Royal Ballet's Gary Avis returns to Ipswich theatre

Image caption,
Avis performed in Ipswich in his youth with local theatre and musical groups

Royal Ballet principal dancer Gary Avis is returning to the Ipswich Regent stage for the first time in 22 years.

Two gala concerts featuring Angela Rippon as host and performer are taking place on Sunday in aid of The Hunger Project charity.

Avis performed at the theatre as a youngster with the Co-op Juniors and attended a local dance school.

He said: "I'm just thrilled that Suffolk audiences are going to be able to see world-class ballet."

Avis, 41, was a member of Ipswich Operatic & Dramatic Society, the Gallery Players and the Appeal Theatre.

He said: "Because I was shy and wouldn't dance at parties, my mum sent me to disco-dancing lessons and from then on I got the performing bug.

"I had experiences in my secondary school which weren't very favourable, just in respect of being a boy and dancing."

Avis's career has seen him work in the Royal Ballet and English National Ballet (ENB). Excerpts from their repertoires will be included in the show.

There will also be non-ballet dances to composers including Scott Joplin and Michael Nyman.

'Twice her weight'

"It's varied and we've tried to make it accessible to as many people as possible and we don't want people to be intimidated that it's too highbrow," said Avis.

He attended the Linda Shipton School of Dancing in his youth, and 20 dancers from the school will be involved in the show.

Rippon, who met Avis while she was on the board at ENB, was originally just going to be the host.

She said: "About four or five weeks ago he said he'd always wanted to dance with me, and I said, 'that's alright'.

"I watched a DVD of him on Darcey Bussell's Viva La Diva tour and said, 'you do realise I'm twice her age and probably twice her weight as well?', but he wasn't put off by that."

Meanwhile, it has been announced that Avis will be awarded an honorary degree by University Campus Suffolk at a ceremony this autumn.

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