Cotillion classes teach success

Posted 11/11/08

0 Cotillion. The word evokes white gloves, crinoline and debutantes with fancy hairdos. Cotillion graduates might recall stiff dances and sweaty …

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Cotillion classes teach success




The word evokes white gloves, crinoline and debutantes with fancy hairdos. Cotillion graduates might recall stiff dances and sweaty palms.

The word originates from the French word for petticoat and also a square dance that evolved into the quadrille.

Today’s cotillion is more a lesson in interpersonal relationships and business than high society.

Now a franchised world, Jon D. Williams Cotillions will have two sections of classes, one for elementary students in grades four and five and one for sixth- through eighth- graders at the Southridge recreation center.

“Cotillion is mislabeled as an antiquated idea,” said Annabel Day, executive director with Jon D. Williams Cotillions in Denver. “It is social education focusing on skills with first impressions, introductions and showing respect.”

Ballroom dancing, part of the cotillion syllabus, prepares youngsters for working with others in a hierarchy.

Children learn the swing hustle, foxtrot, jitterbug, Virginia reel and various line dances along with the traditional waltz.

“Dancing builds teamwork and leadership with the kids,” Day said. “It teaches them to go up to someone they have never met before and find the courage to ask them ‘will you be my partner?’”

Both genders get to do the asking, since one day is ladies’ choice.

Once on the floor, the children are expected to chitchat and dance. “To talk and dance takes understanding that this is my part and that is your part and they have to work together,” Day said.

Oh, and the dancing introduces boys and girls in a safe environment.

Cotillion classes are Sunday evenings. Students attend for five weeks. Day has a strict dress code of blazers and ties, dress trousers and nice shoes for the boys and party dresses or a skirt and blouse for the girls.

Younger girls need white gloves, too.

Why the dress-up clothes?

“It puts the students in a different mindset,” Day said. “There are very few places for kids to wear this kind of clothing. Not even to church these days. It helps them show respect for themselves and others and it helps in classroom management. This is a special place with special clothes.”

Day admits there is a practical side to part of the ensemble: young boys get sweaty palms and gloves protect young girls from having “ewww, cooties” moments.

Over the five weeks, students will learn introductions, asking the girls to dance, the girls will ask the boys, a 1950s dance party, a dinner with table manners seminar and a final party for the younger children will be a dance with their parents.

Day said that the image of a cotillion student is a white, upper-middle-class child.

For many cotillions, that might hold true, but Jon D. Williams Cotillion also provides cotillion classes for youth in disadvantaged neighborhoods, and notably as part of Open Door Youth Gang alternative.

For more information or to sign up, e-mail Day at or visit

Courses start Nov. 9.


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