Lexington dancer, 77, is as active as ever

jwarren@herald-leader.comJuly 19, 2011 

  • Stand up, Lexington

    Men’s Health magazine ­recently named Lexington the least active city in the nation. Today we’re featuring the stories of two active Lexingtonians. Help us prove that Men’s Health — and ­Comedy Central’s ­Stephen ­Colbert, who mocked ­Lexington on his show — were wrong.

    In about 100 words, tell us how you get those ­endorphins pumping. We’ll collect the stories and send them to Men’s Health and Colbert. We might even publish a few in the newspaper and online. And we’ve created Stand Up, a Lexington Facebook page where you can post how you’re being active.

    Send information about your activity with your name and a daytime phone number to: standuplex@herald-leader.com. Fitness 19 will give an annual membership plus one free personal training session to the first 100 respondents.

Certainly, no one could ever accuse Mary Jo Holland of being inactive.

She is a dancer and has been for about as long as she can remember. She has taught dancing and aerobics to countless Lexingtonians since the 1950s and still performs regularly with the LAC Energizers, a seniors dance group that entertains at nursing homes, retirement centers and Thomson-Hood Veterans Center in Wilmore..

By the way, Holland will celebrate her 78th birthday next month.

She credits a lifetime of dancing and exercise with keeping her fit, active and vital.

"My daughter tells me, 'You walk like someone who's 100 years old, but when the music starts, you look like you're 16," Holland said, laughing.

"I've had three surgeries in the last 10 years, and in every case the surgeons said I came through well because I was in such good physical condition."

Holland grew up in a Lexington family in which most members "smoked and sat around and died young."

Determined to avoid that trap, she became active at an early age, became an avid dancer and was invited to teach dancing part-time when she was 15.

Holland opened her own Lexington dance school in 1955. For years, she choreographed the Miss Lexington Pageant, the annual Paris Lions Club show and other events.

Later, while living in California, she was asked to teach an aerobics and dance class for seniors. She also helped organize a seniors dance troupe that once performed in Las Vegas.

After returning to Lexington about 20 years ago, Holland taught aerobics for seniors at Lexington Athletic Club, which led to creation of the LAC Energizers.

"The first 15 minutes of aerobics class, I would have students warm up by doing country line dancing," she said. "The 15 minutes grew to 20 minutes, and when we got ready to do aerobics, half the students would leave. They liked the dancing better."

Holland agreed that too many folks weigh too much, but she said Men's Health magazine missed the mark in naming Lexington's the county's most sedentary city.

"I don't believe that at all," she said. "I live near Shillito Park, where they've built that nice new track, and you see people on it all the time."

As for herself, Holland says she'll keep spreading the word that exercise saves lives.

"I have so many friends my age who say, 'When are you going to quit all this jumping around?' I say, I'm never going to quit as long as my knees hold out."

Reach Jim Warren at (859) 231-3255 or 1-800-950-6397, Ext. 3255.

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