Cotillion returns at Eagle County Charter Academy after a two year COVID-19 hiatus
Etiquette, manners and dancing were taught to fifth and sixth grade students in Lionshead
COVID-19 restrictions and protocols caused school kids to miss out on a lot of experiences these past few years. The Eagle County Charter Academy was happy to bring back cotillion after a two-year hiatus.
“This group of students had never experienced cotillion because of COVID. Traditionally, we have cotillion in both fifth and sixth grades, which is great because the older students can show the younger ones the ropes. This year, it was a new experience for everyone,” said Peyton Schlichting, who teaches at the Eagle County Charter Academy.
To get ready for the cotillion, the students were taught table manners and etiquette, how to make their own boutonnières and corsages out of ribbon and learn a little calligraphy to make their own place cards.
“The most important thing I think this event teaches kids is how to handle an awkward situation. It pushes them out of their comfort zone. What’s with all the forks? Which bread plate is mine? One day their prospective boss is going to take them to dinner and if they want to make a good impression, they need some skills,” Schlichting said.
To get ready for the dance, ECCA brought in Colin Meiring, the artistic director of Vail Performing Arts Academy.
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“Cotillion is the foundation of learning important social skills and etiquette through dance. The students learn to respect each other, compromise and are thus sensitive to human boundaries while in close dance hold,” Meiring said.
“I teach the fundamentals of eye contact, handshakes, compliments and name introductions as well as foxtrot, salsa, tango, waltz and yes, hip-hop, to create a fun atmosphere of laughter. This is not your grandfather’s cotillion. To get the students engaged, they have to enjoy the process,” Meiring said.
The day started out with an expo in the gym where parents are invited to watch the students dance. There were 40 fifth graders and 40 sixth graders participating in the program. Then, the students paired up with a parent and danced before heading to lunch, followed by more dancing, but no parents allowed at the second dance.
Lunch consisted of a four-course meal so the kids could try figuring out how to use all the silverware and use their manners. The Blue Moose served up Italian wedding soup, a salad, lasagna and tiramisu for dessert.
“Originally, the Chophouse in Beaver Creek hosted the luncheon and dancing, back when Brian Nolan owned it and his son Wil was in fifth grade. We were so thrilled to partner with Brian again at The Blue Moose, especially because Wil is now the manager,” Schlichting said.
Were the kids equally thrilled to get out of their comfort zone?
“They are terrified at the beginning,” Schlichting said.
“The kids who are the most anxious on the first day have the most fun on the day of cotillion. I watched one boy during the mother/son waltz ask a complete stranger to dance because his mother couldn’t be there. It was adorable,” Schlichting said.
“The students are so hesitant, shy and uncomfortable on day one. It’s awkward learning how to interact through couple dancing, but immediate rewards of confidence, comfort and authentic joy are seen after just a few sessions,” Meiring said. “The final cotillion graduation is not only a reflection of their character but also a demonstration of their education.”
I was expecting it to be very formal,” said Ryann Brown. Sixth grade classmates Molly Froman and Joanna Kent also chimed in.
“Once we got to the restaurant, I felt like we could just let loose and relax,” Froman said.
“And all the dancing was really fun, Colin wasn’t strict about it, he made it fun for us,” Kent said.
“It’s a good thing to learn and you should have experience dancing with girls and learn how to get along with girls for your whole life,” said sixth grader Kash Kedrowski.
Classmate Easton Ridenour added, “It was very fun, and the food was delicious.”