Strictly Ballroom: Professor's "moonlighting life" revealed in Advocate-Messenger story
RELEASED: March 30, 2006
[Editor's note: Mykol Hamilton, Stodghill Professor of Psychology, was featured in a recent story about her second job as a dance instructor at Danville's Community Arts Center. We are reprinting the story with permission from the Advocate-Messenger.]
Couples have lots of reasons for learning to dance
By BOBBIE CURD
ABC's "Dancing with the Stars" has been a big ratings splash since it aired last summer. Could it possibly have some local effect on happy feet?
"Oh Lord, no," said Tesa Walls, 17, her arms propped on the shoulders of Sean Steininger, also 17. "I've just always liked dancing."
Walls and Steininger are not alone. They're prancing to "one, two, cha-cha-cha," thanks to Mykol Hamilton, a Centre College psychology professor who moonlights as a dance instructor. Walls laughs while Steininger looks straight ahead, his silver wallet chain bouncing against his jeans.
"And one, two, cha-cha-cha," Hamilton belts out from her small frame, whizzing through the room with arms around an imaginary partner. Her voice echoes off the wooden floors and the walls, brightly decorated with colorful paintings in the Community Arts Center. Stomping and laughter combine to make a buzz in the air.
Hamilton doesn't mind admitting the reality-like dancing show may have something to do with her current six-week series class, this time 34 members deep—more than she's seen in some time. She thinks viewing what others are able to accomplish with practice could have piqued some interest locally.
Hamilton was a national champion of dance while in the eighth and ninth grades, growing up in California. Her parents, Don and Mykol Sr., met at a USO dance in the '40s, married, and went on to teach dance. They have been dancing, teaching, and taking dance classes "from fancy pros," as Mykol Hamilton put it, for more than 60 years now.
"It must be in the genes," Don Hamilton, 86, says slowly, his mind elsewhere. He is staring at the floor, watching his daughter's students and analyzing their footwork. "No, no," he interrupts himself, hand on his forehead.
A couple slide over to him, the man offering the hand of his partner, saying "Don, can you help us get this?" He excuses himself politely as he jumps in for emergency instruction.
Don Hamilton thinks a back alley dance club should be formed somewhere in Danville by someone. It's just a shame that couples can't cut a rug anywhere locally. Maybe he'll start one, he says.
More men should learn.
Mykol Hamilton thinks more men should learn to dance, thinking out loud that maybe next time she'll offer a dance class for single folks.
Over to the side, there's a couple of women, one in her late 80s, dancing together. "That's really not uncommon," says Rebecca Gross. "The first time I took Mykol's class, I talked my daughter into taking it with me."
Gross is on her second semester and thinks the class stays crowded because of Mykol Hamilton's dance floor manner. "She makes it fun," Gross says.
Don and Barbara Carney agree. They've taken her class about 16 times and step in as her demonstration couple when needed. Don Carney asks: "Where else can you take your wife dancing six times for fifty bucks?"
"We do try to hit every Catholic wedding so we can use our skills at the reception," he laughs. "What else do you do when you get old ...."
Barbara Carney states it more eloquently. Nothing's more beautiful than seeing two people dance together, she says. "Well, it's a simpatico—you can just see and feel it."
There's definitely some of that in the air. Fred Smith, 35, and Kimmie Jo Jordan, 27, are "just friends," and she says it was all his idea to take dance lessons.
"Seeing as how I can't dance, I thought it would be a good idea," Smith says. They've been "just friends" for two years now, they say.
Another teen couple, Kassie Reep and David Trizna, both 16, are trying swing. Both are home-schooled and taking Hamilton's dance class for a humanities credit. Why not, they said.
Bruce Richardson, mayor of Perryville, slides over with his wife who's smartly dressed in a sherbet green sweater, lightly sprinkled with sequins. "I had a fractured back, and after I recuperated I came to the class. Lo and behold, I walk in and there's my therapist who was the first person who got me out of the hospital bed!" he says, smiling and slapping his leg.
Private lessons are available.
They prance back to the floor. "And if people do watch the show and want to learn it to that level, they can go upstairs to Mila for private lessons," Mykol Hamilton graciously plugs.
Up the winding staircase are Charles and Dawn Parsons, taking lessons from Mila Elkins behind closed doors. "She's been begging me for 30 years to do this," Charles Parsons says about his wife, "so I finally bought lessons as a Valentine's present."
On their second session, the Parsons already say it makes them feel good. As you get older, they agree, dance is great exercise. "We heard that the couples on the dance show lost 12-15 pounds," Dawn Parsons says.
Elkins pumps up the Latin music and meringues around the room beside them, providing lead for the rhythm but letting the couple give it their own sway. Lessons like this in larger cities would cost three times as much, says Elkins, who right now is working with five different couples on private instruction. "I teach waltz, rumba, fox-trot, Latin, really anything anyone would want," but her dream course? "Ah - the tango!" she says with enthusiasm. "You think it looks fun on television? You should dance it!"
Elkins offers advice to would-be students such as "watch dancing. Figure out what it is you want to learn." She also doesn't mind admitting the show probably has some effect on how classes have picked up. "People can see how ballroom dancing isn't so archaic."
Elkins says the "personable" factor has a lot to do with learning.
She advises students to meet first with the instructor to make sure it's someone they enjoy and can appreciate, a problem that doesn't seem to hinder her at all judging from her beaming smile and exchanges with the Parsons.
"If they're serious about learning, they need to make sure the teacher is someone they can learn from," she says.Copyright The Advocate-Messenger 2006
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