Suffolk ballet star Gary Avis receives MBE at Buckingham Palace
- Credit: TIM HOLDER
A born and bred Ipswich dancer celebrating 30 years on stage has been presented with an MBE by the Queen.
Ballet star Gary Avis received his award – for services to dance and to charity in Suffolk – at Buckingham Palace on Thursday morning, as part of a ceremony which he described as “absolutely marvellous”.
The day got off to a tricky start when the fire alarm went off at the London hotel Gary had booked for his family and friends, meaning they were unable to check out or leave their luggage with staff as they had planned.
‘’It was all a bit of a panic as we all struggled to get there with everything, but the police and staff at the palace were really kind and helpful, they know exactly how to
put us at your ease. We couldn’t have wished for a more wonderful ceremony. It was really very special for everyone.’’
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Gary was particularly pleased to be accompanied by some of the most special people in his life, his partner Tim, father Rodney and original dance teacher from Ipswich, Linda Shipton.
Gary said: “I was so pleased to have Tim, my Dad and Linda with me. This is a day for sharing with people close to you. It was wonderful to have them there. “You don’t know who is going to be presenting the honour in advance, it could be Prince Charles or Prince William, but just before the ceremony was due to start we were told that her Majesty The Queen would be leading the ceremony that day.
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“I can’t tell how excited everyone was, all the people receiving award, it was just such a thrill for everyone.
“As we were driving up The Mall we did notice that The Royal Standard was flying over Buckingham Palace, which was the first sign that the Queen was actually at home, but as she is now in her nineties she rarely does these events so we still didn’t think it would be her really.”
He added: “I have met The Queen before over the years and danced for her, her late sister Princess Margaret and The Queen Mother, but you do forget just how tiny she is, but when she comes into the room, she has such an incredible presence and warmth, it is absolutely magical.’
‘’Her Majesty was very kind to me, she knew exactly who I was and why I was there and spent a good amount of time having a one-to-one conversation with me as she presented my MBE to me.
“It is such an honour to meet her again and something that I’ll never forget. I was just one of so many people being awarded and just hearing their stories of bravery and the brilliant things they have achieved, you think ‘can I really be up here too?’.”
Regarded as one of the greatest dance actors in the history of the Royal Ballet, Mr Avis has performed many major roles, inspired leading choreographers and partnered with esteemed ballerinas including Darcy Bussell.
Now the Company’s Ballet Master and Principal Character Artist, he has also performed with various companies around the world, and won the 2011 Critics’ Circle National Dance Award for Outstanding Male Performance (classical) and an Honorary Doctorate from University of Suffolk.
Not limited to the stage, Mr Avis has also done a great deal for charity – helping to launch a new Arts and Culture Fund for the Suffolk Community Foundation in 2015, for which he raised over £100,000 through two sell-out gala performances featuring Strictly Come Dancing’s Anton du Beke.