Atlanta Cotillion’s ‘Cirque de Nuit’ brings big changes to drag fundraising tradition

Here’s a list of tweaks to Cotillion’s format:

No more “debutantes” or crowned queens

Before: A group of well-connected Atlanta men volunteered to become drag “debutantes” who individually hosted benefits each spring and summer to raise money for AID Atlanta. The fundraising season ended each fall with a formal, cross-dressing Cotillion Ball, where the debutante who raised the most money was crowned queen.

Now: Starting at an annual spring ball — this year at June 8’s “Cirque de Nuit” — several teams of volunteers will compete to raise funds through a number of  benefits throughout the year under the banner “Atlanta Cotillion Presents.” The team with the highest fundraising total will be announced at the following year’s ball.

The season-ending Cotillion Ball is now the start of the Cotillion cycle

Before: The formal drag ball marked the end of the fundraising season, when all the fundraising totals were tallied and an individual debutante was crowed queen.

Now: Though held in June this year, the 2014 and subsequent Cotillion galas will be held in late March/early April. Burke says the new date puts the event outside Atlanta’s busy summer/fall season that includes Joining Hearts, Black Gay Pride, Atlanta Pride and a number of other fundraisers.

Cotillion Ball ticket prices are unrelated to the expanded dress code

Before: The season-ending Cotillion Ball required guests to attend either in black-tie or, at a deeply discounted ticket price, in full glam drag.

Now: Now the season-starting Cotillion Ball has done away with the dress code pricing structure, instead offering general admission, VIP and host committee tickets for $50, $125 and $250, respectively. The dress code has expanded to include “creative/fashion-forward/avant-garde cocktail, fierce/fantasy drag, edgy jacket/suit/tuxedo with a twist, urban/uptown chic and dress uniform.” Burke encourages guests to “step outside their own box with their own drag,” by adding a “provocative” twist to their suits and cocktail attire.

The Cotillion “Ball” is more of a party than ever

Before: The previous Cotillion Balls were hosted in formal surrounds with all the pomp and circumstance you’d expect from a black tie gala. (You know, minus a drag number here and there.)

Now: Like the dress code, Cotillion’s formal gala has been amped up to fill its 2013 home in the Historic Hangar of the Delta Heritage Museum. “Cirque de Nuit” means  “circus night,” and attendees can expect aerialists, sword swallowers, contortionists, burlesque performers and live vocals to match the theme throughout the night. There’ll be heavy hors d’oeuvres, complimentary bar, music by DJs Mike Pope and Todd Skelton, Blackjack tables and traditional silent auction.

But some things never change

According to its website, Cotillion has donated more than $1.2 million to AID Atlanta and that tradition isn’t changing. Burke says Cotillion organizers hope for more than 400 attendees this year, and that these sweeping changes are aimed at expanding Cotillion’s fundraising efforts.

“It’s imperative that we, those who can, help those infected and/or affected with HIV/AIDS… those who don’t have the means to help themselves,” Burke says. “And isn’t that what giving is all about.”

Top photo: Last year’s Cotillion Queen, David Janke, a.k.a. Victoria Isabel “Tore’bella” Candler, may be the drag fundraising group’s last as a new format starts at June 8’s “Cirque de Nuit.”