When a 3-year-old begins dance lessons with dreams of being a star one day, most parents know it is an aspiration that most likely won't come true. For Elizabeth Gay, however, she knew her daughter, Avery, had a unique edge that has led her on an amazing journey as both a dancer and as a young philanthropist.
“Avery always wanted to be on stage and was a clear standout early on. As her mom, I looked for creative outlets for her, but bigger things were in store for her. She’s an attention-getter, and that truly comes alive on stage,” Elizabeth says.
Avery has performed on NBC’s Little Big Shots, The Steve Harvey Show, Fox’s So You Think You Can Dance and is currently on NBC’s World of Dance. She has won numerous scholarships and is the Dance Awards Junior Female Best Dancer and Youth America Grand Prix Nationals Gold medalist for Classical Pas De Deux. Perhaps most impressive about these accomplishments is Avery’s age: 14. That, and her humble nature.
“She’s very down-to-earth, quiet and not as extroverted as people would assume when they meet her. When people at the mall want her autograph, it makes her shy and uncomfortable, mostly because she has always strived to be a normal kid,” Elizabeth says.
Avery attends Pinnacle High School, and the administration is flexible with her schedule so she can attend classes and no longer be homeschooled. While it is a full community effort, she is loving school and making new friends. A sixth-generation Arizonian, Avery calls Scottsdale home and in her free time looks for ways to use dance as a charitable cause. Avery is working with a dance studio in Mexico to afford underprivileged children the opportunity to dance.
After her visit to Cabo San Lucas for Gala De Danza, Avery realized there were talented children who needed funds to attend dance courses at a prestigious studio there. The woman who owns the studio selects children to attend courses free of charge and provides them with transportation, clothing and teaches them nutrition along with their dance classes. At a cost of $1,000 per child, assistance was needed. Avery models for Second Skin Dancewear here in Arizona and partnered with them to begin raising funds to help support this program in Mexico.
“What motivated me to organize a fundraiser is 100 percent the children of Mexico," Avery says. "The woman in charge of the dance studio, Lulu, sacrifices so much to help these children living in poverty. It is eye-opening and makes you realize how many more advantages you have when you live in a comfortable and supportive environment like I do. The children are so excited and motivated by watching me dance. It feels very rewarding to help them, and I honestly cannot wait to return to Cabo San Lucas in April and present Lulu and Danza que de Esperanza with the proceeds we have collected.”
Avery feels lucky to be in a position to help others as well as motivate other young artists like her. Only a handful of kids in te United States have accomplished such large feats in both contemporary dance and ballet, and Avery says it was not an easy road.
“For years, I trained at a ballet studio that did not value the artistry I had at a very young age or my contemporary ballet accomplishments," she says. "It was difficult because I did not follow the typical path the studio wanted me to. I shed a lot of tears for being in that environment. The advice I would give younger dancers is to do what gives you joy. Take lots of ballet, but train in a studio that helps you achieve your goals. You do not have to attend a huge ballet studio to receive great training; you actually learn a great deal more in a smaller classroom. Injury has been a typical part of my journey, and you need to expect that, but I would also say go for it all. Don't feel pressured to just train in one style. Versatility is everything. Albert Cattafi was the first choreographer that gave me that important advice, and for me, it has proven to be very successful.”
Avery says what motivates her most is to inspire others. She craves performing on stage and making people have a reaction and feel emotions from her routines. She credits her mom and family for making sure she is surrounded with a wonderful team to assist her on her path. Her ballet teacher, Olga Tarasova, pushes her in a healthy way to achieve new heights in ballet. Itamar Stern with Foothills Sports Medicine has helped Avery through many injuries and prepares her for performances. Preston Miller out of Chicago travels to Arizona to work with Avery a few times a year as well as Christina Lyon and Josie Walsh out of LA who help with training and mentoring.
“I am blazing a very unconventional path in ballet, and these mentors believe I am the future of dance with my diversity of styles. I am so lucky to also have my sponsors, Second Skin Dancewear and Grishko USA,” Avery says.
Avery is a teenager who has taken the dance world by storm while also remaining true to herself and paying it forward with dancers who may not have the same opportunities that she has had. In the end, it is all about one detail: “The powerful feeling to hear the roar of applause for being recognized as the best at something you work hard at," she says.
Visit Avery’s main social media account on Instagram @averygayofficial.