The energy level is high at the Dulles Hilton on Friday nights. Sue and Gary Caley of Reston host swing dances with live bands at the Hilton's solarium on Route 28. The dances are part of Gottaswing.com, which is the brainchild of Tom Koerner and Debra Sternberg — the King and Queen of Swing in the D.C. area.
BY DAY, Sue Caley, 52, works as a program manager at Child's Play Inc. in Herndon. Gary Caley, 41, is a computer engineer with the government. The couple has been hosting Friday night dances for 1 1/2 years and dancing together for nine. Close to 200 people attended last weekend's Valentine's dance.
"The best thing about this area is there's an amazing amount of local talent," said Sue, married to Gary for 11 years. "We love the spontaneity of the live music and totally thrive on it, that's why jams are so much fun. We just go out there and play."
Swing dances vary depending on geography — there's Shag style in the Carolinas, West Coast (slow and sexy) swing in California and D.C. Hand Dancing in the District. The style taught here is New York swing, says Sue Caley.
"It's one of the few all-American dances," she said — having its roots in the Charleston, Lindy Hop and Jitterbug. "It's extremely friendly."
The beauty of swing is that people with different skill levels dance with everyone else — beginners with advanced dancers and every level in between, said Sue.
The Dulles Hilton dances cost $13, which includes a 1/2-hour lesson, jam time — where couples can show off their fancy footwork — and a live band from 9-midnight.
"The live bands in this area are amazing," said Sue. "They travel all over the country and they're totally awesome."
In addition, there's high-energy, one-hour classes for ages 11-70. Cost is $96 for eight weeks for both beginner and intermediate. Between 40-50 people take classes. Sue and Gary also do private tutoring for couples to get ready for their weddings.
Every month, there's a special birthday dance with a cake, as well as seasonal dances — Halloween dances (in costume), Valentine's Day, Winter Holiday and Fourth of July.
For 18 years, Sue owned her own aerobic dance studio, where she and Gary taught aerobic dance, step and body-sculpting classes, in addition to training and managing 20 additional instructors. Sue has had her own cable TV show for 15 years.