Suffolk Royal Ballet star Gary Avis awarded MBE in Queen’s Birthday Honours

Gary Avis pictured back in Suffolk. Photo: Phil Morley

Gary Avis pictured back in Suffolk. Photo: Phil Morley - Credit: Archant

Suffolk’s Royal Ballet star Gary Avis receives an MBE “for services to Dance, and to charity in Suffolk”.

Gary Avis watches rehearsals of the Co-op Juniors' production of Starlight Express. Photo: James Fle

Gary Avis watches rehearsals of the Co-op Juniors' production of Starlight Express. Photo: James Fletcher - Credit: Archant

The Ipswich-born dancer has enjoyed a critically acclaimed dance career spanning 29 years. Joining The Royal Ballet in 1989, he has performed most major roles, inspired leading choreographers and partnered with leading 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). He is regarded to be one of the greatest dance actors in the history of the Royal Ballet. He is a trustee and board member of DanceEast, bringing his distinguished experience to the work of the home of dance in the East of England. He helped launch a new Arts and Culture Fund for the Suffolk Community Foundation in 2015. In 2016 he raised over £100,000 for the Fund through two sell-out gala performances involving dancers from The Royal Ballet as well Anton du Beke and Joanne Clifton from Strictly Come Dancing.

Gary says he is still in shock and has been struggling to keep the news quiet. “It was a huge surprise that arrived out of the blue in the middle of a really heavy work schedule leading up to the opening our brand new Swan Lake. But, as soon as I digested what the letter said there’s a part of you that thinks: ‘Wait a minute, is this a wind-up?’ But, it wasn’t and I can’t thank enough, who ever it was that put me forward for this honour, because I am just doing something that I love.”

He believes that his honour is also a recognition of the fact that a boy from Whitton in Ipswich can aspire to reach the highest levels of a demanding profession. “But, I haven’t done it alone. Yes, I have put in a lot of hard work but that’s not everything, you need people to support you and recognise what you are trying to do, and I have been blessed by love, guidance and support from people like Linda Shipton, Ipswich Co-op Juniors where I learned my stage craft, The Gallery Players and Appeal Theatre companies, who gave me early roles. I have always tried to remain true to my roots and give something back to the county I love.” He hopes this honour will inspire other young dancers to reach for what seems impossible because “dreams do come true.”

Gary Avis chats to a member of the Co-op Juniors. Photo: James Fletcher

Gary Avis chats to a member of the Co-op Juniors. Photo: James Fletcher - Credit: Archant

Gary Avis as Von Rothbart in the Royal Ballet's new version of Swan Lake. Photo: Bill Cooper

Gary Avis as Von Rothbart in the Royal Ballet's new version of Swan Lake. Photo: Bill Cooper - Credit: Archant

Gary Avis as Von Rothbart in the Royal Ballet's new version of Swan Lake. Photo: Bill Cooper

Gary Avis as Von Rothbart in the Royal Ballet's new version of Swan Lake. Photo: Bill Cooper - Credit: Archant


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