Flight of the Mary Bee
Mary Bee Jensen, founder of BYU’s world-renowned International Folk Dance Ensemble, may now stand at the brink of 100 years old, but there is nothing teetering about her. “I drive my own car, live in my own home, and maintain a Facebook page,” says the self-described firecracker, whom everyone knows simply as Mary Bee. “I have great luncheon dates with my dancers, dote on nine grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren, and continue to move full speed ahead.”
“Full speed ahead” is an apt summary of the life of the woman who dreamed up BYU’s monumental folk-dance program—385 students strong at its peak—marching, twirling, and clogging a million steps across the globe in tour after international tour. Along the way she spread goodwill for the United States, the Church, and BYU and touched thousands of student lives.
“The Lord put me here on earth to influence and be a force for good for young people,” Mary Bee says. “I wanted ‘my kids’ to experience the best of life, and dance was the vehicle.”
Now 60 years after founding the program, Mary Bee Jensen is still influencing those kids—many now retirees themselves. Hundreds plan to join her in May for her birthday bash, where there’s been talk of dancing. For Mary Bee Jensen, who calls herself a “perpetual mover,” 100 is not too old to dance.