100 years of dance: Cotillion Dance Club to celebrate 100 years of dancing this summer

Published 12:12 pm Saturday, December 8, 2018

While some may have went home right after work on Tuesday night, some went straight for the dance floor.

Couples (and some singles) mingled for a formal supper while surrounded by Christmas decorations and lights that set the tone of a merry celebration.

The scene was set for a classic and fun affair at the Austin Country Club. Tables were set for an elegant dinner, and members of the Cotillion Dance Club mingled with cocktails and sparkling outfits. However, what most of the people were waiting for was the live music, and the chance to go out and dance.

Members of the Cotillion Dance Club twirl and spin during a Dec. 4 dance at the Austin Country Club. Eric Johnson/photodesk@austindailyherald.com

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Among the dancers were Otto and Betty Volkert, who had been a part of the Cotillion Dance Club for 50 years. The two (who had been married for 64 years) saw a shift in how the dances would be “very formal” with cocktails stopping just as dinner was being served to members, and only water would allowed afterward.

Nowadays, the Volkerts “don’t dance as much anymore” but still attend the dances as a time to socialize with other couples and enjoy watching them dance.

“The main thing was, they don’t have to be good dancers,” Otto Volkert said.

Also in attendance was Dr. Richard Nordin, who was part of the Cotillion Dance Club since 1958 and would attend the dances with his wife, Gloria, who had recently passed away and was an avid dancer herself. He was a member at the time when the dances would be held at different locations, including Taopi.

“It’s really fantastic,” Nordin shared. “I come for the fellowship.”

The Cotillion Dance Club had been around for almost a century (its 100th anniversary is this June) and started its history in 1919. The first dance was held at The Elks Hall, at a time when the women would prepare meals early in the day, and the husbands would return home from work to get ready for an evening of dancing, dressed in suits, while the women wore formal gowns and met once a month, according to Alice Anderson, a steering committee member for the club.

“It’s a congenial group,” Anderson said. “We’ve been a part of this group for 22 years.You get to know everybody.”

Now the Cotillion Dance Club eyes its biggest celebration of its 100th Anniversary in June 2019. The Big Band is lined up to play, and couples can come by throughout the area, and dance to some live music while hitting the floor with the samba and other types of dances like the polka.

Since its early conception, the Cotillion Dance Club would meet once a month on a Tuesday night to dance and to have fellowship with one another. There’s plenty in the works for the Cotillion Dance Club to prepare for its most special shindig in the club’s history. Anderson said that although people may go to Rochester for dance lessons, or head up to the cities for a night out, Austin’s Cotillion Dance Club may be one of the few of its kind to have an organized night of special dancing.

Kathy Kester is spun by Bill Buckley during an early December meeting of the Cotillion Dance Club. Eric Johnson/photodesk@austindailyherald.com

Although there aren’t too many young couples who are members of the Cotillion Dance Club, Anderson said that the organization always welcomed those who “love to dance.”

“Some of the dancing is not that familiar to young people,” she said. “But, they seem to like what we do.”

Often times, the Cotillion Dance Club would dance to live music of Barry Rush and Steve Krob’s Reminisce. During the first Tuesday of the month, members would gather for a social hour with cocktails starting at 6 p.m., followed by a dinner at 7 and then dancing following the supper.

Back when the Cotillion Dance Club was in its early years, there’d be a “waitlist” to get into the club, as there were as many as 40 couples who used to come and dance. These days, there would be 20 couples and some singles.

However, the dancing remains a joyful time to catch up with friends, and some even say that the Cotillion Dance Club was one that was pretty unique to the Mower County area.

“It’s very unusual,” Anderson said. “Especially for a hundred-year-old club. It’s just a wonderful evening out.”