Photo by JDW Cotillion

After watching the recent election coverage, avoiding confrontations on the road while driving to work, observing ill behavior at the shopping mall, watching your children text when you are trying to have a conversation with them or having your children slobber and burp at the dinner table, you ask yourself, “Is there no civility left in the world?”

Not much … but there still may be hope.

In a world where definitions are often lost and words such as kindness, courtesy and respect are often overlooked, the Middleburg Cotillion is celebrating its 25th anniversary in teaching young Americans social skills, sense and civility — through the art of ballroom dance.

Cotillion? The very term conjures up an antiquated scene, right out of the “Age of Innocence,” where only children of the very privileged learned to box step to the commands of dance masters with fastidiously held tea cups — pinkies properly raised. This misconception is far removed from the program that is instructed at the Middleburg Community Center by the Jon D. Williams (JDW) Cotillions, which is nationally recognized and instructs in over 45 cities throughout the United States.

In addition to utilizing ballroom dance as a tool to break down inhibitions and develop confidence, Middleburg Cotillion students learn essential social skills that contribute to their character and will have a positive influence on their future social and business relationships.

Are cotillion classes relevant today? Yes. Overwhelmingly, according to the parents and students that participated in the recent 2016 surveys.

Of parents – 97 percent believe Cotillion has strengthened their child’s confidence in unfamiliar situations, 97 percent say after Cotillion their child is more courteous, considerate and respectful of others, and 95 percent believe Cotillion improved their child’s communication skills. Of students – 95 percent agreed that the social skills learned in the classes will help prepare them for their future, 95 percent believe Cotillion helped them learn to treat others with more respect, and 87 percent agreed the classes taught them to be more aware of making good choices and better decisions.

The Middleburg Cotillion was founded in 1991 by Gail Wofford “to offer young people a firsthand opportunity about how to act properly and develop positive relationships in social situations.” Of course, all in the process of having fun through the dancing!

Students in the Middleburg Cotillion learn the importance of courtesy, consideration and respect between doing the swing, hustle and merengue; they learn all about improving their non-verbal and verbal communication skills between the doing the foxtrot and cha-cha; and they learn all about table etiquette and table manners in between doing the tango and Cotton-Eyed Joe. As one parent proudly remarked, “I see a difference for the better in the way my son approaches certain situations. … It helps raise the standards in our community and gives these kids great life lessons.”

Tait Simmons has been the chairwoman since taking over from Gail Wofford, who was the chairwoman and face of JDW Cotillions in Middleburg for 23 years. “The classes are open to anyone who wishes to participate limited only on a first-come, first-served basis to maintain the quality of instruction,” said Simmons.

“But the classes fill-up at a very fast pace,” added Wofford. “Last year, some classes were filled in a few hours, others in a day or two.”

The Middleburg Cotillion offers two separate classes for different ages. There is a class for fourth- and fifth-graders and a class for sixth- and seventh-graders on Sundays following the younger class. A dinner is included for the sixth- and seventh-graders as the students learn about dining etiquette during their “Dinner Dance” evening.

Classes are held at the Middleburg Community Center and started Jan. 8. A limited number of scholarships are offered. Registration and information is available online at cotillion.com. ML