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A FAMILY TRADITION

In 1968, with eleven years of experience, first as an instructor and then as co-director, Kurt Martine, continued the family tradition, and with his Dallas bride, Suzy, became the fourth generation of  Martines to direct The Martine Cotillions.


During the forty years of their direction, the cotillions grew to encompass eighteen communities across two states with membership more than doubling over the years.  The family had been in some communities for so long that former members had grown up and begun bringing their own children to join the tradition.

The Martine family’s history as etiquette experts spans over 150 years, reaching back before the Civil War, from Chicago to the West Coast, involving over 100,000 families.

In the 1920’s and ‘30’s the Professor’s daughter Edwina,  co-directing with her husband Lee Weckler, began to establish themselves as directors of the Martine School  of  Dancing,  and  selected  as  their primary Cotillion location and residence Chicago’s renowned Edgewater Beach Hotel.  Edwina also held Cotillions in the Grand Ballroom of  the  Drake Hotel, among others. She continued to be involved with the Cotillions throughout her long life.

The earliest recorded date mentioning a Martine as a leader in the etiquette field is 1857,  four years before the Civil War.  Professor James Edwin Martine, was Chicago’s most renowned ballroom dance master at that time.  At the peak of his long career, Professor Martine had established beautiful Terpsichorean Parlors in several prominent Chicago communities. The two-story ballroom in his home on  Hampden  Court  measured some 30x60 feet, plus a full mezzanine.  The ballroom was replete with lighting of Venetian crystal and seating in the form of Victorian love seats.  For forty-five years the children of the “Chicago 400” were among the students who received instruction from Professor Martine even after the Chicago fire of 1871.

In 1866 Martine’s Handbook of Etiquette and Guide to True Politeness was written by Arthur Martine.  This  practical and timeless guide presents the reasons  behind the “rules” and  points out that one need only think of others in  social  situations to avoid awkward blunders and help people interact compatibly.  The book is  is so timeless that it is still in print to this day, and is a favorite of Civil War historians and used as a reference by Civil War enthusiasts in period reproductions.

During the 1930’s their son, James, was pursuing his own dancing career.  He and his partner, Hallie, won the East Coast Veolanda Dance Competition - the same competition which launched the movie careers of Marge and Gower Champion on the west coast.


Jim soon married Arlette Abell, a well known Chicago cover model of the time.  They continued the Cotillion tradition together, but Jim’s enlistment in the Army Air Force during WWII interrupted their plans.

In 1943 after he was stationed in California as a pilot,  Jim and Arlette decided California would become their home.  They and their three year old son, Kurt,  moved  to Los Angeles.   After the war Jim entered the Cotillion arena in his new home state.  Soon, it became apparent that many who lived in Southern California had also come from Chicago and it was not long before word of the Martine Cotillions’ reputation had begun to spread.

1920’s and 1930’s

1930’s to 1960’s

1990’s to Present

1960’s to 1990’s

1850’s to 1920’s

Having learned to Cha-Cha at age three, Gena’s expertise in manners and dance blossoms from growing up as the fifth generation of the family business, first assisting and then co-directing with her parents. Miss Martine’s first directing partner was Cliff Carey, a graduate of the Bakersfield Cotillions.  For the last decade her Co-Director has been the talented Allen R. Ehmann.


After earning her degree in English Literature from University of California Irvine in 1991 Gena married John Santoni, a professional photographer, in 1995.  Through the years she has enriched her skills with vocal performance, world travel, and editorial and fiction writing.  “Miss Martine’s” specialty is motivating the children, helping them learn through having fun.  She has been Director of The Martine Cotillions since 1996.

Edwina once danced with Rudolf Valentino in the 1920’s. It was said he danced only two tangos that evening, and both with her.  Here she is pictured in the gypsy costume she wore that night.  

An early offering of upcoming events at Martine’s in 1868, promising “Systematic and thorough instruction, increased attention, unyielding efforts, and unqualified satisfaction guaranteed to all.”

Here, Professor Martine holds his grandson, Jim, who later followed in his footsteps as Director of The Martine Cotillions in Southern California.

A young Kurt Martine in 1968 just after his marriage to Suzy, poised to take over for his father as Director of The Martine Cotillions. 


Under the direction of Kurt and Suzy Martine, the Cotillion communities of Santa Barbara, Tustin, Villa Park, Yorba Linda, Long Beach, South Orange County, Foothills, Mesa Verde and Rancho Santa Fe were added as Chapters of the

Martine Cotillions.

Professor James Edwin Martine

Professor Martine’s Ballroom, before

the Great Chicago Fire of 1871

Edwina Martine Weckler with

her husband and partner, Lee.

The Annual May Party at the Edgewater Beach Hotel, 1922

Jim Martine & his partner, Hallie Wynnard

Arlette, Kurt and Jim, 1943

Suzy, Gena and Kurt Martine

Gena with her husband, John Santoni

Gena Martine Santoni

the fifth successive generation

to own and direct

the Martine Cotillions.

Jim and Arlette Martine directed the Cotillions for 25 years, expanding into new communities such as Laguna Beach, Ventura and Newport Beach.  Each community has just celebrated 50 years of Cotillions beginning in 1956.

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