Miss Coco is an award-winning dancer, social entrepreneur, cultural arts programmer, arts educator, mentor, dance instructor and writer. Murray's work in education and community settings centers on cultural education, the African diaspora and culturally-responsive arts programming. In addition, she is Director of Miss Coco Murray, a mobile dance education business and the Artistic Director of Coco Collective, an intergenerational, multi-disciplinary team of artists offering collaborative arts-based projects.
Miss Coco is a Toronto-born dancer of South American heritage. She holds 25 years of experience in the arts sector. She specializes in diverse dance forms from West Africa, South Africa, Caribbean Folk and Afrobeat styles. She is named one of 100 Accomplished Black Canadian Women in 2020. In addition, Murray is Canadian Dance Assembly's 2013 recipient of their "I love Community" dance award. In 2014, she was named a Role Model in the inaugural Black Canadian Awards. She was recognized by Toronto Arts Foundation as a 2019 Community Arts Award finalist for her significant contributions in transforming local communities through art.
She trained for a few years in COBA's professional apprenticeship training program and performed in their 19th season, Les Rhymes de la Forêt , while serving as an understudy. Murray studies dance forms with master teachers from West Africa, Caribbean and USA such as M'Bemba Bangoura, Youssouf Koumbassa and Delton Frank. With support from the Canada, Ontario and Toronto Arts Councils, she is grateful for the funding support for her dance development and arts-based projects she designs for diverse sectors.
She performed for several years among Toronto-based dance companies and continues to collaborate with intergenerational artists. Previous affiliations include Caribbean Folk Performers, Ijo Vudu, Caribbean Dance Theatre, Alpha Rhythm Roots, Baro Dunumba, Kobena Aquaa-Harrison, Ronald Taylor Dance and Black Stars Entertainment. Past highlights are working with choreographers Chester Whitmore (LA) and Paulette Brockington in a swing dance performance in the 2012 International Association of Blacks in Dance conference (Toronto); and two performances in the NBA Toronto Raptors half-time show as part of Esie Mensah Creations for Giants of Africa (2015) and the NBA Celebrates Black History Month in 2017.
Miss Coco's journey began when she performed, apprenticed and taught recreational dance classes in her childhood neighbourhood with the City of Toronto, Parks and Recreation division. This was a social response to insert cultural dance where it was egregiously absent and bridge a disconnection she had with her multi-ethnic heritage. After 13 years teaching her programs with the City of Toronto, she transitioned to teach in schools and arts organizations such as dance Immersion, Kaleidoscope’s program in Scarbourough Arts and East End Arts. She previously served as chief choreographer for Ngoma Drum & Dance Ensemble, dance faculty of Children's Youth & Dance Theatre and helped to establish AFIWI Groove and taught the first traditional dance classes in the Durham region.
This MEd candidate holds a BA in Sociology from an the University of Toronto, a Specialized Honours BA in Race, Ethnicity & Indigeneity (Summa Cum Laude) and the Certificate in Anti-Racist and Practice from York University. Her graduate research focuses on culturally-responsive pedagogy and the teaching experiences of cultural artists within Ontario educational institutions. She was sought out for workshops and arts programming by existing performance groups. She held dance workshops in South Africa and Costa Rica during her study abroad, teaching the creative arts program at Hamutsha Primary School and facilitated a Ministry of Education dance workshop for 200 educators/principals for the Limpopo District School Board in South Africa. She continues to develop cultural arts-based opportunities with partners across Ontario, such as Afrodance 101 a SPARK project with the City of Toronto's Cultural Hotspot.
She is an arts educator with Vibe Arts, Creative Connect mentor with Nia Centre for the Arts and a mentor to emerging dance artists with the Window of Opportunity's project funded by the Ontario Black Youth Action Plan. Coco supported the Cultural Pluralism Arts Movement Ontario as a Research Assistant. She is also a contributing writer published with Dance Current Magazine and Dance Collection Dance.
"To enter spaces, passionately invest in the Canadian arts industry and empower others to value cultural arts"