Dros­sel­meyer, Von Roth­bart, Duch­ess, Ugly Sis­ter, Orion, Gremin… the list is end­less and to pick one would be so hard! Each role has a spe­cial attach­ment to it, either a spe­cial part­ner, an unfor­get­table moment, or just sheer fun.

 Gary Avis answers the Gramilano Questionnaire… Dancers’ Edition

Gary Avis with Dar­cey Bus­sell dur­ing her Farewell per­form­ance at the Royal Opera House in 2007

My main roles now are full of char­ac­ter, which I love and I feel most com­fort­able doing. My dan­cing exper­i­ences in all com­pan­ies have been incred­ible and so var­ied but to dance with and part­ner Dar­cey Bus­sell on her Farewell per­form­ance in Song of the Earth as Man at the Royal Opera House, live on BBC2, I guess has to be the ulti­mate dance exper­i­ence ballet-wise.

What role have you never played but would like to?
Widow Simone (La fille mal gardée), Rudolph (May­er­ling), One­gin, Lead Man in Vol­un­tar­ies… I’m sure I could think of many more.

What’s your favour­ite bal­let to watch?
One­gin. Every time I watch I see and feel some­thing dif­fer­ent from all the vari­ous casts I’ve had the pleas­ure to watch. Every­one has a dif­fer­ent inter­pret­a­tion and its amaz­ing to see it liv­ing and breath­ing! I also abso­lutely love watch­ing Vol­un­tar­ies. And I get enorm­ous pleas­ure from all the won­der­ful bal­lets that the Royal Bal­let have in rep: Ashton, Mac­Mil­lan, Wheel­don, Mar­ri­ott, McGregor.

Who is your favour­ite cho­reo­grapher?
… it has to be per­sonal, and I guess if you’ve danced in a bal­let cho­reo­graphed espe­cially for you, or had the good for­tune to have been in the room with the cho­reo­grapher of a piece you’re dan­cing, then it becomes very per­sonal. So for me, Ashton, Mac­Mil­lan, Mar­ri­ott, Wheel­don and Bruce come imme­di­ately to mind!

Who is your favour­ite writer?
Not neces­sar­ily my favour­ite, as time to immerse myself heav­ily into a book is rare, but crime writer Hen­ning Mankell is a reg­u­lar read of mine, and any­thing to do with archi­tec­ture and build­ings is of huge interest.

Who is your favour­ite actor?
Johnny Depp, purely because I love the way he can morph into any and every role he under­takes. I sadly don’t get enough time to watch too many non-ballet per­form­ances and so I have to admit my know­ledge of act­ors is very limited!

What is your favour­ite book?
I love my archi­tec­tural and design books but don’t have a favour­ite, as I learn so much from each book I own. I don’t have a favour­ite novel or bio­graphy, but take great pleas­ure in everything I read!

What is your favour­ite film?
Half a Six­pence (the first musical I was ever in, so I watched it many times!); Bel­leville Rendezvous-Vous (anim­a­tion); The Illu­sion­ist (anim­a­tion); Up (anim­a­tion) … there’s a trend hap­pen­ing here!!!

Which is your favour­ite city?
Lon­don (my homet­own), New York and Hong Kong (because of the build­ings!), and Venice (because that is where I pro­posed to my partner).

What do you dis­like about your­self?
I am way too sens­it­ive about EVERYTHING and I allow too many things and people to get me down. I have a ter­rible inab­il­ity to say how I feel about things some­times! I get extremely emo­tional, very eas­ily. I also dis­like the fact that I still bite my nails at my age!!!

 Gary Avis answers the Gramilano Questionnaire… Dancers’ Edition

Dar­cey Bus­sell and Gary Avis at the Clos­ing Cere­mony of the 2012 Olympic Games in London

What was your proudest moment?
Part­ner­ing Dar­cey Bus­sell dur­ing her Farewell per­form­ance which was Song of the Earth at the Royal Opera House, Cov­ent Garden.

Dan­cing with and part­ner­ing Dar­cey Bus­sell at the Clos­ing Cere­mony of the 2012 Olympic Games in London.

Walk­ing 50km and rais­ing £8,000 and devis­ing and dan­cing in Gary Avis & Friends Bal­let Gala and rais­ing £50,000 for a char­ity that I’m Pat­ron to: The Hun­ger Project.

When and where were you hap­pi­est?
I’m most happy in two very spe­cial places:

1: On stage, in whatever theatre, in whatever city, in whatever country.

2: In my little cot­tage, in my home county of Suf­folk with my part­ner Tim and our 2 ador­able mini-schnauzers Ella & Louis.

What or who is the greatest love of your life?
My part­ner Tim Holder and of course, Ella & Louis! I should also add that the buzz that I get from per­form­ing is a love so power­ful and one that I crave! It has no rhyme or reason, but I love it!”

What is your greatest fear?
Fall­ing! I am not good with heights but for some strange reason I love going to the top of tall build­ings and tak­ing in the view… can’t look down though.

