News: Gary Avis on 26 years with the Royal Ballet

Tuesday 12 May 2015 by Clare Evans

Gary Avis and Sarah Lamb in Polyphonia. Photo: Johan Persson

He’s the Royal Ballet’s go-to character dancer, and at 45, well past the expected retirement age. But Gary Avis isn’t showing any signs of slowing down, though he might be starting to show some wear… Here, he talks to the Telegraph about the physical and mental strain of being a professional ballet dancer, why he moved to the country, and what it’s been like to work with Wayne McGregor on Woolf Works.

McGregor’s choreography “is a big leap from that of most of my character roles. I often play old men or wizards but in this ballet I am dancing full out, and the routines are quick, and require split second timing. Also, there are mental challenges. I play the character of Richard Dalloway [from Woolf’s novel Mrs Dalloway], in one act – but a range of more abstract roles later in the piece.”

He has been dancing without a break for 26 years: in sport, his equivalent would probably be an elite marathon runner still going in his 60s.

To sustain the physical and mental energy needed, he has had to work out intensively. “I spend two hours every morning in the gym. I’ve learned that running on a treadmill is not good for me – too much pounding for my ankles and my knees. So I do 45 minutes on a cross trainer machine. Then I do a systematic stretching of my back, arms, chest, legs and use stretch-resistance exercise bands to build strength.

Read more: The Telegraph, 11 May 2015

The Royal Ballet’s Woolf Works is at the Royal Opera House from 11-26th May

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