You are not permitted to download, save or email this image. Visit image gallery to purchase the image.
But a whirlwind year as a Royal New Zealand Ballet apprentice has brought the now 21-year-old, one step closer to his dreams of leading a career as a full-time professional ballet dancer.
Now, the upcoming dancer, who grew up in Riccarton, will return to the city next month as part of the Royal New Zealand Ballet’s production of Hansel & Gretel.
Alongside Gray, fellow apprentice Teagan Tank, formerly of Redwood, will also return to the city for the production.
Gray will form the corps de ballet playing the role of one of the witches’ gingerbread men.
Based in Wellington, Gray, a former Anneliese Gilberd Academy dancer, said he is excited to be travelling back to the city.
“I can never pinpoint why – there is something about the city I like,” he said.
Gray has described the past year with RNZB as “refreshing” after training with the New Zealand School of Dance for three years before graduating with a classical major.
“It motivates me to want to keep pursuing this and keep progressing,” he said.
While Gray has spent a lot of the year watching and learning from the other full-time dancers, he has had the opportunity to perform in each of the RNZB’s national productions this year.
This includes Bold Moves, Black Swan, White Swan and Tutus on Tour 2019.
“I never expected to get into the RNZB or knew where dancing would take me but I am truly grateful to keep dancing and to work with the RNZB.”
He said one of the biggest transitions moving from the New Zealand School of Dance to the RNZB is managing his day-to-day physical routine outside of his six-hour weekday rehearsals with the company.
“You have to keep yourself physically in shape . . . in the company you are expected to look after yourself more,” Gray said.
He first started training in ballet at the age of eight before realising he wanted to dance professionally at the age of 14.
Gray said he would like to encourage more people to dance in general – but particularly for other boys his hope is they will try a range of physical sports from a young age.
Gray said while he did get picked on for doing ballet when he was younger – it never came from a place of malice.
“These young kids just didn’t really understand what I was doing.
“By the time I took up full-time training the majority of people who knew me knew what I did and had a lot of respect for me for moving away from home . . . they were almost envious I had something I wanted to do.”
•Hansel &Gretel runs at the Isaac Theatre Royal from November 21-23. To book tickets go to https://isaactheatreroyal.co.nz