Fail­ing! I worry so much about so many things, I con­stantly con­cern myself with things that are some­times out of my con­trol and now as Bal­let Mas­ter at the Royal Bal­let I worry about many more things than I should. I endeav­our to do my best at everything I tackle on a daily basis and fail­ure is not an option!

If you could change one thing about your­self, what would it be?
To stop being so sens­it­ive and not allow so many things to upset me. To stop wor­ry­ing and believe in myself a bit more.

What do you con­sider your greatest achieve­ment?
Being able to do a job that I love and respect and con­tinu­ally find chal­len­ging and enlightening.

What is your most treas­ured pos­ses­sion?
Inter­est­ing ques­tion. I don’t neces­sar­ily have one thing that I treas­ure more than any other. I am rather a hoarder so have many, many things that remind me of events, adven­tures and people. For example, I have every single pro­gramme of every pro­duc­tion I’ve ever taken part in. And I have things that belonged to my brother and my mum, spe­cial things that are treas­ured because they passed away a few years ago, but to pin­point one thing that is my ‘most’ treas­ured thing is extremely difficult.

What is your greatest extra­vag­ance?
Free time! Whenever I have free time — or as I call it, ‘Gary time’ — I indulge in doing things I want. To me that is an extra­vag­ance because its very rare to have down time to be able to social­ize or relax. The job of Prin­cipal Char­ac­ter Artist and Bal­let Mas­ter with the Royal Bal­let is all con­sum­ing and once you’re in the Opera House in the morn­ing it’s very rare you leave before 10.45pm at night! If my time isn’t spent in the rehearsal stu­dio, it’s spent in the office arran­ging and rearran­ging cast­ing, catch­ing up with notes and study­ing for the forth­com­ing rep.

On what occa­sion do you lie?
I don’t think I lie: there are times when I’ve been caught at the front of the stu­dio not know­ing every count or every step and people find that very hard to under­stand or com­pre­hend — because if you’re Bal­let Mas­ter you should know everything — but I am hon­est and admit it. I’m not a machine, I don’t know everything!! So no, I don’t lie, I just own up and am honest.

If you hadn’t been a dan­cer what would you have liked to do?
I would have liked to have been an archi­tect! Sadly too late now.

What is your most marked char­ac­ter­istic?
Sens­it­iv­ity, Patience, Eager­ness, Per­fec­tion­ist, Mood-swings, Fiery, Sens­it­iv­ity, Sens­it­iv­ity!!! (read­ing those back, I don’t sound very nice do I?)

What qual­ity do you most value in a friend?
Under­stand­ing­ness. They have to under­stand that if your a dan­cer and per­former then dan­cing takes over your life and your timetable changes some­times at a moment’s notice, and it’s very hard to arrange spend­ing time together. I also like friends to be hon­est and truth­ful. Can’t bare back-stabbers and gossips!

What qual­ity do you most value in a col­league?
Dis­cip­line, com­mit­ment and belief in what they’re doing. The abil­ity to take cor­rec­tions, apply them and retain inform­a­tion. Patience!

What do you most dis­like?
Rude­ness, Con­ceited­ness, Selfish­ness, Arguing and people who don’t give a damn!

What gift would you most like to have?
The right Lotto ticket! Pleeeeeease!

What’s your idea of per­fect hap­pi­ness?
Hap­pi­ness… spend­ing time in Suf­folk at the cot­tage with Tim, Ella & Louis; and being up on any stage per­form­ing, you can’t beat it!

How would you like to die?
Peacefully.

What is your motto?
“Keep Calm and Gary On!”

Gary Avis — a biography

Gary was born in Ipswich. He joined The Royal Bal­let in 1989, was pro­moted to Soloist in 1995, became Prin­cipal Char­ac­ter Artist in 2005, was made Assist­ant Bal­let Mas­ter in 2007, and became Bal­let Mas­ter in 2010.

His rep­er­tory includes Dros­sel­meyer, Von Roth­bart, Tybalt, Lord Cap­u­let, Mon­sieur G.M., Gaoler, Tsar Nich­olas, Step-Sister, Duch­ess, Madge, Dr Cop­pélius, Paris Singer, Kost­cheï, High Brah­min, Prince Gremin, The Man (Song of the Earth), DGV and Tsarina’s Slip­pers (Royal Opera).

He has cre­ated roles for and worked with Mac­Mil­lan, Tharp, Tet­ley, Mor­ris, Hynd, Bruce, Wheel­don, Tuck­ett, Bint­ley, Page and Marriott.

He co-founded K-Ballet, Japan, and has per­formed with the ENB. In 2011 he received an Hon­or­ary Doc­tor­ate from Uni­ver­sity Cam­pus Suf­folk and was awar­ded the Crit­ics’ Circle National Dance Award for Out­stand­ing Male Per­form­ance – Clas­sical. He partnered Dar­cey Bus­sell in the Viva la Diva Arena Tour, on Strictly Come Dan­cing and at the Lon­don 2012 Olympics Clos­ing Ceremony.

Gary is cur­rently the Bal­let Mas­ter and Prin­cipal Char­ac­ter Artist at the Royal Bal­let in London.

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