Born in Ipswich, he began studying dance locally at the age of 12, later attending the Doreen Bird College of Performing Arts in Sidcup, Kent. Whilst studying at the college, he was encouraged to audition for the Royal Ballet School and was successful in winning a place. He spent a year training at the school before joining The Royal Ballet in September 1989. He was promoted to First Artist in September 1993 and Soloist in September 1995. He left the company in January 1999 to become one of the founders of K-ballet in Japan. In 2002 he joined English National Ballet as a First Soloist and rejoined The Royal Ballet in September 2004. He is currently a Principal Character Artist and Ballet Master.
Avis received the Critics' Circle National Dance Award 2011 for Outstanding Male Performance (Classical).