gary avis He may be one of the Royal Ballet’s most experienced dancers, having first joined the company 20 years ago, but Gary Avis is suffering from some severe stage fright. “Are you hating it already?” he worries, as he wraps mozzarella-stuffed chicken in bacon. “I’m not used to performing like this.” Which isn’t to say he doesn’t cook. “When I have the time it’s great,” he says, sliding the chicken into the oven with an “oh God, let this work!”, but, as he whispers of late-night cereal, it’s obvious he doesn’t get the time. His partner is “brilliant” in the kitchen, though the nature of a dancer’s schedule means they hardly ever get to eat together. A principal character artist, Gary doesn’t dance every night, but by the time he’s finished rehearsals at 6.30pm, it’s often close to 8.30pm by the time he gets home – midnight after a performance, once he’s taken off the make-up used to transformed him into the duke, magician or whoever he’s been that night. “Sometimes I eat quite normally and other times I have to really regulate and make sure I’ve got enough pasta, carbohydrates, things like that, and just be aware of energy levels,” he says. “Most of the time I’m one of these people who doesn’t necessarily worry about what I eat.” Gary gives thanks to a quick metabolism, but like many dancers, he tends to graze during the day, as his schedule allows. “Bananas, yoghurt, peanuts for protein, stuff like that is really good. Big meals don’t work with rehearsal schedules.” After he left home at 16, Gary trained in musical theatre for a little over two years. He then auditioned for the Royal Ballet School, did one year with the upper school then was accepted straight into the company. It was an unusually fast progression for someone without an intensive ballet background. He left the Royal Ballet to help found a company in Japan, then was with the English National Ballet before returning to Covent Garden, where he is now a principal dancer and the assistant ballet master. His day begins, as everyone’s, with class. Then he may go to rehearsals and dance, or he may sit at the front of the studio and lead the rehearsal. Gary dances featured solo roles, but the magician rather than the prince, or a villain not the hero. It’s here his musical theatre background comes in handy. “I like having a story going on. My favourite roles have a character behind them. I like contemporary stuff but because the nature of most of that stuff nowadays is very athletic and gymnastic. I think I’ve had my time in that,” says the 39-year-old. “My body has changed.” “I almost now have the best of three worlds: I get to still dance and partner, which is brilliant; I get to do all the character roles, and there are some amazing roles; and I get to coach and teach. It’s my hobby but I get paid for it. I’m so fortunate because I absolutely love it; I wouldn’t do anything else,” he says, theatre training kicking in as he waits a comedy beat before muttering, “I certainly wouldn’t be a chef.”
Bacon-wrapped chicken Serves 2 (or 1 hungry dancer) • 2 chicken breasts, skin off • 1 ball of mozzarella, cut into 4–6 slices • 4 rashers smoked back bacon • 2 trusses cherry tomatoes • Extra-virgin olive oil • Green salad, to serve 1 Preheat oven to 180C/gas 4.
Place chicken breasts on a board, then make an incision down the top of each breast. Stuff each with half the mozzarella. 2 Tear out 2 pieces of tinfoil, and in the middle of each, line up 2 pieces of bacon, then place a chicken breast on each. Fold the bacon up around the breast to form a parcel, then fold up the sides of the tinfoil, leaving the bacon-wrapped chicken exposed. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. 3 Place the parcels in a small ovenproof dish, then cook for 30–40 minutes. After 20 minutes, top each chicken breast with a truss of cherry tomatoes. When the tomatoes are softened and chicken cooked through, remove from oven and tinfoil. Season, drizzle with olive oil and serve with a green salad. Per serving 504 cals, 33.9g fat (13.9g saturated), 47.1g protein, 2.6g carbs, 2.2g sugars
Published on Aug 17, 2009
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