News & Events

Ball is Showcase for Youth Charm

Seventh- and eighth-grade students participating in the Charlotte Harbor Chapter of the National League of Junior Cotillions program wrapped up their second season with the European Ball.

The event was April 21 at the Boca Royale Golf and Country Club, Englewood, centrally located for students and their families who come from Venice, North Port, Port Charlotte and Punta Gorda.

During the European Ball, a king and queen are chosen by the chaperones, rated on their cotillion characteristics and qualities of etiquette, dining manners, dance and overall courtesy and respect to others in the program.

This year's king, Eli Westby, a seventh-grader at Punta Gorda Middle School, was crowned mid-way through the ball by the chapter director, Laurie Coventry-Payne.

Eli then had the honor of crowning his queen, Allie Rainey, a seventh-grader at St. Charles Borromeo in Port Charlotte.

Cotillion Charm
Cayman Hupp and Jessica Gonzales with the Charlotte Chapter of National League of Junior Cotillions dance during the opening Waltz at the end of the year European Ball, April 21 at Boca Royale Golf and Country Club in Englewood.

For the Season II students, the year included instructional dinners and ballroom dance lessons, Winter Ball, Valentine Dance and a 1950s-themed dance party, where more fast-paced dances were taught, and ended with the traditional European Ball.

"The young ladies and gentlemen are looking forward to their third and final season with the cotillion program," Coventry-Payne said. "After three years of training and preparations, they will be formally presented to the public, their family and friends during their graduation ball."

National League of Junior Cotillions is a three-year program geared toward middle school students to teach etiquette and ballroom dancing.

The Charlotte Harbor Chapter meets at the Charlotte Harbor Yacht Club in Port Charlotte and hosts special events, such as the European Ball, at surrounding area venues so the students can practice what they have learned through the program.

View photos of the NLJC Charlotte Harbor Chapter European Ball

Article & Photograph by Betsy Williams



What Are Manners?  Check Out Cotilions!

What Are Manners?The National League of Junior Cotillions, Nassau County Chapter, was established in 2009.  It is one of many chapters across the nation which features etiquette, character education, and social dance training for fifth through eight grade students.  The program includes five classes, a holiday event and a ball over a seven month period.

The purpose of the National League of Junior Cotillions program is to give students instruction in ballroom dance and practice in the social courtesies needed for better relationships with our family and friends.  Students actively learn life skills through a creative method including role-playing, skits and games.  The social behavior component ranges from rules of conversation to forman and informal table manners.  Among other topics will be posture, receiving lines, telephone etiquette and the proper way to get into coats and through doors.  Students will also be introduced to such areas a responding to invitations, writing thank you letters, paying and receiving compliments, sportsmanship, foreign etiquette, tipping and toasting, dressing for success and the art of good relations.

Classes are held  once a month due to busy lifestyles.  Students are more likely to retain skills which are learned over a longer period of time.

Best ManneredStudents were encouraged to nominate the 'Best-Mannered Teacher' from their schools.  "The students were excited about being part of the selection process," said Director Lynn Dempsey. "They wanted to honor teachers who exemplify the etiquette and manners being taught in our program."

Callahan Intermediate School teacher Kim Shumate was nominated by her Junior Cotillion student Katie Wilkinson of Callahan.  Mrs. Shumate was invited and did attend the ball as Katie's guest.

NLJC will soon be be sending out invitations for the 2013-2014 school year.  Acceptance into the program is on a first come first serve basis.  An equal number of boys to girls is necessary.

A parents' reception will be held Tuesday, April 16 at 7 p.m. at the Amelia Island Museum of History.

"Our objective is to teach the lifestyles that will enable students to learn to treat others with honor, dignity, and respect, for better relationship with family, friends and associates," added Dempsey.

If you would like more information on Lynn Dempsey's chapter, click here.




Two-time Olympian silver medalist in paired figure skating, Amanda Evora, speaks at the Celebration of Excellence, an event attended the third year members of the National League of Junior Cotillions, Sidney and Berne Davis Chapter. This event, held earlier this month at the Art of the Olympians in downtown Fort Myers, focuses on the pursuit of excellence in sports and in life. Amanda Evora gave an inspiring speech after which she witnessed the signing of the Cotillion Creed. The Cotillion Creed is a document that reinforces the commitment of all Cotillion graduates to treat others with fairness and respect and to approach all they do with honesty, integrity, and fidelity. After the signing, Ms. Evora joined the Cotillion Circle, dancing the Merengue and then the Salsa with Cotillion Guests.

