Thrillion: When the exam is a ball

For the past 25 years, Frances Lee-Vandell (with help from Cricket Jaber) has taught sixth through eight graders the fine points of ballroom dancing and table manners. Their "final exam" is the Jefferson Cotillion at the Farmington Country Club.

Sunday, December 7, was the big night for this year's class. While the Vernon Fischer Quartet jammed some smoking samba, swing, and waltz numbers, little boys in suits and tall girls in gowns stepped like pros under the beaming gaze of mamas and daddys.

After the Bunny Hop (a bouncier version of the conga line), the young men and young ladies took their seats for a five-course meal. With the utmost care and politeness, the boys stood until the girls were seated and napkins were placed in laps. Smooth dinner conversation, middle-school style, ensued.

The Jefferson Cotillion also gave something back to the community. Each of the 40 or so kids brought a present for donation to the Salvation Army Toy Lift. A very important lesson for everyone: Politeness and the fox trot will get you only so far in life. You need to be generous and caring to be a true gentleman or lady.

Frances Lee-Vandell leads the Bunny Hop.

These kids are dance machines!

The smokin' Vernon Fischer Quartet. Hot!

Ian Foster (a.k.a. Mr. Smooth) works the camera with his mother, Liana.

Dance instructor Cricket Jaber and Cotillion organizer Arlene Lee

Liza Sackson and her son Nevin sip, not slurp, their soup.