A Malibu Dancer’s Road to Success

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A scene from Coco Williams’ final winter performance with Yuri Grigoriev’s School of Ballet at Smothers Theatre, which took place last weekend on Dec. 16.

Seventeen-year-old Coco Williams was born into dancing. 

Her older sister was a dancer, so naturally, Williams fell onto the same path. Her mother—local movie producer Amy Williams—moved the family from their house in Chapel Hill, N.C., to the oceanside in Malibu. 

“I had the obsession to move to the ocean,” Amy said in a phone call with The Malibu Times. In Coco’s words, the sentiment echoed. 

“In my brag sheet for college,” she said. “Moving to California—Malibu, specifically … was the best thing to happen to me.” 

In an email, Coco said, “Overall, it has been a magical experience with so much love and an utterly delightful and supportive community here in Malibu since the day we moved.” 

Despite the city’s stereotype as a mecca for the wealthy, she said she’s happy to be a “Malibu kid.” 

As a young kid, Coco attended Dance Star, a dance studio located at Malibu Lumber Yard.

She wasn’t serious about ballet until she met choreographer and teacher Amanda Kofsky, who introduced her to the Yuri Grigoriev School of Ballet. 

The late Grigoriev, born in Moscow, Russia, performed with the Moscow Stanislavsky Ballet and taught at Bolshoi Ballet Academy, among other schools and theaters. He was awarded the “People’s Artist of Russia,” one of the highest awards a Russian citizen can receive. He then moved to Los Angeles in 1997 and opened his own ballet school.

The Venice-based school is where Coco received her own training. 

“[He was] such as an inspiring man. He was a very big presence,” she said. “It was a very serious studio.” 

Coco described the high commitment, hands-on experience the studio offers.

On average, she spends around five to six days per week at the studio. Her commitment sometimes hits a full seven days prior to competitions. 

She has competed—as recently as April—under Grigoriev’s school for the Youth America Grand Prix, a global dance competition.

All the while, Coco considers balancing her schedule as “honestly probably the most difficult thing of all.” 

“Most of the dancers on my level are homeschooled,” Coco said. “ … [I’m] glad I didn’t go [through] home school … I’m one of the few dancers in Malibu that’s extremely serious about making my career, at least at Malibu High.” 

The adults in her life encourage her career. At school, she said her teachers understand what she’s pursuing and her “intense schedule.” At home, “in terms of taking [dance] seriously as a career,” she has the support of her parents. 

“My parents are overprotective,” she said, “[I] can’t drive ‘til I’m 18.” 

As a senior at MHS, Coco looks to apply to East Coast-based colleges. 

“I’m looking at hopefully a conservatory,” she said. 

In the future, she hopes to “integrate everything that [she wants] to do.” Coco is adamant about accomplishing her goals, which includes designing her own dance clothes.

For now, it seems that Coco is taking her final bow—for now—in Malibu. Her last performance, a biannual studio performance with Grigoriev’s company, was at Pepperdine University’s Smothers Theatre.

She laughingly recalled that the winter performance was her favorite because she “didn’t have to drive.” 

“It’s nice because it’s local. I like to be able to invite my friends,” Coco said, regarding the performance. “This last performance was my final winter performance until I’m in a company … It was emotional but really great.”