Visit the National League of Junior Cotillions Sidney and Berne Davis Chapter Page
Chapter Director: Laurie Coventry-Payne

Photographs by Betsy Williams

Amanda Evora
Amanda Evora
Two-time Olympian silver medalist in paired figure skating dances
with Cotillion Member Alec Worth at the Celebration of
Excellence at the Art of the Olympians. Also pictured are Cotillion
Guests Ben Hambleton, Bethany Pearson dancing with Art of the Olympian director, Sandy Talaga, Sophia Vartdal, and Chase Brown
Two-time silver Medalist in paired figure skating, Amanda Evora joins the
Celebration of Excellence with Sidney and Berne Davis Cotillion Guests


Local Junior Cotillions Chapter Celebrates 15th Anniversay

The Times-Picayune Greater New Orleans
By: Carol Wolfram,

Brian McManus, 22, was 12 when he learned that name tags always should be affixed on the right lapel. It was one of countless tips he committed to memory as a seventh-grader enrolled in the National League of Junior Cotillions, St. Tammany Chapter program, and one that, like so many life lessons taught during the class, he retrieved when he needed it most. Most recently McManus used that nugget when touring LSU Medical Center in New Orleans with a group of fellow medical students. Collecting his name tag and observing all the other students placing tags on their left lapels, McManus recalled thinking, “Thanks to Mr. Grush, I know where this goes.”

Brian McManus, 22, and Casie Callais, 26,
demonstrate that they have not forgotten the dance moves they were taught a decade ago.
Photo Credit: Carol Wolfram

McManus is one of more than 6,000 students who have completed the youth development program taught over the past 15 years in St. Tammany Parish by Mark and Debbie Grush of Slidell. The classes on etiquette and social dance skills meet Sundays in eastern St. Tammany at Cross Gates Family Fitness in Slidell; and on Saturdays in western St. Tammany, with classes held at the Greater Covington Community Center. Skills explored in class include conversation, table manners, how to sit and walk with a strong bearing, and sportsmanship. The program’s mission is to teach youths in grades 6-9 “to act and learn to treat others with honor, dignity and respect for better relationships with family, friends and business associates later in life.”

McManus recently joined several fellow graduates in congratulating the Grushes on the 15th anniversary of the program, and took the opportunity to share with Year I and Year II students gathered recently for class at Cross Gates how the program’s guidance has helped them navigate social circumstances in life.

Physical therapist Casie Callais, 26, also was 12 when her parents enrolled her in the program. She recalls learning lessons that she utilized throughout high school, as president of her sorority at LSU, while making a good first impression during one-on-one contacts and during job interviews. “Most importantly, it gives you a sense of confidence. You know you can present yourself well, and it gives you an advantage,” Callais said.
"Most importantly, it gives you a sense of confidence. You know you can present yourself well, and it gives you an advantage,” Casie Callais said.

Jamal Bates, 20, is a junior studying architecture at Morehouse College in Atlanta. While living in Louisiana he was first a page and, later, a legislative aide in the House of Representatives. Upon moving to Georgia, he continued his work as a legislative aide with that state’s House of Representatives and, next summer, he will serve as a legislative aide in Washington, D.C. Bates credits much of the success he has earned to the confidence he gained through the Year I and II classes of Junior Cotillion. “I was able to speak confidently to people, know what utensils to use during a five-course meal, understand that it’s important to send ‘thank you’ cards — and it made a difference,” Bates said. “It all started here.”

McManus said he believes one of the reasons the program is successful is that the Grushes are passionate about their subject, and they’re not teaching their own children. “This is the age you don’t listen to your parents. But if Mr. Grush or Mrs. Grush says it, you listen,” he said.

Among the skills the Year I students were learning during their recent class were the proper way to compose oneself in a refreshment line (never leave gloves sitting on a table or chair, and never touch food, a glass or a plate while wearing gloves); how to carry a glass of punch and a plate of food (don’t pile a mountain of food on your plate; the food will be replenished and you can go back to the refreshment table as often as you like — and never return to the refreshment table with a dirty plate in hand); how to discard a soda at a school dance (do not shoot dirty dishes, glasses or cans into a trash can as they may splash food or drink back up on you or others, which could result in an embarrassing situation); and, always, always, always say, “Thank you.”

