COCA Pre-Professional Division Dancers

Meet COCA’s 2024 Pre-Professional Division Seniors

Dance Program Seniors

Joshua Bruton

“I’ve been a part of COCA for 10 years, starting at the age of 7. I decided to audition for COCA’s Pre-Professional Division, and I got in. I remember when I was young, I walked into the building and could hear different types of music coming from the building. I knew I wanted to dance to all these different genres of music. At COCA, I’ve been a part of COCA Hip-Hop Crew, COCAdance, and Ballet Eclectica. They taught me to always give it my best, that I should practice and stretch, and that I should have fun while dancing. It’s my senior year, and it’s time to say goodbye. Next year, I will be attending Howard University for dance.”

JiaLi Deck

“For my whole life I’ve been here. Longer than I’ve been at any school or known any of my friends. Before I knew how to read, I was here, staying after class to watch the big girls. I have so much to say about this place and these people who have taken up so much of my life. Thank you feels wrong. It’s not good enough for my teachers who always believed in me, but never stopped pushing me. For my family who allowed me to pursue dance as my passion. For my friends who put up with my busy schedule and are my constant inspiration. How can thank you be enough? I think thank you feels wrong because it reminds me of goodbye. It’s your bow, your reverence; the end. And I don’t want to say goodbye. This chapter of my life has been everything and I’m terrified to turn the page. Nonetheless, I am ready. Next year, I will be studying dance and English/journalism at Barnard College. There’s so much more to say, but life is long and this solo is short. So I will say thank you and it won’t be enough, but nothing ever is.”

DeKylah Epps

“In 2016, I found my home away from home, but it wasn’t until one class turned into nine and two companies that it was known. 12 years old with a dream brought to life by the COCA team. 18 years old and now I know how much it really means. Here I’ve found my voice and learned the disciplines of life, that just so happened to come with a leotard and tights. I’m so thankful for the relationships I’ve made over time, they will forever be held deep in this heart of mine. How lucky I am to have an inspiring, dedicated, dependable role model that I just so happen… get to call mom and might I add that she’s the bomb! As my time at COCA comes to a close, I can proudly say there’s so much more to my dance journey that only God knows.”

Isabelle Gerardo

“I walked into my first ballet class scared but was greeted with a smiling face. This small smile foreshadowed the wonderful community at COCA that I would become a part of. While at COCA, I persevered through many challenges as a dancer. I pushed through boundaries, learned to transmute fear into excitement, and was given many unique opportunities I will not forget. Thanks to COCA, I will be attending Hartford University’s dance program on a scholarship next fall.

I would like to thank my COCA teachers for your wisdom and pushing me outside my comfort zone. Thank you, Mr. Antonio, and Kirven for your tough love and encouragement. Thank you, Mom & Russ, for always believing in me, and all the sacrifices you made. Thank you, Chloe, for countless hours of driving. Thank you, Dad, Carrie, Oliver, and Harry, for your support. Thank you, Ms. Kim, for creating a safe space for me at COCA, and continuously reminding me to keep pushing when things got hard. Thank you, Naomi and Ashlee, for being my best friends. I will forever remember endlessly laughing in the halls of COCA with you two.”

Ava Guirl

“In September of 2023, I came to COCA. I came with the intention of furthering my ballet technique along with my overall stage presence, but I am leaving with even more than that. Within the first week, I was proud to call COCA a second home. Everyone welcomed me with open arms, and I am leaving with some lifelong memories, connections, and friends. I have grown more at COCA in this past year than I could ever imagine. They have pushed me mentally and physically, making me grow into the person and dancer I used to wish I could be. With the little time that I have had there, they have shaped my passion for dance into a form. The only thing that I could have wished that I had with them is more time. With COCA’s guidance, they have helped me achieve one of my overall goals. After graduation, I will continue my dance training pursuing a BFA in dance at the University of Utah.”

Ashlee Holloway

“Dance is everything to me, it’s been an integral part of my life since I was three. It has helped me grow as an artist and individual and allows me to share myself with the world and emotionally connect with others. Thank you to Ms. Charley and Ms. Lisa for giving me such a solid foundation in dance and seeing my potential before I saw it in myself. Thank you to Ms. Sam, Ms. Ashley, Mr. Kirven, Ms. Ellen, Mr. Antonio, Ms. Jen, and every teacher I’ve had at COCA for always pushing me to improve and go beyond what’s expected. Mom, and Dad, I wouldn’t be where I am today or who I am today, without your unwavering love, and I can never thank you enough. Lastly, I want to thank my best friends, Isabelle and Naomi. I’m so grateful for you guys and couldn’t imagine my life without you. Next fall, I’ll pursue my BFA in dance at Boston Conservatory on a full-tuition scholarship! I’m so grateful that God led me to COCA, and I’m so excited for what my future holds!”

Sofia Shah

“I took my very first ballet class at COCA when I was just two years old. My teacher, Ms. Kathleen, told my mom then that I was going to become a ballerina. Over the years, COCA has truly become my second home. I will be forever grateful for the amazing training I have received here, as well as the friendships I have gained. I’d like to thank all the teachers I’ve had over the years, including Ms. Jen, Ms. Ashley, Michael, and Sam, and of course Antonio and Kirven, for helping me grow my talent and confidence. I’d also like to thank my parents for their unconditional love and support of my passion for dance. Next year, I will be attending Tufts University and majoring in international relations. Dance has taught me so much that I will be able to carry with me throughout my college years and beyond.”

Jaida Smith

“Having spent my entire life at COCA, the one sentiment I cannot express enough is gratitude. Thank you, COCA, for providing me with a family, a second home, and a means for carrying out my passion for dance. Thank you for allowing me to discover myself and where I belong in the artistic world. Thank you for the unconditional love you have provided me and countless other aspiring dancers, and thank you, most of all, to Ms. Ashley, Mr. Antonio, Mr. Kirven, and Ms. Sam for making this place so special. I aspire to continue on a path of artistry and education through my next four years at the University of Utah, where I plan on double majoring in dance and a scientific outside field. Since the first time I stepped into Pre-Ballet at age three, until now, having spent the past 5 years in the Pre-Professional Division with Ballet Eclectica, I have come to discover more about dance and more about myself than I ever thought possible.”

Grace Wolf

“Even though I have only been part of the COCA family for a year, both my teachers and my peers have pushed me to be not only a better dancer but the best version of myself. No matter what I do in the future, I know I will be able to utilize the lessons I’ve learned in the COCA studios to succeed. Before joining COCA, I had taken some time off from dance and was unsure if I wanted movement to continue to be a big part of my life. Now, I am certain that I will always be a dancer and need a barre class at least once a week. Next year, I will be at Stanford.”

Theatre & Voice Program Seniors

Kennedy Jenkins

“My time at COCA has shaped me into the performer I am now. I started when I was 15, being in the Pre-Professional Division; Vocal Company, Improv Troupe, and COCAwrites. I wasn’t confident in my abilities, but coming to COCA made me realize the talents I had. COCA is such a friendly environment that genuinely cares and wants to help. Being in shows and performing with adults who are so talented was such an amazing experience. Over time, I have developed into a confident performer who knows what she’s good at. Thanks to COCA, I feel ready for what the future holds. I will attend Webster University in the fall, further pursuing my musical theatre aspirations.”