In Latin American culture, a girl comes of age officially on her 15th birthday. The girl's family typically throws a large party, called a quinceanera, to celebrate the occasion. Many Hispanic families in America observe the tradition of the quinceanera. This celebration is in lieu of the Sweet 16 that is common in the United States. The quinceanera party incorporates many traditions, including having a court of honored guests.
The main public role of the court is to perform the first big dance of the party, following the quinceanera girl's dance with her father. The court's dance is generally a choreographed waltz that can incorporate both traditional and more modern dance steps.
The quinceanera court is highly visible during much of the ceremony and reception, both through their grand entrance preceding the birthday girl's entrance and by sitting at the head table during the dinner. The court often has behind-the-scenes tasks to complete as well, including helping with decorating the reception hall and the cars in which members of the court ride.
Traditionally, a quinceanera court has seven girls, seven boys and the birthday girl. This makes a total of 15, to match the age of the birthday girl. Another take on the tradition has a total of 15 couples, one of which is the birthday girl and her escort. If a girl would prefer to have a court of a different size, modern traditions allow her to break from the typical number or to include only girls. However, if the party will include a partner dance, the court should have equal numbers of boys and girls.
The birthday girl chooses the members of the court with the guidance of her parents. As the hosts of the party, the parents can influence the decision and request to include specific individuals in the court. Typically, the quinceanera court includes the birthday girl's siblings, friends, family friends and cousins. They are generally all teenagers. The girl should choose people for her court who get along well because they have to spend a lot of time together preparing for the ceremony and reception.
The girls in the court are called damas, which means ladies in Spanish. The damas generally wear matching ball gowns selected by the birthday girl or her mother. The boys in the court are referred to as chambelanes, or escorts. They generally wear black tuxedos. At the end of the party, the birthday girl presents each member of the court with a gift as a small token of appreciation for their participation.