National League of Junior Cotillions Director Debbie Grush is surprised during a recent reunion by program alumnus Jamal Bates, 20.
Photo Credit: Carol Wolfram

The students also learned the top four manners to be used in the home, which were delivered by Debbie Grush with the reminder, “You’re not little any more. You need to know these things.”
Callais said she was glad she was armed with the knowledge, and told the students sitting where she had been 14 years earlier that one day they’ll be glad as well. “You’re probably sitting there thinking, ‘Am I really going to use any of this?’ The answer is yes. The things you learn here will help separate you from the crowd and you’ll make a great first impression,” she said.

The next season of National League of Junior Cotillions classes will begin Saturday in Covington and Sunday in Slidell, and will continue monthly through March. Year I students learn the basics of etiquette and social dance; Year II students expand on what they have learned and practice skills in social settings such as restaurants and theater.

Visit the National League of Junior Cotillions Northshore Chapter Page
Chapter Directosr: Mark & Debbie Grush


National League of Junior Cotillions Lynchburg Chapter Gives Back

Ms. Schlossberg and the 6th grade Cotillion participants,
It is with heartfelt thanks that I write this note to you on behalf of Kids' Haven: a center for grieving children and their families. We are truly overwhelmed by your generosity and thank you for all that you contributed to our arts and craft collection through your October 5th Cotillion class. It took three people to carry all your donations to my car Friday night! We will use the crayons, books, markers, paint, play dough, journals, etc... during our twice monthly group nights. It is most often through play and art and creative activities that grief work is best accomplished.

If you, or someone you know may benefit from joining our grief support group, I encourage you to visit our website: and/or call the office, 434-845-4072.

With sincere thanks,
Kristin Dabney, Director
Kids' Haven

Visit the National League of Junior Cotillions Lynchburg Chapter Page
Chapter Director: Susan Schlossberg


Junior Cotillion: A step toward manners
The Junior Cotillion participants learn ballroom dancing and all the attendant ritual as a way to hone proper etiquette.

By Jeff Sturgeon
The Roanoke Times
Monday, November 8, 2010

Just when it seems as if many kids will never put down smart phones, make eye contact or elevate their speech above a muted mumble, Junior Cotillions is turning small batches of youngsters into mannered gentlemen and ladies.

At only the second meeting of the year, sixth-grade Junior Cotillions participants from Roanoke and Roanoke County have already gotten their hands and feet under control.

Sunday, as class began at Jefferson Center in Roanoke, the boys, in dark blazers, sat with their feet flat on the floor and their hands flat atop their thighs. Most of the girls, in dresses, tucked their feet to one side.

Not a single electronic device stirred.

The class nearly 50 strong -- the most allowed -- rose for the fox trot.

Instructor Donna Dilley described the embrace:

His left hand receives her right hand. Her left hand grips his collar area. His right hand rests around her back on the scapula -- "not on her gluteus maximus," Dilley quipped with a sustained grin

Her husband, John, spun a peppy tune from the 1930s called, "I Won't Dance."

But they did dance, and many looked like they were beginning to enjoy it.

"Smile," Donna Dilley urged. "Dance is an expression of joy."

Junior Cotillions is a course in manners and ballroom dance. Donna Dilley, who has been instructing for 17 years, runs one of scores of locally based programs across the country and one of 24 in Virginia built on homespun values.

Moms and dads who pay the $290 per child (for monthly gatherings during the school year) are investing in a youngster's social refinement -- the ability to conduct oneself with dignity and respect around a group of people, whether at the dinner table or a dinner party.

"It's good for etiquette and manners," said parent Anne-Paige Darby of Roanoke, who went through the course in 1980. Now her son, Greyson Stuhr, goes. "It enforces everything we do at home."

Cotillions member Ben Phillips, who attends Hidden Valley Middle School, said he attends because he wants to -- not because of any pressure from his parents.

"I think it's a very important life skill to learn how to dance -- and all the fine points," he said.

As the children enjoyed punch and a treat, they used such words as "good," "dandy" and "intimidating" to describe the experience, which interspersed dancing with quick-hit lessons in how to introduce two people, how to take a date through a banquet line and how to give and receive compliments.

