Center of Creative Arts – COCA has been providing meaningful arts experiences to St. Louisans and their families since 1986. COCA is the fourth largest multidisciplinary community arts center in theU.S. and a leader in innovative arts education. COCA is one of 16 schools in the country—and the only one in Missouri—accredited by the Accrediting Commission for Community and Precollegiate Arts Schools. We provide meaningful arts experiences in our own studios, gallery and theatres, as well as in schools, community centers and business settings in order to build a vibrant community that is creative, connected and inclusive.
COCA’s programs are committed to excellence in arts education; thus we have recruited exceptional professional artists to lead, teach and mentor our classes. We stand behind their level of artistry, understanding of the creative process, and teaching standards which cumulatively result in student learning and growth.
COCA’s programs require general guidelines so that all students and their parents experience a positive, healthy, and educationally productive atmosphere. Please read over the guidelines in this handbook carefully to familiarize yourself with our policies.
Enriching lives and building community through the arts.
COCA CORE VALUES
COCA is proud to serve people of all ages and backgrounds from more than 200 zip codes each year, and our core values are at the heart of everything we do.
We ask our students, parents, staff and faculty to adhere to these values and follow all behaviors and policies outlined in the COCA Student Handbook. It is our sincere intention to provide a quality arts education in a positive and respectful environment that is free from discrimination, harassment, bullying and abuse.
At COCA, we place great emphasis on the student-teacher relationship and value a process-based approach in the studio. COCA’s more than 200 teaching artists are highly qualified in their fields, having professional experience in their art forms and a depth of teaching expertise. Our goal is to inspire students to develop not only skills in the arts, but also the artistic process of an artist and the new ways of thinking that quality arts experiences provide.
COCA’s educational approach is rooted in Studio Habits of Mind, a framework developed by a research team from Project Zero at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. This framework helps to define quality teaching and learning across disciplines, sites and programs, and provides a common language for COCA staff, faculty, students, and the community.
The faculty at COCA is chosen with great care. All of our teaching artists have either a college degree in a performing arts discipline, have danced professionally or are currently performing with a professional ensemble.
We have regular faculty meetings where we discuss curriculum and teaching methods. Faculty members monitor and discuss students’ progress across each of the disciplines to make sure that each student is performing to the best of their ability. Our faculty strives to give each student the individual attention and instruction they need to reach their highest potential. COCA is committed to providing regular professional development opportunities for our teaching artists, including on topics applicable across disciplines, like trauma-informed and anti-bias anti-racism training, as well as discipline-specific training. For example, many of our ballet faculty are certified in American Ballet Theatre curriculum.
Each of our teaching artists brings a unique perspective, personality and skill set to the classroom environment. Students benefit from these differing approaches and backgrounds as they mirror the professional environment that students will encounter throughout their career. We are fortunate that St. Louis is rich with wonderful arts teachers, and we make a concerted effort to expose our students to them.
Throughout the year, we offer master classes taught by local artists and instructors, and encourage our students to take advantage of these opportunities. Check with your instructors for information about the current semester’s master class options.
For immediate assistance during our hours of operation, contact Patron Services at 314.725.6555.
To contact the Registration Office, email email@example.com or call 314.561.4898.
6880 Washington Avenue, St. Louis, MO 63130
COCA’s main facility is located at 6880 Washington Avenue, St. Louis, MO 63130. COCA’s arts classes and camps are offered at our University City facility and at other locations throughout the St. Louis area.
Fall & Winter/Spring Hours
MON–FRI | 9:00AM–9:00PM
SAT | 9:00AM–6:00PM
SUN | 11:00AM–6:00PM
MON–FRI | 7:30AM–9:00PM
SAT | 9:00AM–4:00PM
SUN | Closed
*Subject to change. Visit cocastl.org for holiday & building closures.
COCA classes run in sessions and semesters.
Free parking is provided across Washington Ave. from COCA in a parking garage shared with Washington University. There is more than enough parking in the parking garage, however, limited street parking is also available. Please follow all University City parking rules.
In an effort to streamline registration and maintain the highest quality of instruction in the classroom, each year COCA hosts Dance Placement Classes for Intermediate through Advanced Levels. This process ensures that both returning and new students are placed in the appropriate levels prior to the start of the Fall semester. All students in Intermediate through Advanced dance classes must attend a Placement Class as a prerequisite to enrolling in the class. All students who participate in a Placement Class will receive an electronic Placement Letter, which should be brought with them when they come to register.
