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Cotillion classes in full swing at Civic Center

It started with Marie Wallace, continued with Janet Cox and her dance studio Le Moulin Rouge de Danse. Several years ago, the torch was passed to Shannon Reising when she took over the dance studio. The tradition: teaching middle-school boys and girls how to waltz, to shag, to Cha-Cha, and use the right fork at formal dinner.

Cotillion is in progress, and local 7th and 8th graders are spending their Tuesday nights at the Washington Civic Center taking in the lessons that will come in handy for a lifetime.

These annual classes started the week of Labor Day and will end at the culmination of the season, the Christmas Ball, in which the kids will show off their newfound skills.

According to Reising, many of them come to their first cotillion class a bit more than reluctantly.

“The very first question I ask, in front of their mothers, is I say, ‘How many of your mamas made you come?’” Reising laughed. “And I tell the mamas, ‘I will guarantee you, by the fourth class, you will not have to tell (the boys) to comb their hair or tuck their shirts in, and they’ll be getting into Daddy’s cologne, because they realize, Oh, I have to dance with a girl!’”

Reising works with her husband, William, to show the boys that learning to dance is not reserved just for girls.

“I always tell them the story that I met William on a dance floor, and I tell them, ‘I don’t care if that guy is the best hunter or the best quarterback, if a girl sees he can dance that’s a checked box,’” Reising said.

Reising said she feels like the curator of the cotillion tradition in Washington, as classes date back to 60 years ago this year. She’s had to update the etiquette part in keeping with the times, however.

“What they should and shouldn’t post on Facebook, how to do deal with getting a phone call in the middle of a party — there’s historical stuff but we’re dealing with it on a millennial level,” Reising said. “A lot of that stuff is new because I think it’s important to update and keep it contemporary, so the kids can actually use it.”