In a world where many fear civility has vanished, the Jon D. Williams Cotillions organization has worked for over 70 years to make an effort to teach young individuals social skills, sense and civility through a very special medium. In over 50 cities throughout the United States, JDW Cotillions initiates dance programs and classes that hone in on social skills and decision-making—all through the art of ballroom dancing.
In 1994, JDW Cotillions founded the Wayzata Cotillion program. Next month, they’ll celebrate 26 years of involvement in the community.
The word “cotillion” originates in the 18th century, when it was known as a French “petticoat dance.” Over the centuries, the ballroom dance has been used as a way to express a variety of social attributes, courtesy and politeness.
Jon D. Williams, founder of JDW Cotillions, created these communities as models to educate teens to appreciate the significance of social skills in our culture. And with everyday culture so rapidly evolving, the classes are more relevant today than ever.
“Wayzata Cotillion students learn essential social skills that contribute to their character and will have a positive influence on their future social and business relationships,” Williams says.
The ballroom dancing is used as a tool to not only develop confidence, but to learn essential skills that will allow an individual to navigate who they are and contribute to their character.
The Wayzata Cotillion was founded to offer local students an opportunity to learn how to build their social abilities and relationships through different forms of dance. Not only do those who participate build these skills, but they have a lot of fun doing so.
“Students in the Wayzata 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 waltz and electric slide,” Williams says.
According to multiple surveys completed by last year's participants, 96 percent of parents noticed a healthier change in their child’s character and social skills. Ninety-eight percent of parents found that the classes their children participated in boosted their confidence in a variety of social situations. As for students, 95 percent of them stated the social skills learned will prepare them for the future and that they are now more aware of better decision making strategies.
Maria Mellen, co-chairwoman of the Wayzata Cotillion, says that the classes are open to anyone. “[They] fill up at a very fast pace. Last year some classes were filled in a few hours, others in a day or two,” she says.
The Wayzata Cotillion offers classes for fourth through eighth graders as well as advanced classes for ninth through 12th graders. The advanced courses focus on college and career preparation.
The first set of classes this year will be held April 5 at the Wayzata Country Club. Registration is now open to the public.