Ipswich ballet star on the big screen

CELEBRATED Suffolk dancer Gary Avis is starring in The Nutcracker ballet being broadcast live from the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden to Cineworld, in Ipswich.

Lynne Mortimer

CELEBRATED Suffolk dancer Gary Avis is starring in The Nutcracker ballet being broadcast live from the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden to Cineworld, in Ipswich.

On Sunday, December 28, his home town is one of a number of venues around the country where people can go along to their local cinema to see the Royal Ballet's acclaimed production.

Gary, principal character artist and assistant ballet master with the company, did his early training at the Linda Shipton School of Dance in Ipswich.

As one of the Royal Ballet's most accomplished artists, he has partnered many of the leading ballerinas of the day including Darcey Bussell.

Gary is regarded as one of the finest exponents of many character roles, including the pivotal part of Drosselmeyer in Nutcracker - the part he is dancing in the performance on December 28.

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His reviews for this production include Judith Mackrell in The Guardian: “... when you get Gary Avis as Drosselmeyer, straining every sinew to command the deep magic that will rescue Hans-Peter from his curse, you not only catch echoes of the more sinister Hoffmann tale on which the ballet is based - you also get a much bigger thrill from the visual dazzle of the stage effects.”

And Debra Craine in the Times: “From its liberal sprinkling of magic dust to the touching love story at its heart, this is the finest Nutcracker in the land… Gary Avis makes for an especially affecting Herr Drosselmeyer, bringing the story to life with his wily tricks and passionate orchestration of Clara's fantastical journey to the Land of Snow and the Kingdom of Sweets.”

The ballet tells the story of a young girl, Clara, who is given a magical nutcracker toy for Christmas by the mysterious Drosselmeyer.

On the stroke of midnight there is a magical transformation and Clara finds herself involved in a battle between the Nutcracker, who has come to life, and the forces of the Mouse King.

The classic Christmas ballet, it all ends happily, of course. Tchaikovsky's music for the ballet has some of the best known tunes including the Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy, played on the celeste.

Also on stage for the live broadcast next Sunday are soloist Helen Crawford and dancer and choreographer Liam Scarlett, also from Ipswich.

For some performances of The Nutcracker, Gary swaps roles and plays the Father and lead Arabian in the Arabian dance. It makes Christmas one of the busiest times for the dancer - who this year also guest-starred in the Viva la Diva tour with Darcey Bussell and Katherine Jenkins and performed at Buckingham Palace for Prince Charles' 60th birthday.

He says: “Last week I gave a masterclass, with Genesia Rosato, on creating a character, in the Clore studio at the opera house and, as well as performing in Nutcracker I am rehearsing for roles in Isadora, DGV, Seven Deadly Sins, Carmen and Bayadere. As well as dancing in Bayadere, I am rehearsing other members of the cast in my role as assistant ballet master.”

“I haven't even written my Christmas cards yet,” he laughs.

n Gary Avis appears in Royal Ballet's production of The Nutcracker, broadcast live from the Royal Opera House to Cineworld, Ipswich on Sunday, December 28, at 12.15pm.