Mr. Benjamin’s Cotillion continues teaching etiquette

Peter Benjamin instructs his students during a class. (courtesy photo)

Mr. Benjamin’s Cotillion continues teaching etiquette

By Kaila Mellos

Mr. Benjamin’s Cotillion – an annual tradition for middle schoolers – is about to commence as the school year begins. The class that teaches social amenities, etiquette and ballroom dancing will once again welcome new faces.

Mr. Benjamin’s Cotillion class was founded by Donald Benjamin in 1954, and is now carried on by his son and director of the classes, Peter Benjamin.

“My dad started Mr. Benjamin’s, and it’s been running continuously for 70 years, except for that one COVID year,” Peter said. “I used to work with him when I was younger, learning the ropes, but I left San Diego for a bit and when I came back in 1983, I started doing some of his classes as well on my own.”

The two have taught clas-ses throughout the county for middle schoolers at locations in Point Loma, Tierrasanta, Scripps Ranch, Coronado, La Jolla and Rancho Santa Fe. 

They started classes in the Scripps Ranch area in the 1980s at Miramar Ranch Elementary School and later moved to Marshall Middle School.

“We’ve been in Scripps Ranch for close to 40 years now,” Peter said.

The classes begin in October at the Marshall location after invitations are sent out in September. The lessons will be held every other week on Tuesdays for 10 weeks in the school’s multipurpose room.

“The kids will learn all kinds of things,” Peter said. “They dance, however, it’s not a dance class. The dancing does allow the kids to become, hopefully, more comfortable in their social skills, eye contact, introductions, introducing themselves, making conversation, and of equal importance, listening, which is a pretty important skill.”

Peter, and his father before him, have stressed the importance of growing these social skills in an ever-changing world.

“Our program stresses kindness and graciousness. We feel this is something of which our lives are becoming increasingly void,” Peter said. “In a world of rapidly evolving electronic communication, cell phones and text messaging, we often forget the fundamental skills of human interaction remain basic and unchanged. At every class, we review and reinforce these highly reliable skills.”

Even though most students are apprehensive at first, according to Peter, they all warm up and start to have fun learning with each other.

“They’re nervous and apprehensive in the beginning,” Peter said. “After two or three classes, they get very comfortable. Like other things in life, with familiarity comes comfortability.”

He also said that many legacy children participate in the classes after their parents had taken classes from his father in the past.

“The parents continually support the program, and we are very appreciative of that. It’s a rite of passage, which is the word I hear from many parents,” Peter said.

The classes in Scripps Ranch are also open to students from other schools, including the Mira Mesa and Poway areas. 

“That even replicates a more authentic life situation because when going to functions or events, you’ll know some of the people there, but you don’t know everybody, and that’s how these classes work – so every single child does know them all. That’s part of the growth,” Peter said.

With the classes starting in October, there still might be some availability to sign up through the website: