Centreville residents Chris Conlin led his girlfriend, Brittany Holbrook, out onto the dance floor during a swing-dance jam session at the Dulles Hilton on Friday, Feb. 24.
AFTER A FEW dance steps, he stepped back, got down on one knee, and pulled out a ring box. In the middle of a crowd of swing dancers, with the band playing, he proposed to Brittany, and although the band was loud and people started cheering and applauding, she answered yes to the delight of Chris and all the onlookers.
Chris and Brittany met each other nine months ago when Chris started swing dancing. Brittany, who thought Chris was "so adorable" when she first saw him, had been swing dancing for years. "By our third swing dance together, I was able to pass off my number," she said. Francis Luong, who has known Chris since high school, remembered Brittany slipping her business card into Chris' chest pocket before leaving for the night. "Chris was dumbfounded," he said. Francis met his wife swing dancing too, so Brittany had asked his advice.
Chris had been contemplating proposing for about a month, trying to decide whether Valentine's Day was appropriate, or whether he should wait until their vacation in the Dominican Republic, which was coming up. "I thought she might expect it [during our vacation], and I really wanted it to be a surprise," he said. The swing dance was also appropriate because "A lot of our friends dance with us, and it's a big part of our lives."
DURING A jam session, couples take turns dancing to show off their moves. Brittany said she and Chris had never attempted such a public display of their dance moves before, and as they waited their turn, she noticed that "Chris' hands were sweating and his heart was beating fast."
"I almost passed out," said Chris. "My heart was fluttering and I was seeing white, but I took a couple of deep breaths and we went out on the floor." He said that he remembers nothing about the actual proposal, but luckily someone was videotaping. "It's nerve-wracking enough to go out onto the dance floor," said Francis, "and they had to wait about 10 or 15 minutes for their turn." And the ring? "It's a family ring," said Chris, "and I didn't get it sized, but luckily it fit."
Chris had some help from their swing dance instructors, Sue and Gary Caley. "Sue had told some of the regular dancers that I was going to propose, and I had considered borrowing the mic from the band," he said. When Chris got down on one knee, though, everybody knew what was going on, even though it was so loud that Chris and Brittany couldn't even hear each other. According to Francis, Brittany and Chris stole the show that night. "Another couple came onto the dance floor after them, but no one was really paying attention," he said.
BRITTANY SAYS their families are very excited for them. "My mom said there was something about that boy," she said. They haven't set a date, however, as Chris has joined the Army and is leaving on March 8. They're waiting to get a firmer idea of what their schedules will be. Right now Chris knows he'll be in South Carolina for two months, and then Georgia for three-and-a-half months. But one thing is for sure: "Swing dancing will definitely be a part of the wedding," he said.