Junior Cotillion teaches teens the graceful step, the correct fork | nnbw.com

Junior Cotillion teaches teens the graceful step, the correct fork

John Seelmeyer

Stephanie Kent believes to the very roots of her soul that polished table manners and the ability to gracefully dance a waltz still matter for business and social success.

And slowly, she’s beginning to get the attention of Reno-area parents who are willing to invest $150 in 10 weeks of classes to teach and polish the social graces of their teen-aged children.

Nevada Junior Cotillion begins its winter session of classes this week, and Kent is expecting about 50 students ranging in age from fifth through eighth grades.

Younger students those in fifth and sixth grades will learn the basics of informal etiquette and respect for other people. Seventh and eighth graders will concentrate on semi-formal etiquette and begin learning about socializing and dating.

A third class, which teaches high school students the skills they’ll need for formal occasions such as prom, will be added in future months by Nevada Junior Cotillion once the school has taught the basics to younger students.

Kent, who learned the social graces during childhood days in patrician Virginia as well as Great Britain, brought the concept of Nevada Junior Cotillion with her when she relocated from San Diego with her husband, Graham Kent. He’s the director of the Nevada Seismological Laboratory at the University of Nevada, Reno.

In Southern California, Kent developed cotillion classes the word comes from a French social dance, and a junior cotillion is a program to teach social dances and social graces and prepared a book of etiquette rules.

Nevada Junior Cotillion divides its teaching time equally between etiquette, dining and dancing. Students are expected to meet dress-code standards in the semi-formal class, that means coat and tie for boys, party evening dress with white gloves for girls as they learn swing and waltz steps in their first-level classes and salsa and foxtrot in the second level.

A sock hop and a masquerade ball provide a change of pace.

But it’s not stuffy.

“The beauty of junior cotillion is that a festive and party atmosphere is used to teach,” Kent says. “Since the environment is festive, the kids eat it up and learn, learn, learn.”

The junior cotillion, Kent acknowledges, has taken the better part of a year to root in northern Nevada, where formal wear sometimes is defined as “black cowboy boots.”

But she says parents recognize the ways that social and dance skills translate into self-confidence, and some also recognize that social skills help build successful careers.

“These skills are recognized and appreciated in the business world,” Kent says.

A one-afternoon session on table manners right before the holidays helped Nevada Junior Cotillion get some traction with parents, and raised $500 for dining-room seating at Reno’s Brookfield School at the same time.

To get the word out about this spring’s classes, she relied on the company’s Web site (NevadaJuniorCotillion.com) and distribution of flyers through some schools.