Skip to main content
Dance News Archive

BYU Folk Dance Legend Mary Bee Jensen Passes Away

BYU alumna and founder of the International Folk Dance Ensemble Mary Bee Jensen passed away April 13, 2018. She was 100 years old.


Mary Bee receives flowers and a standing ovation after an early Christmas Around the World performance. Photo courtesy Mark Philbrick/BYU Photo.

Mary Bee, as she was known to her family, friends and dancers, came to work at the College of Physical Education to teach square dancing before receiving her Master of Arts in Recreation Education at BYU in 1963. One of her most long-lasting and notable achievements was the formation of the International Folk Dancers in 1956. The program is the largest of its kind in the country due to Mary Bee’s willingness to fund the first international tours herself and her commitment to training the group both on and off the stage as ambassadors of the LDS Church, BYU and the United States.

While under her leadership, the International Folk Dancers traveled outside of the U.S. over 20 times. In addition to international tours, Mary Bee’s students performed at the Kennedy Center, Lincoln Center and in television performances seen in Bucharest, Moscow, Poland, Bulgaria and Hungary.

Mary Bee also co-founded the National Folk Organization and served as its president after retiring from BYU in 1985. She was also a member of the Worldwide Association for the Performing Artists Board of Advisors and was the first American appointed to the World Congress as a delegate to the Council of International Organizations of Folklore Festivals (CIOFF®). She served in this position for fourteen years and received the CIOFF® Gold Award for Meritorious Service.

Mary Bee’s impact on dance at BYU and the dancers she taught will not be forgotten. She leaves a legacy of dedication and love of dance through her BYU students and countless other individuals and organizations. More information about Mary Bee’s life and accomplishments can be found in BYU Magazine and on HFAC50.

A memorial gathering will be held this Saturday, April 21 from 9-10:30 a.m. at Sunset Heights Stake Center in Orem located at 1260 South 400 West, followed by a funeral at 11