Students should pre-register for Placement Classes online or visit the COCA Registration Office.
Any student that believes they should move into the Intermediate Levels from a Beginner Level must also attend a Placement class.
Students should keep absences to a minimum and are responsible for making up all missed classes by the end of the semester. Consistent technical and artistic progress is directly related to regular class attendance. See make-up policy below for more information. Pre-Professional students must have an 85% attendance rate or greater.
CANCELLATION OF CLASSES
In the event that COCA cancels a class for any reason, notice will be posted on the monitors in the lobby. In addition, email and text notifications will be sent to inform students and their parents/guardians. Students are encouraged to use our pre-recorded classes in the event of a cancellation or make-up need.
Snow or Inclement Weather Policy: COCA is reluctant to close the building and cancel classes, but will do so when the danger to those traveling is too great and safety is a concern.
Students who miss class due to injury, illness, or personal absences are allowed to make up classes within the same semester the absence took place. Absences caused by inclement weather, class cancellation and building closures are not required to be made up, but it is highly encouraged. Students make up a class by completing the Make-Up Form and giving the form to the instructor for the class he or she is making up. Make-Up Forms are available at the front desk, in the Registration Office and online. If Make-Up Forms are missing information or are illegible, to the point where they cannot be processed, the make-up class will not count toward attendance. Students are allowed to attend another section of the class if it meets on a different day or a class in the same discipline of a lower level. Missed classes must be made up by the end of the semester.
Students also have the option to participate in virtual make-up classes using COCA’s Make-Up Class videos, available through COCA’s website at cocastl.org/make-up-classes.
COVID-19 Update: At this time, there will be no in-person make-up classes. Students are encouraged to use the online Make-Up Class videos.
PRE-PROFESSIONAL DIVISION PROGRAMS
COCA’s Pre-Professional Division is a program for the most engaged students who wish to train in the arts at a rigorous level. The Pre-Professional Program is comprised of the Junior and Senior Division in both Dance and Theatre. All students who are eligible within the Pre-Professional Division will receive the following Support Services: Transportation, Dancewear, Sack Lunches, College and Career Guidance, Master Classes, Workshops, and Tutoring.
STUDENT COMPANIES & ENSEMBLES
Senior Division: The Senior Division provides the rigor and continuation of technical training while engaging students in high-level performance opportunities. The Senior Division is comprised of students ages 14–18 who take between 6–8 dance classes per week based off recommendations from the artistic team. The selection process takes place during Student Dance company auditions.
Junior Division: The Junior Division is the training ground for students interested in becoming more serious about their craft. It is comprised of students ages 10–14 who take between 3–5 classes per week based off recommendations from the artistic team. The selection process takes place during recruitment, open community auditions or Student Company auditions.
Theatre Artist Ensembles
The Theatre Artist Program within COCA’s Pre-Professional Division is designed for students who have aspirations for a professional career in theatre. COCA offers three tracks of study for an intensive conservatory-style training taught by leading theatre artists from St. Louis and beyond.
Senior Division: The Senior Division provides the rigor and continuation of technical training while engaging students in high-level performance opportunities. The Senior Division is comprised of students ages 14–18 who take 4+ classes per week based off recommendations from the artistic team along with their practical placement. The selection process takes place during auditions.
Junior Division: The Junior Division is the training ground for students interested in becoming more serious about their craft. It is comprised of students ages 10–14 who take between 3+ classes per week based off recommendations from the artistic team along with their practical placement. The selection process takes place during recruitment, open community auditions or Student Company auditions.
All students will be placed with care and consideration at all levels of training. The changing of levels is always decided with the student’s best interest and advancement in mind; promotion may not occur every year. It is not uncommon for a student to stay at the same level for two or more years. If a student is promoted too soon, then the student will miss valuable training, may struggle in subsequent levels, or become injured. See placement class information.
Individual student schedule changes, such as transfers and withdrawals, can be made during the first three weeks of each semester with approval from COCA’s Artistic Directors. After that date, transferring from one class to another is not accepted, and the student must wait until the start of the next session to transfer. Refunds are only given if a withdrawal is completed before the semester begins, unless it’s a medical withdrawal. Please see withdrawal policy for details.
