Cotillion is a social dance. It was a popular dance form in the eighteenth-century Europe and America. Cotillion is also spelled as cotillon. Cotillion was a French country dance and a dance of French Royalty, and a courtly version of an English country dance. The dance started as form of dance for four couples in square formation: it was the forerunner of the quadrille, and in the USA, it was the forerunner for the square dance.
Cotillion is a finale for a ball or ballroom dances or parties. In twenty-first century, cotillion classes are taken such as in the USA, and it is considered as a lifelong skill for it can be useful in a social situation. According to SouthernLiving.com in the southern USA: “It’s no secret we Southerners love traditions, especially those that become a rite of passage for each generation to participate in. So it shouldn’t be a surprise that two well-known coming-of-age traditions would be so closely associated with Southern culture: cotillions and debutante balls. Just the mention of either and visions of white gloves and young people dancing the foxtrot appear in our heads. These two events have a lot in common, but they are distinct occasions with separate origins and purposes.” It says cotillions are focused on teaching young people how to be respectful members of society while debutante balls mark the official joining of society once those children age into young adults. Depending on the town, debutante balls feature the debut of young ladies from age 16 to 21 as official members of society. “Once considered to be a family’s announcement that their daughter was of good breeding and of marriageable age, today the balls—although still steeped in tradition and rituals—are more about fostering community, supporting charity, and appreciating the maturation of teenagers into young adults. Young women are presented by their fathers, and typically escorted by one or two younger escorts of their choosing. Debutante balls occur all across the United States (and even the world) but there is something distinctly Southern about them.”
The skill and the expertise in cotillion gives a person an entry into the society usually when one approaches marriageable age, or indicating one’s maturation to adult life, and boost to one’self-confidence. You discern the importance of cotillion in a passage of O. Henry’s story titled THE DEFEAT OF THE CITY: “One of the up-State rural counties now pointed with pride to the successful young metropolitan lawyer as a product of its soil. Six years before this country had removed the wheat straw from between its huckleberry-stained teeth and emitted a derisive and bucolic laugh as old man Walmsley’s freckle-faced “Bob” abandoned the certain three-per-diem meals of the one-horse farm for the discontinuous quick lunch counters of the three-ringed metropolis. At the end of the six years no murder trial, coaching party, automobile accident or cotillion was complete in which the name of Robert Walmsley did not figure. Tailors waylaid him in the street to get a new wrinkle from the cut of his unwrinkled trousers. He had come from a farm to be the apostle of form. Hyphenated fellows in the clubs and members of the oldest subpoenaed families were glad to clap him on the back and allow him three letters of his name.”
In twenty-first century, cotillion’s popularity has not ebbed especially in the southern USA and embraced by all the races and by different socio-economic groups. “In the early 20th century, some affluent black families adapted the tradition,” reports Miami Herald. “At the dance girls were introduced to society, primarily the family’s social and business network. The goal was to prepare the girls to find husbands. During a training period they practiced good behavior, learned dining etiquette, basic dance steps, and how to dress. The training, dance, and presentation transformed the girls into debutantes.”