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Junior Cotillion is more than white gloves and the waltz


By Melissa Robinson
Contributing Editor 

  Do you know which fork to use when dining at a formal event? How about the proper way to eat lobster? Are you in step with all of the classic dances, such as the foxtrot, and the cha cha? Well perhaps you hadn’t the opportunity to attend Junior Cotillion.

Emily Crowe models the dress and white gloves she will be wearing to the Junior Cotillion Ball, to be held at Eagles Landing Country Club in January.                   Photo by Melissa Robinson

  At just 11 years old, Emily Crowe of McDonough already knows the proper way to dine on refreshments at a party. She’s in step with classic dances such as the waltz and the foxtrot and knows that a true lady always removes her white gloves before chowing down on barbecue.

  What might seem old-fashioned to some is never out of fashion in the National League of Junior Cotillion, particularly in Henry County where the Junior Cotillion has been holding etiquette and dance classes under the supervision of Director Elaine Poitevint since 2002. She has been teaching Henry County’s young men and women how to carry themselves with aplomb and grace in any situation for the past decade.

  Classes meet once a month at McDonough First United Methodist Church and currently Poitevint has four classes, two on Monday and two on Tuesday. Participants, who may take up to two years of the program, pay $250 for the first year and $275 for the second year. The second year tuition is slightly higher as that class includes a five course meal at the end of the year where participants go through the meal step by step.

  Poitevint, a Fayette County resident, purchased the Henry County Chapter franchise in 2002 and quickly put together a parent advisory board, per the national organization’s guidelines. This year, she was named Director of the Year and had the opportunity to star in training videos for new directors. She said in her first year she had a total of 74 students and the enrollment steadily grew. This year, even in a fledgling economy, she is pleased to say she has approximately 180 students.

  “I want to be cautious, because when you hear the word cotillion, many people think of debutante or elitist, but the truth is, good manners is for everyone,” she said.

  She said her own training in proper manners came by way of a wonderful mother who took the idea of etiquette way too seriously.

  Junior Cotillion places as much emphasis on etiquette, manners and character education as it does on dancing. In addition to introducing ballroom dancing, participants are taught basic manners, written correspondence, how to properly introduce oneself, how to shake hands, sports etiquette, participating in group settings, polite conversation, paying and receiving compliments, and much more. She also said that with constantly evolving technology, etiquette rules are also constantly evolving. She said new rules concerning cell phone use and internet etiquette are also included. Students have an opportunity to attend both a winter and spring ball in order to practice all they have learned, in addition to dancing the night away.

  “What we really try to teach is self-confidence. It’s a general assumption that things have gone downhill, but I have found, particularly with the students I deal with, that manners are alive and well,” said Poitevint. “It’s just that out children are subjected to many negative influences. We help instill that much-needed confidence.”

  The first chapter of the National League of Junior Cotillion was established in North Carolina in 1979 and the program was expanded under the leadership of Charles and Anne Winters in 1989. Today, thousands of students are being taught etiquette, ethics and social dance in hundreds of cotillion programs in more than 30 states.

  The Henry County Chapter Junior Cotillion class runs from October until early spring and is open to students in 6th to 8th grade, and is usually by invitation.

  Emily is a sixth grade home-schooled student and said she enjoys the class and learning how to dance, which is her favorite part of the program.

  “I enjoy it all, but especially the dancing. I guess the foxtrot is my favorite,” she said.

  Her mother, Lorna Crowe, whose two older daughters, Celeste and Tyra, also went through the class, said she saw first-hand how the program helped build her girls’ confidence. She said what the students learn can translate from the ballroom to classroom and the boardroom.

  “This little program is more than just manners,” said Crowe. “What they’re learning will be an asset to them not only in social situations, but in interviewing for college and jobs.”

  Emily said she is planning to attend the second year of the program, but for now is looking forward to the winter gala, to be held at Eagles Landing country Club in January, as well as the spring ball, to practice what she has learned.

  For more information on the Henry County Chapter of the National League of Junior Cotillion, email Poitevint at



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