Participant Ryan Scribner said he now knows how to handle himself at a wedding or a fancy dinner. Ross Dixon said dancing with pretty girls was the best part of Sunday's session. "It was pretty fun," he said.

Visit the National League of Junior Cotillions Greater Roanoke Chapter Page
Chapter Director: Donna Dilley



Making Manners Matter
Junior Cotillion program teaches grown-up skills to middle-schoolers

By Linda Stern

Picture Cinderella and her prince at 13: She is in a beautiful white dress with matching gloves, teetering a bit on new heels, slightly taller than her prince. He is dressed in khakis and a smart navy blazer, so scrubbed his face is shiny. They are flirting a little bit, giggling a little bit, and underneath it all, counting ONE-two-three, ONE-two-three as they waltz, tentatively but sweetly, across a beautiful ballroom.

The young royals are alive and well, dancing away a Sunday afternoon in a rented ballroom at the Rehoboth Beach Yacht & Country Club, where the local chapter of the Junior Cotillions is hosting its Spring Ball. The party is the culmination of a year's worth of monthly lessons in everything from salad forks to fox trots, and the 50-or-so kids in attendance have earned a good time. After the waltz, they'll do the Electric Slide, or maybe a Texas two-step. They'll have pink lemonade, tasty appetizers and cookies. There will be polite conversation and quiet laughter.

There will not be any running, or yelling, or elbows on the table. These kids have been well-taught and trained, thanks to instructor Lisa Chase, 48, who brought the Junior Cotillion program to lower Delaware in 2006. "I am passionate about this program,"she says. "I cry when I talk about it because I love this program so much."

The Junior Cotillion is a year-long program aimed at sixth-,seventh- and eighth-graders. Classes are held at the glam Rehoboth Beach Country Club, but the program is independent of the club. The tweens and young teens meet monthly, on Sunday afternoons, to learn about manners, and dancing, and etiquette and proper social behavior. There are chair-sitting lessons, and homework assignments involving family dinners and table settings. They work on their resumes and on their job-interview skills. They can come back for a second year of more of the same, and about a quarter of them do.

"When we finish with the two-year program, they are ready for the State Department, or for anything they might encounter in life," says Chase.

Many of the kids claim - predictably - to be there under duress, and say they'd rather be playing soccer, or hanging out with their friends, or talking on the phone. But, in truth, they look like they are having a great time. The parents - unless they are chaperones, they do not attend the ball - say they've signed up their kids to give them opportunities they never had or a leg up on life's

challenges. At one recent practice session, the kids danced circles around their parents - literally.

Cathy Dorey, an Ocean View mother who has two daughters in the program, likes that it gives them a safe and respectful environment for learning how to socialize with boys. "Today there is so much negativity about boy-girl preteen behavior. This is so positive, and it teach them how to be positive." Those sentiments are echoed by Kevin and Natalie Coviello of Dagsboro, who daughter, Madison, a competitive cheerleader, participates in the program. "This is a safe environment and a safe place to interact with boys," said Kevin.

Junior Cotillion has its roots in the southern debutante circuit. It started in 1979, when a precursor program run by dance-studio owner Anne Winters was established near Charlotte, N. C. Winters and her husband, Charles, began tinkering with the program, creating a formal curriculum that could be duplicated by others in other cities. In 1989, they began franchising Junior Cotillion chapters, and the business has exploded. There are now more than 150 chapters in 37 states, mostly, but not exclusively, throughout the South.

Lisa Chase may seem like she was born to be a franchisee. She had been living in Raleigh, N. C., and was active in the Junior League, a women's charitable organization with local chapters in many towns and cities, as an event planner. As a volunteer, she helped plan and coordinate the inaugural balls for Govs. Jim Hunt in 1993 and Mike Easley in 2001. To prepare for those balls, she underwent formal protocol training that covered government-specific issues such as official seating arrangements and general etiquette - where to keep your purse and the proper way to shake hands, for example. "I was raised in a home where manners are very important. All of this came naturally to me," she says.

