At 100 years old, Henry Danton is still the center of attention in the ballet studio, now full of students one-fifth his age.
The British-born centenarian said he has a healthy body and mind, lives on his own, loves his smartphone, hasn’t been to the doctor in 10 years and still travels the world, with trips to London and South America coming up this fall.
When a reporter called him amazing, he was quick to disagree.
You’ve been given this wonderful instrument, you have to look after it.”
He also bristled at the thought of stopping work.
After dancing and teaching in Europe, North America, South America and Australia, Danton moved to Mississippi in 1996.
“(We) eagerly invited him to work with our students.”
Danton taught ballet technique classes at the school and, last month, he also staged and led daily rehearsals for ballet pieces that will be a part of the Belhaven University Fall Dance Concert in November.
Danton said he became a vegetarian more than 50 years ago when he was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma, the same illness that took his brother’s life.
“I came as close to dying as I think anyone can,” Danton recalled.
“I got well by holistic means … I was very lucky.”
He stopped eating red meat, fish and poultry at age 49 and hasn’t consumed any animal flesh since, he said.
Danton likes to “live on se and nuts,” enjoys organic vegetables, drinks lots of carrot juice and consumes dairy including cheese and milk. He also occasionally eats chocolate, but stays away from other sweets in his regular diet.
He likes beer — “like a good Englishman” — but skips other alcoholic drinks.
Swimming is the best workout after ballet, Danton said.
He still gets some of his exercise from teaching and composing his class for the day. He also has an extensive morning routine centered on a deep tissue massage he gives himself before getting out of bed.
Because he massages each body part a certain number of times, which he has to count, Danton said he has to concentrate in a way that helps his mind stay active. Another part of his busy morning routine involves stretching with an elastic resistance band.
After all his morning exercises, he said he never eats breakfast before 11 a.m.
Positive outlook on life:
Danton is an optimist, which he called a “very important” factor in his longevity.
It must be awful.”
He has a computer and an iPhone, immediately suggesting that a caller switch to FaceTime during a recent conversation. And he loves his phone’s virtual assistant.
“Siri amazes me. She answers you immediately,” he said.
You have to be informed about everything.”
In his whole life, Danton said he has only smoked one cigarette.
“When I arrived in the United States in 1949, everyone was smoking,” he recalled. “I thought, ‘Well I have to smoke,’ so I bought a pack of cigarettes, went to a park, had one cigarette and said, ‘That’s not for me.
’ So I was lucky.”
Danton hasn’t been to see a doctor in a decade, he said, only running into his primary care physician a few years ago when he was getting a flu shot.
The doctor has since retired.
He lives on his own and still drives a car.
His sister recently died at the age of 92 and he doesn’t have any other family other than distant cousins. Besides teaching ballet, Danton fills his days with writing — he wrote most of his memoir, but stopped at 32 chapters — and traveling.