In addition, all level changes made at the start of the spring semester are only allowed if an instructor has advised the student to make such a change.
Below is a list of general student etiquette rules and responsibilities. If a student does not adhere to this general classroom etiquette, the teacher has the right to remove the student from class.
COMMUNICATION WITH FACULTY
Due to class scheduling, faculty does not have adequate time in-between classes to discuss concerns or questions. We welcome you to set an appointment by emailing the discipline coordinator or contacting the Registration Office. They will communicate with the appropriate faculty or staff member and address any concerns or questions. Faculty and staff home phone numbers, addresses or personal emails will not be given out to students or parents for any reason.
DAY TO DAY RESPONSIBILITIES
Every student must check in with the faculty for attendance. If a student arrives late for class, it is their responsibility to ensure that they have been marked present for that day. All students and parents are responsible for checking the monitors in the lobby for any upcoming events and changes that may occur. Each student will be encouraged to achieve the highest standards of etiquette, artistry and professionalism.
DRESS CODE – DANCE
All dancers are responsible for dressing according to the correct dress codes for their class level. If the dancer does not have the correct attire, they must obtain permission from the instructor to participate or observe the class that day.
All dance students are required to secure their hair away from their face. Those with long hair, must pull it up into a bun for all ballet, pointe and modern classes, or a ponytail for jazz classes. Bangs and long loose ends need to be pulled neatly off the face and secured with pins or barrettes with a mist of hairspray. Students with hair that cannot be secured in a bun, must secure the hair off the face. If needed, ponytail holders and bobby pins are available at the front desk.
For the student’s own safety, large jewelry is not permitted in class. This includes watches, necklaces, large bows and dangling earrings.
For the safety of the dancer, appropriate shoes are required and should be worn for each class. Dance shoes are ONLY to be worn in the dance studios and NEVER to be worn outside. Hip-hop students should have a separate pair of sneakers that are not worn outside for the dance studios.
FOOD & BEVERAGES
Food may only be eaten in the designated areas of the building. No food is allowed in the studios, bathrooms, theatre or dressing rooms. However, closeable water bottles are allowed in the studios. All food and waste must be thrown in the garbage cans or recycling bins provided.
If a student is injured, it is recommended that they observe the class to allow the injury to heal. If a student has an injury requiring doctor’s care, a release form may be necessary to return to class. A student may be allowed to observe class without accumulating absences.
Prompt attendance is important for full warmup and curriculum. If a student arrives more than 15 minutes late, they are only allowed to observe their class. If they arrive more than 15 minutes late and have another dance class following, the student is allowed to warmup themselves and join their next class, as some, but not all, classes use the previous class as a warmup.
LOST & FOUND BINS
The main lost and found bin is located in the front lobby. During the summer months, there are additional bins located in each studio for camps. Always check promptly for lost items as the bin is emptied at the end of each semester. Valuable small items, such as iPods, cameras, and keys are locked safely at the front desk. It is helpful to have the student’s name on all belongings so that items can be returned promptly. It is wise to leave all valuable items at home. COCA is not responsible for lost items.
OBSERVATION OF CLASSES
Parents are invited to wait in the spaces outside each studio and observe their student through the specially designed mirrors. To avoid unnecessary distractions to students and instructors, no one is allowed in the studios to watch classes except during the annual observation periods. One week each semester, parents are invited into the studios to observe their student’s class. Observers must be respectful of the class, the teacher, and the students, and observe class quietly. Cameras, video, and/or cell phones are not allowed in the studio except on special observation occasions.
COVID-19 Update: At this time, no parents or outside visitors will be allowed in the hallways during classes. One parent is allowed in the building with Early Childhood students under six years old.
SAFETY & SECURITY
For safety and security purposes, COCA has set forth the following guidelines:
Those dropping off students ages 3–5 should park in the garage and escort their student to their classroom. Students ages 6 and up should be dropped off in the drop-off lane on Edward Jones Drive.
Students ages 6 and up will be picked up in the pick-up lane on Edward Jones Drive. Parents or guardians of students ages 3–5 should park in the garage and enter through COCA’s main entrance to collect their student.
