April 9, 2011
By Jon Cooper
Mindy Hylton knows what it takes to raise money and garner attention for causes. She does it every day as Director of Marketing for Georgia Tech's Athletic Association.
She also knows how to move in an eye-catching way. That's part of her qualification as Tech's Head Cheerleading Coach.
Put the two together and you have the perfect candidate to represent Georgia Tech in Dancing Stars of Atlanta, 2011. Hylton will be teaming with with professional dancer Joshua Ingraham,in the competition which takes place on June 18 at the Loews Atlanta Hotel. Her goal is to raise $10,000 for the Alzheimer's Association, Georgia Chapter.
Hylton came highly recommended from Georgia Tech Baseball Assistant Head Coach Tom Kinkelaar, who participated last year's Dancing Stars of Atlanta.
"The people that did it last year wanted to see if we knew anybody who could do it. I thought of Mindy," said Kinkelaar. "She fits right in that mold, with her background, so I approached her about it."
Her decision to participate in the event, which this year features local celebrities like former Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin, chef Kevin Rathbun, established publisher and fitness entrepreneur Sherri Adair and double-board certified plastic surgeon Dr. Marc Yune among others, was a no-brainer.
"There are so many organizations out there, they all need help," said Hilton. "They're all great organizations. This is one, as well. I'm glad to be a part of it.
"He said it was just a blast. It was a lot of fun. He really enjoyed it," she added. "It's fun getting to go to the lessons and learning something new. The event is a big dinner, a fundraiser and each couple gets to go up and perform their dance in front of everyone attending the dinner. Everyone votes that night and every vote counts as a dollar toward our fundraising. [Kinkelaar] said it was a lot of fun. It was a blast. He really enjoyed it."
Kinkelaar also made sure to tell Hylton that he and partner Virginia Coker, won the event -- he and Atlanta Falcons linebacker Kroy Biermann and his partner Cheryl Burke, tied with 28 points out of 30.
"I know," she said with a laugh. "I have to live up to his expectations. I want to go in and do well anyway. I put that kind of pressure on myself in anything I do. So, I want to do well and then, with him winning it last year, I want to make sure Georgia Tech represents again."
The hardest part for Hylton, through her first handful of lessons, has been learning the nuances of ballroom dancing, which is very different even with her athleticism and background in dance.
"I was a dancer growing up, so I've had several dance classes, more jazz and tap and ballet, modern, but the ballroom style of dancing is totally different," she said. "Unless you have a ballroom dancing background, it doesn't matter what your dancing background is.
"The style, choreography and dance that I'm used to you know exactly where to place everything," she added. "With this, it's all about feeling it and you have a partner. So you can't step until you feel your partner step. They'll have you close your eyes and you can't do anything unless you feel your partner moving with you or your partner moving first. Me being the female, the male is the lead. So I'm not supposed to even be moving unless I feel him coming toward me, pulling me towards him. So that's kind of weird. I'm used to being the leader, having a little more control of everything. So I'm having to step back and not have that control over it. So I am learning a lot, trying to let go of it and just let him teach me."
Ingraham admits that Samba, their style of dance, is complicated and can be extremely difficult to pick up.
"Samba comes from Brazil and has very specific body motions, specifically with the pelvis," said Ingraham, who has been dancing since he was six and has a degree in Dance Concentrations for Point Park University in Pittsburgh. "If you've never done the Samba before, you'll never have been familiar with the very peculiar -- I guess is a good word to put it -- way. Getting used to using your pelvis in this way, alternating lifting your hips, if you can imagine it that way, is really awkward at first because it has nothing to do with normal every day motion like walking down the street or bending your knees or such like that.
"It's going really well we've only had a handful of lessons but she seems to be picking up things really quickly," he added. "I wasn't really surprised about that. I know that she's tremendously active, but she's also a coach. So she's really focused mentally too. So I think that's really helped the process a lot."
Hylton credits Ingraham for his patience.
"I get frustrated but he doesn't get frustrated at all," she said. "He just explains it and if I don't understand it that way he explains it a different way. If I still don't understand it he explains it a different way. So, he's very easy to work with. He's been great."
Ingraham, an instructor at Atlanta Ballroom Dance Club, understands Hylton's frustration but has no doubt that she will be ready and the two will be in perfect step come June 18th.
"I don't have any trouble being patient," he said. "It just requires you to get through it. You have to be open-minded and it makes the process a lot easier and lot more fun, which is really kind of the point. Movement should always be very fun."
Kinkelaar, who called training for the event one of the hardest things he's ever done, agrees that Hylton will enjoy the experience the more fun she has.
"The advice I have for her is just have fun with it and just think about the cause," he said. "You're raising money for a great cause. I think it's a great experience. That would be my best advice. Have fun with it and enjoy it."
Kinkelaar also had some advice for selling herself to the panel of judges, which this year consists of two-time Canadian International Standard and Latin Champion Chantal LeClerc and WSB anchors Monica Pearson and Justin Farmer, Kinkelaar offers this advice:
"I think the judges like the show," he said. "It's all in your presentation. If you can put it together and look like you halfway know what you're doing and it flows, I think you have a great chance."
Hylton mentioned that a fundraising promotion for Dancing Stars of Atlanta is in the works with Georgia Tech Baseball and will take place at a game to be determined as the event draws closer. She also didn't rule out a performance with Kinkelaar.
For more information on Dancing Stars of Atlanta, including how to buy tickets and to vote for Mindy and Joshua Ingraham, log onto http://dancingstarsofatlanta.kintera.org/faf/donorReg/donorPledge.asp?ievent=444039&supid=321640887