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About Gottaswing

Teaching over 4,000 students annually at 10 locations, Gottaswing is America's largest exclusively swing dance instruction and dance event promotion company. Lessons are very reasonably priced and require no long term contract. You don't need to bring a partner (we rotate partners in class), experience is not required, and we welcome dancers of all ages at all our events and classes. What makes us special is our attention to creating a community of swing dancers through lessons and weekly swing dances. Gottaswing features four nights of live music and three DJ dance nights every week to accommodate every schedule.

Whether you’re looking to stay physically active, meet new people, or just want to survive that next wedding with your dignity intact, look no further. We’re certain that once you get started you’ll be hooked on the best music and dancing around, because it don’t mean a thing if it ain’t GOTTASWING!

Tom & Debra

Tom and Debra have been teaching Jitterbug and Lindy Hop since 1987. They began their teaching career with a class one night a week in 1994; now their swing lessons are taught at eight locations, six nights a week. Gottaswing now teaches more than 500 students each week and introduces over 4,000 new dancers to the joy of swing dancing annually. Dance around this section and enjoy our shameless self-promotion: biographies, photos, videos, more!!

Tom's Bio

My grandmother, Lois Koerner, was a champion Charleston dancer in Chicago in the 1920's, and one of my best memories of her is doing the Charleston with her when I was spending New Year's Eve with her as Guy Lombardo's Royal Canadians played on the television. She died when I was 12, but I know that she must have been a wonderful dancer in her day.

I started dancing while at the University of Virginia in 1976. The girls in my dormitory told me that I would never get a date (or anything else) so I should try an alternative approach, i.e. dancing. At that time, the disco craze had yet to begin, however, UVa had (and still has) a rich tradition in Shag dancing. It was nothing like the Carolina Shag, although it was done to Motown and Beach music. Now it is called the Prep Step. Primarily done by drunken fraternity boys, it was relatively easy to learn and not intimidating at all.

Shortly after beginning my career as a UVa Shag dancer, disco took hold and I found that many of the same moves that worked in Shag also applied to disco. So, I was able to move right into that scene. In 1979, I participated in a charity dance marathon at the University of Virginia's Memorial Gymnasium. It was a three day affair with the 25 couples allowed 5 hours each night to sleep. On the third day, a Sunday morning about 9:00am, the d.j. played "In the Mood". All of the student dancers stopped dancing because we found that none of us could move to this music using either Shag or disco steps. At that moment, a pair of senior citizens who were in the gym walking laps came down and did a jitterbug. I was amazed and astounded. The steps they did matched that music! All of the sudden the clouds disappeared and the music that made no sense to me became danceable. Like a man possessed by the spirit, I had to learn this jitterbug dance. I never really looked at any other dance, although I have been exposed to all of them.

Over the years, I was basically a voice in the wilderness concerning jitterbug dancing. I mainly danced in bars to rock and roll or boogie woogie bands. Until recently, there has not been enough of a jitterbug/lindy hop scene to make big band swing dances financially prudent. I won a lot of local dance contests in bars operating without choreography and being judged by the audience. I learned to do aerials because this was the quickest way to impress the bar crowd.

In the late 1980's, three things happened in the local D.C. dance scene that raised the swing scene significantly. First, Anne Townsend created the Washington Swing Dance Committee (WSDC) and began to put on swing dances in social halls. Second, the WSDC brought England's Jiving Lindy Hoppers to Washington to put on a display of 8-count Lindy Hop. Prior to this, Washington had been exclusively 6- count East Coast Swing or else 8-count West Coast Swing. Finally, Craig Hutchison began the Potomac Swing Dance Club (PSDC) and put on the Virginia State Open Swing Dance Championships. Although this club started West Coast Swing dance in this area, Craig's love of dance compelled him to have divisions for all forms of swing, jitterbug and lindy hop included. He was the first person of the contemporary scene to provide a venue for these dances to be performed in competition in their own division.

That brings me to the present. I have had a number of dance partners, and without going into the sordid details of these relationships, let me just say that my present partner is Debra Sternberg. Our primary strength is that we have seen the scene come from obscurity to its present popularity and know that unless we continue to bring in young people as dancers, the present group of lindy hoppers and jitterbuggers will age and die off. As shameless self-promoters we strive to bring new folks into the fold. I suppose it is a bit like selling crack to little school kids, but I don't think that swing has a down side. It is a great social experience, provides exercise and is a continuation of the uniquely American dance and music called SWING.

Debra's Bio

(Notice how much shorter my bio is than Tom's?)

I really always wanted to be a torch singer. Tired of sitting in front of my mirror and singing into a hair brush (don't try to tell me you haven't done this), I took a job as cigarette girl with Doc Scantlin's Imperial Palms Orchestra back in the summer of '87. The idea was to learn all the words to all the songs and then accidently push the girl singer down the stairs. When show-time came, I would somehow be the only one capable of stepping in and saving the night! Before this could occur I saw Tom Koerner on the dance floor. First thought: What a jerk! Second thought: I could NEVER dance like that. Third thought: What a jerk!

We began dating and dancing together that summer, broke up after a year but continued dancing together, and eventually tried to kill each other. After a two-year hiatus, we reunited in 1993 and have been having a ball teaching, competing, and contradicting each other on and off the dance floor.

Aside from meeting Tom at the Doc Scantlin dances, I also met the love of my life, Bobby Blankenburg. This suave, debonair guy had me thinking he lived his entire life in a tuxedo. By the time I saw him in his civvies, it was too late—I was his forever. We were married at the most perfect little wedding ceremony in the entire universe on June 19, 1998.

Together, Tom and I are the 1994 United Kingdom Lindy Hop champions - Air Step Division, and the 1994, 1995, 1996, 1998, 2002 and 2003 Virginia State Open Lindy Hop champions. I am delighted to admit that, in taking the 1998 VSO titles, we beat a couple literally less than half my age!