Villager Violet Ray’s passion, dancing, makes her feel healthy and youthful.
As a toddler growing up in Houston, Violet Ray was so pigeon-toed she kept tripping over her own feet. Her mother didn’t want her to wear corrective braces, however, so she put Violet in dance class at age 2½.
A childhood hindrance, ironically, helped spur Violet’s lifelong passion for dancing. Not coincidentally, she also found a great way to stay fit, healthy, and vibrant well into her 60s.
Violet, 65, leads the Aloha ‘O Ka Hula Dance Troupe and Shaka Crew jazz dance group in The Villages, and she’s also a member of Evolution Dance Company, another club that dabbles in several different dance styles.
She lives with her husband, Bill, in the Village of Hadley. In the 55-plus community, of course, residents age 65 and older represent the majority, according to census figures. Like most Villagers, Violet intends to stay active as long as possible.
“Not everybody has the same interests, but being active, enjoying what you’re doing, and having fun is another key to being healthy,” she says. “And laughing a lot. I love to laugh.”
Dancing also helps her feel younger, she says. Violet says she wouldn’t resort to surgery to look younger, but she takes a common-sense approach by using lotions and staying out of the sun to protect her skin, dieting to shed those few extra pounds, and always trying to look her best.
“If you look good, you feel good, right?” she says.
Dancing is the only exercise Violet has time for, and probably the only one she needs. She believes dance can add years to her life because “it’s so positive” and provides mental as well as physical benefits.
“You have to remember your steps. Your mind has to really work; it’s not only your feet and body,” she says.
After those initial baby steps in dance class in Texas, Violet continued to dance through grade school and in the modern dance club in high school, before graduating and marrying. Though she never danced professionally, Violet became more active on the dance floor in her early 40s, when she started competing in line dancing and country and western couples dancing.
During a competition around 1997 in Las Vegas, one of the judges came over to Violet, now divorced from her first husband.
“He said he couldn’t take his eyes off me,” Violet says.
That judge was Bill, who would become her new husband. They later vacationed in Hawaii and decided to move there because of the laid-back island vibe. Violet studied for six years under hula masters such as Johnny Lum Ho and choreographed performances. She and Bill also taught line dancing.
The couple moved nine years ago to The Villages, where Violet immediately filled a void among the social clubs by starting her hula troupe.
“I love all dances, but I really love hula and I didn’t want to lose that,” she says.
She loves everything about hula: “The music and the movements. You dance to the words of the song, so each song is different. You’re interpreting the words of the song you’re dancing to. It’s calming. It’s soothing. It makes you feel good.”
This summer, Violet returned to Maui on vacation. She travels regularly, and stays busy with four children and five grandchildren.
Both the Aloha ‘O Ka Hula and Shaka Crew dance teams perform full-scale shows in The Villages, and Shaka Crew is in rehearsals for Halloween performances. Plantar fasciitis, or heel and foot pain, sidelined Bill from the dance floor, but he emcees Violet’s shows.
As a choreographer, Violet is having a blast while working on “Young Frankenstein, the Musical,” scheduled for Oct. 15-17 at Savannah Center. Soon she will hit the basketball court for a fifth year as a dancer with the Orlando Magic Silver Stars during the NBA season.
Obviously, she has no plans to leave the stage anytime soon.
“I’ll keep dancing until either my mind gives out or my legs do,” she says.
Those early dance classes must have helped.
“I’m still pigeon-toed but not as much as I used to be,” she says, laughing. “I don’t trip over my feet anymore.”