For camps only, all students under the age of 12 must be signed out daily by a parent or guardian. This is not only for attendance records, but also for emergency and security reasons.
For camps, unattended children will be placed in Before or After Care and parents will be charged.
All students must be picked up promptly at the end of class or rehearsal by a parent or guardian. Children are under supervision during their instruction time only; faculty and staff are not responsible for supervising children outside of teaching time. No child will be allowed to wait outside or leave the building without a parent or guardian. In case of emergency, please notify Patron Services at 314.725.6555 ext. 0.
The registrars can be reached during Registration Office hours by telephone at 314.561.4898 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Fall & Winter/Spring Hours
MON–FRI | 9:00AM–5:00PM
SAT & SUN | Closed
MON–FRI | 8:00AM–6:00PM
SAT & SUN | Closed
ADMISSION & REGISTRATION
Students may register during each semester’s respective open enrollment period. For more information about enrollment periods, visit cocastl.org or call 314.561.4898. Registrations are accepted online or by mail (check only) at any time during an open enrollment period. An annual $30 registration fee per student is required for registration. A $25 fee will be charged for any returned check or credit card payments. Offenses may result in loss of privilege to pay via check, credit card, or payment plan. For mailed-in registrations, COCA will send a confirmation email containing your registration receipt. If you do not receive this email within two weeks, contact the Registration Office.
For advisement or questions about camps, classes and policies, please contact the registrars or discipline coordinators.
In the event that a class does not reach the required minimum students or there are circumstances beyond our control, COCA reserves the right to cancel a class. Students will be notified, and the registrars will recommend a suitable replacement class. If no replacement can be settled, COCA will refund tuition fees in full; registration fees are non-refundable.
COCA CLASS PASSES
For professional performing artists and college students ONLY, the COCA Class Pass allows users to “drop in” to intermediate- or advanced-level classes at their convenience, regardless of rehearsal and performance schedules. COCA Class Passes can be purchased online or in person at the Registration Office.
COVID-19 Update: Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the COCA Class Pass is suspended until further notice.
EARLY CHILDHOOD CLASSES
Children must have reached the minimum age for enrollment by the first day of class. Registration for parent-and-child classes is required for child only. Parents need not register, but must attend.
Classes for students ages three and up are independent classes and do not require parent participation. Children must be fully potty-trained to attend independent classes.
COCA reserves the right to suspend or terminate instructional and performance participation for students who do not meet their financial obligations. Students are liable for the full cost of tuition. Accounts with any outstanding balance will not be allowed to re-register until the balance is paid in full.
Financial assistance for tuition is offered to all students who attend COCA and demonstrate a need. The amount of financial assistance will be given based on the student’s financial needs. Financial assistance will be revoked if students or parents do not meet the high expectations or standards set by COCA. Application period begins January 30 of each year. General financial assistance will apply toward one class each semester for a full year (Fall, Winter/Spring, Summer).
Students registering for three or more classes are eligible for the Multi-Class Discount. The Multi-Class Discount is available through online registration. Discounts apply per person, per semester to full-semester classes only.
Fall & Winter/Spring Sessions
1–2 Classes | Always full price
3–4 Classes | $60 off each class
5–Classes | $100 off each class
1–2 Classes | Always full price
3–4 Classes | $45 off each class
5–Classes | $75 off each class
To use the Fall & Winter/Spring payment plan, a 25% down payment, a non-refundable $15 processing fee, and the non-refundable annual registration fee are required upon registration. Credit cards or checking accounts will automatically be billed in equal payments on September, October and November 15 (Fall), or February, March and April 15 (Winter/Spring) for the remaining equal payments. Missed payments will result in loss of use. Payment plans may be used for full-semester classes only.
To transfer to another class within the same semester, a Transfer/Withdrawal Form must be completed in full and submitted to the Registration Office within the first three weeks of the respective semester. Transfers are not permitted after this time. Transfers/Withdrawal Forms are available at the COCA front desk, in the Registration Office, and on our website.
All information about tuition is listed in the most current guide or can be found on our website.
The illegal use of alcohol, cigarettes and controlled substances are strictly forbidden on COCA property. Students in violation will be dismissed immediately.
