Handing over the keys to her dance studio opened up a greater world of art for Cindy Hollingsworth.
For decades she ran Hollingsworth Dance and Arts Studio in Martinsville with her husband, Ray, then alone after his death in 2008. She sold the studio a few years after he died to Felicia Childress (who sold it to Mandy Frazier this spring).
Since then, Hollingsworth has written and published nine children’s books, created several paintings and performed in community theater.
Hollingsworth grew up in Jamestown, N.C., a lover of dance since she was 4 years old — after the first six months of the dance class her mother made her take, which she spent sitting on the teacher’s lap crying, she said.
She attended Women’s College, now the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. When she was a sophomore, her mother suggested she study dance under Ray Hollingsworth, who had opened a studio in High Point, N.C.
Cindy Hollingsworth ended up teaching ballet there, and she and he became dance partners, performing locally.
Although he was 14 years older and “all the women were wild about him,” she said, he began to pursue her during her senior year. Although she was skeptical at first, she ended up marrying him after her graduation.
Through teaching dance the couple met Marilyn "Monnie" Hooker of Martinsville. Hooker suggested they open a dance school in Martinsville, promising they would have 100 students the day they opened the door, Hollingsworth said.
They did, and the rest is Martinsville history.
The dancing duo moved to the city in 1967.
Hollingsworth still is involved with dance, in a smaller way, teaching ballet at the Creative Arts Center in Stuart.
“Walking away from it [the studio] is when I needed to walk away from it,” Hollings-worth said. “Once I didn’t have that studio I was freed” to explore other forms of artistic expressions.
She created songs for dance instruction. Their rhythms were ideal for movement, and the lyrics could fit certain circumstances, such as “Whirlybird” for choosing line leaders.
Out of that inspiration came a coloring book for children, a guide for dance teachers and a CD called “Songs in My Head” in 2011. It was a team effort.
Jeannie Mann of Henry County wrote out the musical notes of the tunes Hollingsworth created. Devin Pendleton, now the director of campus life at Patrick Henry Community College, laid out the pages of the book. Elva Adams made a website. Singers are Hollingsworth, Cathy Watkins, Jessica Fielding, Bryan Dunn, Jade Crouch, Charles Cooper (who also played guitar), Mann and Chloe Crouch.
“Songs in My Head” has been useful in her dance instruction, she said.
With that project complete, in 2014 she published her first children’s book, “Herman the Hermit Crab,” which actually came from a poem she had written in 1982 about a real-life experience.
It is an account, in rhyme, of “an amazing event to unfold before” her eyes.” While at the beach she saw a group of hermit crabs, one without a shell.
She found a shell and presented it to him, and he got in it.
That piece would be tricky to get it illustrated in just the right way, making a crab look realistic yet lovable, she said. Jennifer Tipton Cappoen pulled it off, and Hollingsworth was so happy with her drawings that she had Cappoen illustrate her following books too.
That started her on a line of books that would lead to her ninth, “A Teddy for Freddie,” which was released last week.
Her publisher is Paws and Claws Publishing LLC of High Point, N.C.
Among her other children’s books was “Westie Tales” (2016), inspired by her two dogs, which won the Maxwell Medallion of the Dog Writers Association of America.
It “tells the story of a day in our life,” she said, and stresses proper pet care.
“Herman the Hermit Crab: A Reel Dilemma” was inspired by a phone call from Graham Parks.
“Mr. G,” as he is called in the introduction to the story, caught a crab on his fishing line. “Though I doubt it’s the same Herman, to my way of thinking, it is,” she wrote in the introduction, which features a picture of Parks fishing.
Her newest book, “A Teddy for Freddie,” is the first that isn’t in rhyme – except, of course, for the title, which just was coincidental, she said.
That book is about “bestest” friends Freddie and Sarah, who love to draw crazily colorful animals in art class. Sarah creates a card to give Freddie, who misses school while spending time in the hospital.
“A Teddy for Freddie” is available through Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Reflections in Martinsville.
As a dance-stage veteran she tackled theater in 2012, with her first TheatreWorks Community Players show, “A Christmas Pudding.” She enjoyed it far more than she had expected she would, she said.
“I never actually liked performing. My husband was the performer,” she said.
She decided to take it on when she “got old enough where I just didn’t have the responsibility to look a certain way anymore,” she said. “I had no idea I would love it.”
Her favorite role, she said, was Abby in “Arsenic and Old Lace.” “She was just a little old lady who had a great relationship” with her sister, played by Cathy Burton.
She has appeared in about nine shows, with both TheatreWorks Community Players and the Patriot Players.
Although she paints and writes and acts, her soul remains that of a dancer.
“You can still feel all of that movement inside you. It will never go away,” she said.
Note: Corrects an earlier misspelling of Marilyn Hooker's nickname.
Holly Kozelsky is a writer for the Martinsville Bulletin; contact her at 276-638-8801 ext. 243.