The Cotillion is a popular 18th and 19th century dance in the French Courts that preceded the Quadrille style of dancing. It is a type of patterned social dance that originated in France in the 1700s and was originally made up of four couples in a square formation, the forerunner of the quadrille. Its name, from French cotillon, "petticoat", reflected the flash of petticoats as the changing partners turned.

The Cotillion is one of many contredanses where the guests introduce themselves and socialize with others through the exchange of partners within the formation network of the dance. By the 1800s, the Cotillion evolved to include more couples with many complex dance figures.

In 1766, the idea of Cotillions was introduced in London by French dancing masters. They came to America in about 1772, bringing with them the tradition of Cotillion. A "German cotillion", in contemporary accounts, was reintroduced to New York society at a costume ball with a Louis XV theme given by Mrs William Colford Schermerhorn in the early winter of 1854.