With ’90s pop and R&B music playing, Gerald Avery began dancing at a young age for fun, but it was not until college that he started taking professional dance classes.
A Wisconsin native, Avery was born in Milwaukee and raised in Oshkosh. He never planned to go to college after high school.
“I didn’t want to go to school. I actually was not a fan of school until college. But, my brother was a musician there at Stevens Point, and I followed him everywhere. When he went to college I was like, ‘well I guess I’ll go to college,’” Avery said.
Originally a business administration major at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, Avery immediately switched to the dance program when he found it was an option.
He was involved in several dance productions while in college, including the annual Afterimages and Danstage shows.
“I appreciated and admired Gerald’s consistent focus, dedication and discipline. When he didn’t grasp something at first he kept trying until he did. It was important to him to create and move from a place of honesty and integrity, and this became his standard,” said Joan Karlen, one of his dance professors.
Karlen worked closely with Avery in classes, rehearsals and dance productions from 2004 to 2008.
During his time at UWSP, Avery said his professors and training has had a significant, long-term impact on him.
“There is not anything that I do now either in dancing or in life that I do not hear their voices in my head. They are still with me even though it has been seven years since I have graduated,” Avery said.
After graduation, Avery knew he wanted a more mainstream professional dance career. While still in school, he spent many of his summers and winter breaks in Chicago and New York City taking classes and gaining as much outside experience as possible.
Beginning the summer after his sophomore year, he began working at Playland Amusement Park in Rye, New York. Avery took classes while at the theme park, which was about 20 minutes away from New York City.
After graduating in May of 2008, Avery moved to New York and worked at Playland again for the summer. Breaking into the professional dance world was no easy feat for him.
“After the theme park, I was very stubborn, and I knew that I didn’t want to accept just any job. I wanted one of my first jobs to be a big one. So, for the first year, I was auditioning like crazy. I probably went on five auditions a week,” Avery said.
On May 19, 2009, exactly a year after his college graduation, Avery booked “Spiderman Turn Off the Dark” on Broadway.
As a professional dancer, Avery enjoys the variety of people he meets everyday from his fellow cast to the audience members of each performance.
“When people come to New York, everyone wants to check out Broadway, and it’s people from all over the world. I did not grasp that concept until I started. Coming from Wisconsin that was a big deal to me, seeing all these different kinds of people, and it was awesome and wonderful,” Avery said.
After the production of “Spiderman Turn Off the Dark” closed in 2013, Avery said he was lucky to book his next role in Broadway’s “Motown the Musical.”
As of September of 2015, Avery is now in his third Broadway production, “Hamilton.”
In the coming years, Avery hopes to bring what he has learned in the professional dance world back to the classroom and begin teaching.
“It has been a crazy 10 years, and I have made some awesome memories. I think now because of my body I am ready to rest it and give it a break, and I want to share some of the things I have learned with the next generation of dancers,” Avery said.