Dance Tidbits – Cotillion

You may or may not have heard of Cotillion. It is a French word meaning petticoats. I will tell you a little later how that plays into the dance called Cotillion. Cotillion is a kind of set pattern social dance. It originated in France in the 18th century. It started out with four couples in a square formation. Cotillion is a dance with intertwining figures and floor patterns rather than intricate footwork. It is sometimes referred to as the Court dance and was popular in both France and England.

By the 19th century, the Cotillion evolved by including more couples on the dance floor with many more complex dance moves. It was considered a formal dance, where social etiquette and attire were required and that’s where the petticoats came into the picture. As mentioned above, the actual meaning of petticoats in French is Cotillion. As the changing lady partners would turn, their petticoats would show and flow, making the patterns more picturesque and the dance more lively.

Today American Cotillion can be a great way to meet people. It usually refers to classes and parties designed around Ballroom dance, i.e. Foxtrot, Cha Cha, Tango, Waltz and Swing. It is an interactive way to combine social skills with dance. Cotillion parties usually occur right after graduation. It can be a fun party with formal attire and flowing dresses. There may be a dinner and orchestra or band. Students may perform a Ballroom dance to show what they have accomplished and prizes may even be given out.

Here is my favorite part about Cotillion dance. Let’s see if you can guess the answer. There is a famous and popular dance that originated in the U.S.A. adapted from the stately Cotillion dance; making it a lot more urbanized. Do you know which dance I’m talking about? The answer is, Country and Western Square Dancing. It makes total sense if you look at the formations of dance patterns and footwork.

Whether you learn old style Cotillion dancing, go to a modern day Cotillion party or go out for a night of good old American square dancing, you’ll at least know where it all came from and be able to tell your friends.

Happy dancing,

Thought Of The Week:

It is easier to do a job right than to explain why you didn’t. Martin Van Buren


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Shane Meuwissen is the Media Specialist for Fordney Foundation.  He is a former dance instructor who know works with his company Slow Motion Dance Videos capture the beauty of dancing. If you would like to learn more about Shane and his video work, visit his website