Ballerina Avery Gay dances worldwide while taking online classes

Avery Gay is an accomplished ballerina from Scottsdale. (Submitted photo)

Back-to-school takes on a whole new meaning for eighth-grader Avery Gay, a ballerina, who dances around the world while taking online classes.

The Scottsdale resident attends the state-funded, Arizona Virtual Academy, an online public charter school that is not a homeschool program, according to a press release. The tuition-free, virtual public school uses the K12 curriculum guided by qualified teachers.

“A normal day is waking up and doing my schoolwork,” said Avery during a July 28 phone interview. “I do school for two hours then dance.”

Last year, Avery enrolled in AZVA since it is all online, allowing her to complete schoolwork anywhere with an internet connection any time of the day. Her practice schedule is always accommodated by the online school personnel, said her mother, Elizabeth Gay.

“It’s challenging because she’s at such a high level,” said Mrs. Gay of Avery’s rigorous 30-to-40-hour dancing regimen. “It’s a full-time job to manage her at this level.”

Avery says she is aiming to be the best at her craft.

“My ultimate goal is to be the best at classical ballet and contemporary. I want to exceed at both,” she said of her long-time pursuits.

Even though she sacrifices doing many things most children do her age, Avery appreciates the vast benefits.

“Sometimes kids will say, ‘Hey, you want to go to the movies?’ But, they don’t get all the opportunities that I have,” she said.

While managing Avery’s demanding schedule, Mrs. Gay stressed the importance of also balancing the family that consists of her husband, 16-year-old son and dog.

“I have to make sure they get equal attention. It’s a constant struggle,” said Mrs. Gay.

Performing worldwide by the time she was 12, the accomplished ballerina danced at the Youth America Grand Prix, the largest ballet competition in the world, in New York. She bested thousands of dancers nationwide to compete this year.

“My mom put me in dance class when I was really young and I fell in love with it,” Avery said. “I want to be perfect. It’s a great challenge.”

Avery fits her schoolwork in despite a busy travel and rigorous training schedule. The flexibility of the online education enables her to regularly travel to Portugal where she dances with Antonio Casalinho, 13, who lives there. In October, she and Antonio will perform at a gala in Vera Cruz, Mexico.

“When we went to Portugal, their Wi-Fi wasn’t working all the time,” Mrs. Gay said.

She added how understanding Avery’s teachers are and that it is a testament to the online program since Avery gets school credit for her special talents and interests that fulfill necessary arts and physical education requirements for them.

Mrs. Gay thanked the sponsors who assist with Avery’s goals including Master Ballet Academy, in Scottsdale, where she’s trained since she was seven; Second Skin Dancewear that makes her dance attire; Grishko Pointe that supplies her shoes since footwear can cost thousands of dollars.

“She goes through four-to-five pairs a month,” Mrs. Gay added. “It takes a community to get all of this stuff.”

Avery may be recognized by some who saw her featured on “The Steve Harvey Show,” “Little Big Shots” and “So You Think You Can Dance.”

“It was such a great experience. I loved it so much. They inspired me,” Avery said about her experience on SYTYCD and that she remains friends with those from the show.

Fortunately, AZVA allows Avery to pursue her passion for dance and satisfy her educational requirements according to grade level curriculum; lesson planning, supplementary materials. Participating pupils can also access a computer system if needed.

Like any state school, students’ knowledge and skills are measured by standardized tests, work samples, weekly assessments and school progress. There’s student-to-student interaction as teachers organize school outings to museums, roller- and ice-skating rinks, parks, zoos and other trips to connect families with the community, the release noted.


Independent Newsmedia News Services Specialist Delarita Ford can be reached by e-mail at

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