For classes that have reached their maximum capacity, students may choose to be placed on a waitlist. When registering online, simply add the student’s name to the respective waitlist. When using a registration form, check the box next to your class selection if interested in being placed on a waitlist. Students will be contacted if a vacancy in the program arises.
To withdrawal from a class, a Transfer/Withdrawal Form must be completed and submitted to the Registration Office by the withdrawal dates listed in the program guide. Transfer/ Withdrawal Forms are available at the front desk, in the Registration Office, and on our website. Tuition fees will be refunded, less a $25 processing fee per class for all withdrawals submitted before the deadline; registration fees and payment plans fees are non-refundable.
Withdrawal deadlines for refunds are always the Saturday before a semester starts. If you must withdraw after the deadline, refunds for any fees and credits for classes missed by students due to illness, personal schedule conflicts or for other reasons will not be given. In addition, any scheduled payments are still due, with the exception for medical reasons that are documented by a doctor. Withdrawals must be submitted in writing by completing the Transfer/Withdrawal Form. There are no exceptions to this policy.
Listed below are the expectations we have of all Pre-Professional Division students; please read them carefully. The individual success of each Pre-Professional Division student depends on the dedication and cooperation of each student artist and each student artist’s family. It is the intention of this program to promote respect for all participants with COCA’s Pre-Professional Division. It is expected that all students and parents/guardians of Pre-Professional Division participants read and understand the expected conduct, and continue to observe and follow all the principles throughout the year.
Current Junior Division, Apprentice and Second company Dance members as well as all Theatre Artists must audition each year to participate in the Pre-Professional Division. First Company dance members in good standing do not need to re-audition. Student accounts must be in good standing for auditions and registration.
We expect all company members to maintain an 85% attendance rate in all classes. Consistent attendance is important in order for students to learn, grow, and advance. COCA Artistic and/or PPD Staff will reach out to parents and company members if there are any concerns about attendance. If attendance does not improve, Dance company members may be ineligible for residency casting and First Company members may be required to re-audition the next year. Theatre Artist Members: All featured parts in company concerts will be assigned through an audition process during the regularly scheduled rehearsal time. Company members are required to be present at auditions in order to be considered for a featured role. To make sure we’re creating the best learning environment possible for all of our students, as well as maintaining health and safety standards, in-person make-up classes will not be available. Students will be able to access pre-recorded content to take as a make-up. If students are below the required attendance rate for both the Winter/Spring semester only, they cannot audition for the company.
The dates of all COCA rehearsals and performances are automatically excused for students involved in those productions. Please notify directors of your other COCA commitments.
If a student needs to miss class due to an arrangement outside of COCA, they must contact the Pre-Professional Division Manager at least two weeks prior to the event or activity for approval. Excused absences are given only for one outside production a year, or for school activities that are necessary for a grade. For these non-COCA events, students must provide the rehearsal and performance schedules, event program/acceptance letter, or letter from the student’s school.
For absences due to a medical concern, a doctor’s note is required in order for the absence to be excused. Students with physical injuries that will not allow participation in classes should still attend and learn through observation. Teachers will mark the attendance as present and students will not need to make-up those classes.
A doctor’s note is required for students who have long-term health related concerns that would cause them to miss an extraordinary amount of classes. The doctor’s note will serve as documentation for when financial assistance and Pre-Professional Division status is reviewed for the following year. Students with physical injuries that will not allow participation in classes should still attend and learn through observation. Teachers will mark the attendance as present and students will not need to make up classes.
All students must arrive on time. The faculty has the right to prohibit any student from taking the class that day if he/she arrives late. The tardy student should then observe the class quietly.
A respectful attitude toward the guest artists, faculty, staff, other students and yourself is expected at all times.
Students must adhere to the Dress Code for all of their classes and rehearsals.
Due to concerns regarding our students’ safety as well as insurance liability issues, students under the age of 16 are prohibited from leaving the building between class or rehearsal. Students should come to classes, rehearsals and performances prepared with food, snacks and other necessary items.
All students must train at COCA exclusively during regularly class semesters. This does not pertain to out-of-state summer intensives or supplemental classes during semester breaks.
Pre-Professional Division programs are dependent on funds raised from their performances. Therefore, student artists are required to support the selling of tickets to these events.