In 2002, Chase moved to Dover with her husband and two small children. The following summer, she started offering small manners classes for children between the ages of 5 and 8. The classes were called "Mind Your Manners," and the two-hour classes consisted of a variety of etiquette exercises. The kids would have to cut up their own snack foods with a knife and a fork. They would shake hands when entering and leaving the class. There was a plastic toy phone for practicing telephone manners. At the same time, Chase was going into preschools and doing tea parties for even younger kids.

While teaching those classes. Chase heard about the Junior Cotillion program from a friend, who said "You have to start a chapter. You are made for this." In 2005, she went down to Raleigh for training, and by 2006, Chase was running a Junior Cotillion program in Dover. She added the Rehoboth program two years later. "It's been a happy marriage ever since," she says.

Chase likes to run the classes so they are fun for the students, and she keeps the environment non threatening. If dances take too long to partner up, she will pair couples for individual dances. so there are no awkward moments and no wallflowers. The students use dance cards, but some dances are girl' choice and some are boy's choice. Students sometimes flirt themselves into boyfriend/girlfriend status - or come to the first class already connected - but Chase doesn't allow members of couples to dance with each other exclusively. "I've had little romances develop in class, and they are kind of sweet, but they are probably too young to really have boyfriends and girlfriends," she says.

Chase runs dance contests and games to keep things lively, and the students evidence great affection for her. "Having fun and being respectful aren't mutually exclusive," she says. "They can act with dignity and still have fun."

Chase sees the main value of the program as its ability to build competence and confidence in her students. She sees the etiquette lessons the kids get as helping them with self-esteem and confidence, and enabling them to succeed at whatever they try. "i am so impressed!" she bubbles with enthusiasm at her students. "These kids look like they are getting ready for an edition of 'Dancing with the Stars.' Give yourselves a hand!"

At the Rehoboth Beach classes, Chase typically has about 50 or 60 students in the first-year class, and just under two dozen in the second-year group. The Sunday afternoon classes cover topics like place-setting, chair-sitting, introductions, and many, many dances - her iPod will power the class through the waltz, the cha-cha, the fox trot, the triple step shag, and the triple step swing, the salsa, the rumba, the Texas two-step, and some just-for-fun line dances. Kids will do practice school admissions and job interviews, and work on their resumes. One recent student used her Junior Cotillion skills and resume to snag a full scholarship to top boarding school in Wilmington; another won a slot in the American Legion's well-regarded Boys State because of his interviewing abilities. "That is why I do it - this makes such a difference," says Chase. She credits the program with changing her own life. "It has given me so much more than I've put into it."

The fee for the first year of participation is $325, and that includes a handbook, classes, two formal balls, corsages, decorations and refreshments. "Everything but their clothes," she says. The second-year program includes a formal instructional dinner, and costs $375 for the year.

She aims for an equal mix of boys and girls, and comes pretty close to achieving that. One recent session saw more girls than boys. A new class forms in late summer, when families of prospective students are invited to attend a parents' orientation event. Though class participation is by invitation, and many of the families involved are country club members who send their kids to private schools, Chase aims for diversity, and encourages any interested in the program to contact her for an invitation.

The program does harken back to a different time, a quality that some might label "throwback" and others "timeless." There's an approved music list for the dances, so the students are not confronted with any "sexual innuendos," says Chase. Boys are taught to "sit strong" and girls to "sit pretty." Both must shake hands with Chase upon entering and leaving class. "It is so old school [that] the boys have to be gentlemen and the girls have to behave like ladies," says Chase.

"These are qualities that I want my daughter to have," says Shorel Clark, of Millsboro, whose daughter Lindsey, is a first-year Junior Cotillion student and a student at Eagle's Nest Christian Academy near Milton. Clark was involved in sorority life during her college days, and she particularly enjoys seeing Lindsey decked out in her gloves and gown. "I saw kids dressed up like a piece of days gone by; I like that," she said.

Of course, the kids only tumble back in time for a few hours every month, and only about seven sessions a year. Once they shake Chase's hand and mumble something about how delighted they were with the day's festivities, they head out into the parking lot and immerse once again in banter, sports and school talk and the kind of noisy give and take and occasional jostling that characterizes tweens and teens circa 2009. They're normal kids, just a bit more polished than the rest of the cohort. And that's a fairy tale quality that should last way beyond the stroke of midnight, or their last cotillion, thanks to Chase.

Visit the National League of Junior Cotillions Southern Delaware Chapter Page
Chapter Director: Lisa Chase