Cotillions instill social graces

First slide

In a country where "Jersey Shore" is a hit TV series and political discussion consists mostly of candidates shouting at each other, courtesy, etiquette and good manners seem to be endangered virtues. "Please" and "thank you" are words disappearing from ordinary conversation.
The social graces also are endangered. If you look at children eating at a fast-food restaurant you may see the occasional use of the sleeve on the mouth. It may be too late to get many adults to be polite, but Linton Hall School in Bristow is trying to mold boys and girls into good-mannered young men and women.
This year, the school began offering a 10-week pre-cotillion class for students.
The word "cotillion" derives from a dance that originated in France in the 18th century.
In the United States, a cotillion historically was a formal ball where debutantes were introduced to society. Now, a cotillion is a series of classes that teach students some dancing, but stresses manners and social etiquette.
Pre-cotillion classes are for students in third through fifth grades. Classes meet once a week for an hour after school and are taught by Kimberly Entrican, founder of the Piedmont Etiquette School.
Entrican, a graduate of the Etiquette and Leadership Institute in Watkinsville, Ga., said the idea for the class came from a parent who wanted her child to learn manners. The mother went to Principal Elizabeth A. Poole who called Entrican. The three met, and cotillion at Linton Hall School began. The first class started in January with 27 students.
Entrican said the young students were a little apprehensive when they heard that dance was a part of cotillion, but she allayed their fears saying that in pre-cotillion dance is not stressed.
Classes use some role-playing exercises along with workbooks to help students practice new-found skills. Students are tested before each class.
The pre-cotillion class stresses social education. Students learn about self-esteem and confidence building, table manners, telephone etiquette, meetings and introductions, and the etiquette of public places.
"We're teaching the beginnings of the social graces," said Entrican.
She said the class is about respect, both for yourself and others.
A recent class focused on napkin etiquette and introductions. There are only three instances when your napkin can be tucked into your collar below your chin: eating lobster, flying in an airplane and being under 4 years old. Use a napkin on your mouth after taking a bite and before taking a sip of water.
When introducing someone there are certain protocols that should be observed. The senior or new person is introduced first and always follows, "I would like to introduce to you - not 'you to.'" Entrican gave the children a simple way to remember that - "Happy birthday to you."
Entrican and Poole plan to have cotillion classes for older students in grades six through eight. The classes will cover social and dance education, tipping, extending and receiving invitations, writing thank-you notes, the do's and don'ts of dining, and the duties of host/hostess and guests.
Fifth-grader Ian Winch had the noblest of reasons to attend Entrican's class.
"My parents wanted me to do it," he said.
But, he added, he learned important information like the fold of a napkin on your lap should point at your belly.
Fourth-grader Cordelia McMahon also said her parents were the impetus to attend.
"I realized I needed it too," she admitted. "It's fun."

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2012