First/Apprentice Company students tend to engage in 1–2 residencies per year. Artistic Directors bring in visiting artists to work with company members for a period of 1–2. During this time, students will have the opportunity to work with professional dance artists for 5 hours per day during the week and up to 7 hours on Saturday’s and Sunday’s. This experience is designed to expose our pre-professional students to different styles of dance, help them develop an understanding of a professional rehearsal atmosphere, and introduce them to well established choreographers currently working in the field. In addition to creating versatility amongst our talented young artists, this experience will help students’ technical and artistic development. ALL COMPANY MEMBERS are required to remain active throughout the creative process. Casting for the work is at the choreographer’s discretion. All company members will have the opportunity to perform in each of their respective company’s production.
One-On-One Meetings With Artistic Directors
As a member of Ballet Eclectica and COCAdance, annual meetings with the Artistic Directors will be held to discuss your progress and overall work from the year. Parents are not required to attend but are more than welcome to sit in on these meetings.
In the event a student is not able to follow the above expectations, a “three-strike” system will be used to communicate concerns with the student, parents and program managers.
Students who receive a strike will typically face the following consequences:
Strike One: Situation is discussed with the student artist, the parent is contacted.
Strike Two: Situation is discussed with the student artist, and the parent is present for this meeting.
Strike Three: Situation is discussed with the Student Artist—the parent is present for this meeting. Probation or dismissal from the Pre-Professional Division will be decided.
In certain circumstances, when it is in the best interest of the student artist or Pre-Professional Division, it may be necessary for the student to be dismissed from the Pre-Professional Division. Every effort will be made to correct a problematic situation before student dismissal. In each instance, staff members consider the following mitigating or aggravating circumstances prior to disciplinary action:
Any student who commits acts of misconduct detrimental to the good order and discipline of the institution that are not covered in this regulation, or that vary from the offenses as listed herein, will face disciplinary consequences to be determined by the appropriate professional staff member, including long-term probation and/or dismissal. Additionally, if expected and sufficient progress is not made by a probationary student in a timely manner, he or she will be dismissed from the program. Any student dismissed from the Pre-Professional Division may audition and be considered for reinstatement in the following year if progress is demonstrated sufficiently to the adjudicators and faculty.
If a student fails to uphold their responsibilities, the Pre-Professional Division Manager will meet with the student and parents/guardians to discuss consequences of probation. If a student is on probationary status, they will meet on a scheduled basis with their PPD Manager or Artistic Director to discuss progress, class attendance, attitude, and work ethic based on teacher comments in their core classes. The Pre-Professional Division Manager will release the student from probationary status when the student has demonstrated a renewed commitment to their art.
GROUNDS FOR IMMEDIATE DISMISSAL (Parent and Students)
Eligibility & Policies
COCA aims to provide a nurturing learning environment for its students. Parents are encouraged to support their child and their colleagues in their pursuit of the arts for both educational and entertainment purposes.
Parents should help to create an arts environment that is free of disrespectful behavior, inappropriate conversations and public critiques of the student artists or the program. They should encourage their student to abide by the rules and to resolve conflict without resorting to disrespect, hostility or violence. A positive attitude should be directed toward fellow parents, students, faculty and staff, as it shows respect and appreciation for all those who give their time to the success of the program.
Your child has chosen to dedicate a significant amount of time to this program, and they could not do so without your support. We feel it is important for our students to understand that doing one’s best is the primary goal of our program and hope you will reaffirm this message. Please encourage your child with praise for their work and continued commitment.
Our artistic/program staff is dedicated to providing the highest level of training to our students. They make thoughtful decisions regarding the artistic vision, programming and casting, and operate with the best intentions. We ask that you, as a parent, respect that their decisions have been made with integrity and strategy for the overall good of the program and the participants. We appreciate your support in this endeavor.
Learning about the arts world will help you better support your child’s development in the field. It will help you understand the benefits they will receive from participating in a rigorous arts training program: the commitment, the discipline and the social skills learned and acquired through Studio Habits of Mind. We encourage you to expand your understanding by asking questions and conducting independent research so you can aid your child’s understanding and growth.
Open communication between parents and the artistic/program staff is key. We encourage you to communicate and report questions, concerns and comments through the proper channels. This creates a respectful and understanding mutual relationship.