Grieco expresses herself through competitive ballroom dancing



Ani Grieco ballroom dances with her coach and dance partner Nazar Batih. Dancing has allowed her to explore a new side of herself and become more self-confident

There are two sides to senior Ani Grieco. The first is the shy, simple, every day her. But when she dances, she steps out of that persona into a completely different one: decked out in a fancy dress, spritzed with hairspray, and ready to shine.
Grieco has studied International Standard ballroom dancing since she was five years old with the support of her coaches, Mariko Cantley and Nazar Batih.
Although she is shy and introverted, she tries to portray spirit and poise through her dancing alter-ego.
“One thing I definitely try to do is bring a sense of confidence and power, especially in a competition. I never want to seem meek,” Grieco said.
Specifically, Grieco said Cantley is a big inspiration to her and a strong role model.
“Her energy, it would blow you away. She’s so confident and powerful and doesn’t take sh*t from anyone, and that’s amazing,” Grieco said. “Something I’ve definitely learned from her, whatever I’m doing, even if it’s kind of ditzy, I can bring a sense of power and a sort of sense of myself to it.”
In general, Grieco considers both her coaches as important mentors in her life, in and out of dancing, who make her stronger and bolder.
“They’ve really been influential in more than just my dance but my growth. I think they’ve taught me a lot about being a confident person,” Grieco said. “They balance being incredibly high-level dancers with being really down to earth, kind, genuine people. And they’re just empowering to be around.”
Batih, who is also Grieco’s dance partner, said that even though Grieco can be a bit reserved, she still is an upbeat and positive dancer.
“She’s definitely a shy girl, but she’s still, at the same time, confident. Whatever you ask her to do, she is definitely going to do it 110 percent, so she never backs off or anything,” Batih said. “It just takes her time to warm up or not to be shy at doing stuff you’re asking her to do.”
Cantley said at first you might get the impression that she doesn’t seem like a dancer, but once she dances, you’ll see otherwise.
“At face value, she might not come off as a person who is a performer,” Cantley said. “She doesn’t need to be the center of attention all the time, but when she is, she can really blossom.”
Cantley said she’s especially proud of Greico’s willingness to be in a competitive environment where she always gives her all.
“Just to make the decision to go out there and put herself in that environment when she’d never done anything remotely at that scale, first of all by itself was a huge thing,” Cantley said. “She didn’t back off. She went and gave 100 percent of what she had to give. Even in this unfamiliar and high-stress environment.”
Cantley said that something unique about Grieco is that she always stays true to herself. Whether on or off the dance floor, she’s still genuine.
“She’s always been her own person. Ani has never struck me as a person who goes with the crowd. She always has been the person that she is, whatever the people around her may or may not be like,” Cantley said. “There’s a period in life where that is really, really hard to be. And I think she succeeded in staying true to who she is as an individual and stayed true to being somebody who doesn’t go with the crowd all the time.”
According to Greico, there are two parts to her: the normal, everyday part of her and the confident, outgoing, ballroom dancing her. Both of these are aspects of who she is and she stays true to them.
“That’s something I’ve also learned. These two, seemingly opposing things, everyday me and ballroom dance me, they’re both me, they’re just different, almost like access points,” Grieco said. “It’s not fake to be glitzy and glam-y. It’s not fake to be simple–every day. They’re both valid things. And I think that’s definitely one thing that I’ve learned from ballroom dancing.”