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Swinging Into Dulles

Swing dancing professionals throughout country to gather in Herndon this weekend.

Area residents will get the chance to see some of the country's most talented swing dancers when the 14th annual weekend National Swing Fling Festival opens at the Washington Dulles Hilton on Aug. 3.

"It's one of the largest national events, if not the largest, that involves dancing," said Barry Durand, event director of Swing Fling and a six-time national swing dancing champion. This year, Durand is expecting around 1,000 people to be in attendance.

Swing Fling, which runs through Aug. 6, will feature workshops taught by national and local swing dancing professionals, an open ballroom for dancing sessions and the opportunity for dance enthusiasts to meet with dozens of dance studio owners and instructors throughout the Washington, D.C., area.

Swing Fling is also the host to one of the 12 competitions on the National Association of Swing Dance Events circuit. Participants in the invitation-only competition, which takes place throughout the weekend, will vie for bragging rights and points towards a national tournament championship to the beat of a variety of music on the ballroom floor.

The national spotlight of the annual festival and competition in the world of swing dancing is definitely a big draw and point of interest for Sue Caley, a swing dance instructor for the dance school Gotta Swing, in Herndon and Reston.

"Anytime there's a whole weekend of [swing dance] champions, conferences and workshops, it's going to attract a lot of people," Caley said. "People from all over especially like to do the workshops because they bring in special guest instructors from all over the country to take part."

A NATIONAL FESTIVAL featuring dancing professionals performing live is something that will resonate with more people than normal this year, as reality television dance competitions like ABC's "So You Think You Can Dance?" have increased among the general public, said swing dance aficionado and previous Swing Fling attendee, Suzanne Fulton.

"There is definitely a big local community of people here in the [Washington,] D.C. area who are very in to swing dancing," Fulton said. "But people see these shows and they're very popular — it makes me think that there will be a lot of interest out there to attend something like this."

Being that it is a national competition, Durand said that he expects to see national names in the world of swing as well as former contestants of "So You Think You Can Dance?" Former contestants of the television show have been present at Swing Fling in previous years, Durand added.

Because of the success of the television show and a general increase in interest in dancing as a hobby, Durand said that he has noticed the rise of people who come out to swing dancing events.

"Right now, swing [dancing] is one of the most popular social-type dance styles around the country, and it's so popular because everyone can do it," Durand said. "It plays different types of music that people can and want to dance to. It's more approachable for the average Joe."

WHILE MOSTLY FEATURING the "West Coast" style of swing dancing, known for its use of modern popular music and innovative techniques, it will still host some workshops for swing traditionalists, Durand said.

"When it comes to West Coast [swing dancing], you'll see anything from Aretha Franklin to The Pussycat Dolls," he said. "That's why it's so great for so many people — the parents will know who Aretha Franlin is and the kids will know who The Pussycat Dolls are."

One needs to only bring his or her interest and excitement for watching or performing swing dancing in order to enjoy the event, said Tom Koerner, co-founder of the Fairfax-based swing dance school, Gotta Swing. Koerner and his dance partner Debra Sternberg will be teaching "Lindy hop" swing dance style at the festival.

"It's a great opportunity for people from all over the country and the area to come and see firsthand what swing dancing is," Koerner said. "We're not the ballroom type dancing people where it's all formal and artsy like that, we're more exciting — I like to say that [swing] is to dance like jazz is to music. It's the original American style of dancing."

"If people like the stuff that they see on [television], it's a chance for them to come out and watch what it's really like up close."