AskDefine | Define cotillion

Dictionary Definition



1 a ball at which young ladies are presented to society [syn: cotilion]
2 a lively dance originating in France in the 18th century [syn: cotilion]

User Contributed Dictionary


Alternative spellings


Approx 1750. cotillon: petticoat to cotillion : cotillion. Said to be derived from the (then) popular song “Ma commere, quand je danse, Mon cotillion va-t-il bien”


  1. A bold dance performed in groups of eight where ladies lift their skirts to display their ankles!
    • 1797 Mrs. Hughes now joined them, and asked Miss Tilney if she was ready to go. "I hope I shall have the pleasure of seeing you again soon," said Catherine. "Shall you be at the cotillion ball tomorrow?" Jane Austin Northanger Abbey (written 1797 first published 1818) Chapter 10.
  2. The music regulating the cotillion.
    • 1848 I kept a parlor open for the reception of visitors, many came here to practise with me, and many more to listen to us—several young men put themselves under my tuition, and although I had never been taught myself, they progressed finely in their studies and I soon brought out, not only the best field music, but also for dinners, balls, cotilion and tea parties, weddings, &c. ''THRILLING SKETCH OF THE LIFE OF THE DISTINGUISHED CHIEF OKAH TUBBEE ALIAS, WM. CHUBBEE, Son of the Head Chief, Mosholeh Tubbee, of theChoctaw Nation of Indians. BY REV. L. L. ALLEN, AUTHOR OF “PENCILLINGS UPON THE RIO GRANDE,” &c. NEW YORK, 1848. ENTERED according to the Act of Congress, in the year 1848, by Okah Tubbee, alias William Chubbee, in the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the United States, for the Southern District of New York. AN ESSAY UPON THE INDIAN CHARACTER.''

Extensive Definition

The dance known as Cotillion came from France in the 1700s and was originally made up of four couples in a square formation. The Cotillion was one of many contredanses or "country dances" where the participants (especially those from royalty) gathered to introduce themselves and to flirt with other dancers through the exchange of partners within the formation network of the dance. By the 1800s, the Cotillion evolved into more couples with many complex dance figures and was the forerunner of the Quadrille. American square dance is a form of contredanse that also descended from the Cotillion. The direct translation from French to English of the word "Cotillion" is the word "petticoat" but the more appropriate translation is the word "ballgown."
A Debutante Ball is a formal presentation of young ladies, debutantes, to polite society. It is in use in the United States, more so in the South, and some other countries. Debutantes are usually recommended by a distinguished committee or sponsored by an established member of elite society. Modern debutante balls are often charity events; the parents of the debutante donate a certain amount of money to the designated cause, and the invited guests pay for their tickets. These balls may be elaborate formal affairs and involve not only "debs" but junior debutantes, escorts and ushers, flower girls and pages as well.
In the United States, Cotillion has become training that children and young adults attend to learn manners and proper social behavior in the context of formal dance. The participants dress up in formal attire and some cotillions emphasize the use of white gloves. Modern day Cotillion takes the form of classes and parties. These programs use dance as an interactive tool that breaks down inhibitions and teaches important social skills. Some of the dances currently taught include waltz, fox trot, tango, swing, cha cha and many other ballroom dances. The parties are typically "graduation" parties usually held after a series of classes. At the party, the students sit together in tables in the front while the family members sit in tables in the back. A master of ceremony guides the evening and, if funds are sufficient, dinner and an orchestra may be included. Usually after each dance, a couple may be recognized with a modest prize for best executing that dance.

Some notable debutante balls in the United States



  • Phoenix:
    • Board of Visitors Ball (formerly St. Lukes Ball)
    • Scottsdale Honors Cotillion
    • Phoenix Honors Cotillion
    • Desert Foundation Auxiliary (DFA) Ball (
    • Brophy/Xavier Cotillion



District of Columbia


  • Jacksonville
    • The Magnolia Ball
    • Commodore's Ball
  • Lakeland
    • Lakeland Assemblies Cotillion Club
  • Orlando
    • The Bridgadette Club Inc.
  • Sarasota
    • Sarasota Cotillion Club
    • Sarasota Debutante Ball






  • Detroit:
    • UESA Detroit Chapter Debutante Ball.
    • White Rose Ball (Hungarian Arts Club)founded in 1958.
  • Lansing:
    • Les Meres et Debutantes.



New York

  • New York City:
    • The Junior Assemblies, a collection of debutante balls held annually which comprise the traditional "debutante season" of New York society
    • The Viennese Opera Ball in New York
    • The Quadrille Ball
    • Le Bal des Berceaux ("The Cradle Ball") is New York's Spring débutante ball and benefits needy children in the U.S. and France.
    • The Northeastern Conference Coronation
    • The Infirmary Ball, officially called the "Debutante Cotillion and Christmas Ball," which benefits the New York Eye and Ear Infirmary
    • The International Debutante Ball, held each even-numbered year 2006, 2008, 2010
    • The Thanksgiving Eve Ball, held each year, benefits the charitable activities of the New York Junior League
    • The Paas Ball, held each year
    • The Annual Debutante Ball and Reception, held each year by the Society of Mayflower Descendants in the State of New York
    • The Debutante Cotillion of the Kosciuszko Foundation Annual Dinner
  • Rochester, New York
    • The Bachelors' Cotillion, a white tie ball at The Genesee Valley Club held since 1902. Gentleman aged 22-35 are selected by a committee from prominent families in the community. It is one of few "Gentlemans" balls in the country.
    • The Lilac Ball, held each spring, debuts around 30 young ladies from the community aged between 18-20. Held in conjunction with the city's famous Lilac Festival, it benefits local hospitals.

North Carolina



  • Philadelphia:
    • The Assembly of Philadelphia (dating from 1748), an elite private party held annually around Christmas. Private membership and guests attend. Cotillon is danced.
    • The Philadelphia Charity Ball (founded 1884), a debutante ball held at Thanksgiving every year for Philadelphian families, drawing mostly on prep school graduates. Proceeds go to charities selected by the previous year's debutantes.
  • Pittsburgh:
    • The Cinderella Ball, the 'second oldest debutante ball' in the country, founded in 1926.
    • The Medallion Ball, named for the medallion each debutante receives from the city's Catholic bishop


  • Dallas:
    • Idlewild Club (1884), Terpsichorean Club (1898), & Calyx Club (1911) Balls
    • Dallas Symphony Orchestra League Presentation Ball
    • La Fiesta de las Seis Banderas
    • University of Dallas Winter Cotillion
  • Fort Worth:
    • The Assembly Ball
    • Steeplechase Ball
    • Ambassador Ball
    • Fort Worth Assembly Ball
    • Hispanic Debutante Ball
  • Houston:
    • Allegro Ball
    • Houston Country Club Thanksgiving Ball
    • The Assembly Ball
    • Bolero Ball
    • River Oaks Country Club Debutante Ball
    • Lunar Rendezvous Coronation Ball
  • Tyler:



  • Lynchburg:
    • The Spinsters Ball
  • McLean:
    • Old Dominion Cotillion
  • Norfolk:
    • The German, held each Thanksgiving by the Norfolk German Club
  • Portsmouth:
    • The Thanksgiving Debutante Dinner-Dance, held each Thanksgiving by the Portsmouth Assembly
  • Richmond:
    • The Bal Du Bois
    • The Richmond German
  • Staunton:
    • The Spinsters Club of Staunton



External links

cotillion in Italian: Cotillon
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