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100-Year-Old Ballet Star and Teacher Never Plans to Retire — and Shares Secrets to Longevity

Claudia Harmata

At 100-years-old, British-born ballet phenomenon Henry Danton is healthy and thriving — and he can’t fathom retiring from his job as a ballet teacher.

“I see people who retire and they become so bored, they don’t know what to do with themselves,” Danton told Today. “That’s when their health starts to go down.”

The former international dancer celebrated his 100-year milestone on March 30, 2019. Born in London in 1919 — just three months before World War I formally came to an end with the signing of the Treaty of Versailles — Danton went on to train in classical ballet at the Royal Academy of Dancing in the 1940s, WLBT reported.

After just 18 months with the academy, he became a marvel that graced stages around the world.

When his time on stage came to an end, he began teaching, training dancers at Fokine School of Ballet, Ballet Arts, Carnegie Hall and Julliard before moving to Mississippi in 1996. Making Hattiesburg his home, the centenarian just completed his residency at the Belhaven University Dance Department in Jackson and continues to teach ballet around the state.

“I love teaching, I don’t want to stop,” he told Today. “Children are my vitamin.”

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Henry Danton in 1946 | Baron/Hulton Archive/Getty
Henry Danton in 1946 | Baron/Hulton Archive/Getty

He credits taking care of his body as the secret to his long life and his ability to continue pursuing his passion, telling Today that there is nothing “amazing” about his situation.

“It’s not amazing, you have to take care of yourself,” Danton told Today. “This body is the only thing you’ve got. You’ve been given this wonderful instrument, you have to look after it.”

When it comes to fine-tuning his “wonderful instrument,” Danton explains that focusing on diet, exercise and maintaining a positive outlook on life are all vitally important.

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Henry Danton | David Sprayberry/Belhaven University
Henry Danton | David Sprayberry/Belhaven University

After being diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma over 50 years ago, the dancer became a vegetarian, though he still enjoys a beer “like a good Englishman.” Being a teacher keeps him constantly on the move, which he said is critical in keeping his body healthy.

“I really, absolutely believe exercise is the answer to everything,” he told Today.

Just as important as keeping your body active is keeping your mind active, he said, emphasizing that staying optimistic has been “very important” for his health.

“There’s absolutely no point in making your life miserable,” he explained. “Your mood affects you physically, absolutely.”

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When he’s not teaching, he spends his time traveling the world, driving his car or learning new things from Siri, he told Today.

“Siri amazes me. She answers you immediately,” he said. “The internet is absolutely incredible. Anything you want, you can have it instantly … That’s what keeps me going. You have to be informed about everything.”

Henry Danton
Henry Danton

He also began writing a memoir, reflecting on his life and career, and has some advice for aspiring dancers.

“Make sure that that’s what you want to do and you have a passion for it,” Danton told WLBT. “I think the most important thing if you want to be a professional dancer you have to have a passion for it. You have to want to do that and nothing else.”