Freeman Students Teach Ballroom Dancing

Ella Hurlbert

Staff Writer

Freeman students Sheridan Brown and Isabel Kump elected to continue their work at Junior Assembly Cotillion during the coronavirus pandemic, aiding in the organization’s mission to teach tweens and teens how to ballroom dance.

For 76 years, the staff at Junior Assembly Cotillion (JAC) have taught hundreds of students, maintaining their position as the largest cotillion in Virginia. To help monitor and teach their students, the leadership at Junior Assembly Cotillion employ high school graduates of their cotillion learning program as junior assistants.

“Our junior assistants are sophomores, juniors, and seniors who apply and are accepted as chosen leaders in our program,” said Liz Stanko, co-owner and director of JAC. “They are responsible, enthusiastic, skilled dancers, dedicated and loyal… [we] couldn’t run our program successfully without them!”

Although enrollment in the program decreased following the outbreak of the coronavirus, many students still participate in cotillion. Enforcing new health regulations and safety restrictions to keep the students safe is no easy task. New measures to keep cotillion members safe during the global pandemic include mandatory masks, social distancing during dances, sanitizing hands upon entry and exit, and changing the dance curriculum itself. Junior assistants are crucial to the implementation of these safety restrictions.

The junior assistants’ “presence and assistance during our dances helps put parents’ and students’ minds at ease because they are extra hands on site to help ensure their health and safety,” said Ms. Stanko.

Junior Sheridan Brown, a two-year junior assistant, was slightly nervous about returning to cotillion during the coronavirus pandemic. However, Sheridan was certain that “Ms. Stanko and her team care about us all and do not want to put anyone in harm’s way.” Sheridan said that junior assistants “went through a training process to relearn some dances… and how to work through the new restrictions,” solidifying her confidence that she would be safe when she returned to cotillion.

Sheridan and other junior assistants at JAC pose for a photo at last year’s cotillion.

Isabel Kump, a senior in her final year of working with JAC, also felt comfortable returning to work. “I knew that the organization would make it safe,” Isabel said, adding that she “didn’t want to miss” her senior year of cotillion.  Both Isabel and Sheridan have enjoyed their experiences as junior assistants thus far.

Sheridan became a Junior Assistant because “it seemed the perfect next step to… share the enjoyment [of cotillion] with the new coming generations of… attendees.” Although junior assistants fill the role of teacher helpers, they don’t stop learning valuable lessons themselves through cotillion. “I’ve learned so many things… Cotillion has given me confidence and encouraged me to think of how to make others… comfortable,” said Sheridan. “As a result, [I have] made many long-lasting friendships I could never have dreamed of.”

Isabel shared similar sentiments regarding the friendships between junior assistants. “All the junior assistants are really laid back and friendly and we get along well.  It’s a really accepting group of people,” Isabel said.  “I can definitely say that I’ve made some of my best friends through cotillion.”

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