The National League of Junior Cotillions Columbia Chapter has been teaching middle schoolers life skills, etiquette, manners and social ballroom dance training for 25 years. Jan Cohn has been director of the Columbia Chapter since its inception in 1993.
Cohn and her husband Randy, personally lead each class accompanied by assistants. Students are placed in classes according to where they attend school, and with their friends. All classes are balanced evenly between boys and girls.
According to Cohn, youth spend less time today speaking to each other in person than ever before. “With the constant use of digital media, today’s youth spend very little time actually conversing face-to-face,” she said. “Because of this, it is even more important for students to learn how to conduct themselves in various social situations.” Teaching contemporary ballroom dancing allows the young men and women to be brought together as partners, which Cohn said is crucial: “They have to communicate without any technology.”
Since the beginning of the Junior Cotillion in Columbia, Cohn has had to adapt to the changes of generations that come through the program. “It has definitely kept me on my toes, no pun intended, as trends are changing so much faster than when I first started teaching 25 years ago,” she said.
The success of the Junior Cotillion program has been evident to Cohn through the number of second generation students enrolled today. Some former students, now in college or married, have also told her how much the time spent in Cotillion helped them later in life. “They say what I used to ‘preach’ in class has come to fruition, which is very rewarding to hear,” she added. Her daughter Britton, who grew up experiencing Cohn’s teaching, has been the director of the Charlotte Junior Cotillion since 2013.
The Greater Columbia Junior Cotillion has grown significantly since its inception, and Cohn said the students range from more than 30 elementary schools which feed into around 20 middle schools. The average yearly student enrollment is about 275.
Even though Cohn has been involved for more than two decades and trained more than 10,000 students, she said she doesn’t plan on “retiring” any time soon. “As the world is changing, so has the Junior Cotillion program, and I hope to continue as the Director for many years to come,” she said.
The two-year program begins with students in sixth grade. More information about the Junior Cotillion can be found on their website.