If online shopping has become your favorite #SocialDisDance hobby this summer, you're in luck. Just For Kix is giving away one $500 gift card and five $100 gift cards to their website to six lucky winners. Enter here by August 30th for your chance to treat yourself with a wide variety of dance shoes, practice wear, and costumes.
This offer is valid on the Just For Kix website only and does not apply to Youth Program Class fees and uniforms. Cannot be combined with other offers.
"I wish I had a better story about the name," says Molly Long, founder of the Orange County, CA–based dance studio Project 21. In truth, it's a play on the fact that she was born on the twenty-first of August, and 21 is her favorite number. "I was away on a teaching tour, the audition announcement was going live on Instagram the next day, and I desperately needed a name. Project 21 was just the least cheesy of the options I thought of!"
The fact that fans might expect the name to have some profound meaning speaks to the near-mythic status Project 21 has achieved on the competition and convention scene since its founding in 2014. Long's dancers are all wholly individual, yet jell seamlessly as a group, and are consistently snagging top prizes everywhere on the circuit. Each season brings a slew of new accolades, high-caliber faculty, and legions of devoted followers.
The industry has taken notice of the studio's unique ethos. "Molly gets through to her dancers in a special way, and they have this incomparable level of commitment to their craft as a result," says dancer and choreographer Billy Bell, who's worked closely with Long and her dancers. "That's what sets them apart—it's like a little dose of magic."
"Never Own a Dance Studio"<p>As the daughter of a dance teacher, Long spent the better part of her childhood in the studio. Her mom owned California Dance Academy, also located in Orange County, which later merged with another studio to become Dance Precisions, where the bulk of Long's childhood training took place. "My mom taught the minis, my aunt Leslie handled the juniors, and, when I turned 16, I also started working at the studio," Long says. "I was never the best dancer when I was younger, but I absolutely loved being there—it felt like home." She gradually took over choreographing for the minis, and saw instant competition success with a number of routines, including "My Boyfriend's Back," which featured a then seven-year-old Autumn Miller, and earned national titles at Hall of Fame Nationals and Showbiz Nationals in 2009.</p><p>After six years teaching and choreographing at Dance Precisions, Long needed a change. "I just remember clearly realizing that I needed to do my own thing," Long says. "Growing up, my mom constantly said to me, 'Never own a dance studio, it's the worst job ever' "—she laughs at the memory—"but starting a company felt like the right move for that moment in my life." Project 21 began its inaugural season in 2015.</p>
Photo by Quinn Wharton
Finding Her Footing<p>Long sums up the early days of Project 21 with one word: scary. "There were so many little things you don't initially think about, like billing, securing studio space, administrative tasks," she says. But beyond that, two larger questions loomed: What kind of dance teacher did she want to be, and what did she want Project 21 to represent? "I had a tendency to crowdsource opinions during those first few seasons, and I got lost in what everyone else had to say about running this company," she remembers.</p><p>Gradually, Long's confidence grew, and her vision for a company chock-full of driven, diverse, and versatile dancers began to take shape. Soon, Project 21's group and solo entries (often choreographed by Long) were earning raves at competitions, and her students were making waves in convention classes. "I noticed Project 21 dancers Selena Hamilton and Dyllan Blackburn in class at Radix pretty early on, because they were clearly taking responsibility for their own training," Bell says, "and that's really rare to see. Molly has this amazing way of creating drive without feeling like a dictator—people just want to work with and for her."</p><p>The hallmark of a Project 21 dancer is their work ethic. "It's my biggest thing," Long says. "I want my kids to walk out of class feeling like they've done everything in their power to improve that day." Long also encourages her dancers to express their opinions—and she really listens to them. "I try to nurture what they like and what they're interested in, because I think it's great when they're outspoken," she says.</p>
Long (far right) with her dancers. (Photo by Quinn Wharton)
A Fully-Formed Identity<p>Project 21 now feels like a family, and Long has put that sense of camaraderie on display in some of her viral-hit group routines, including "One Night in Bangkok" (Radix's 2019 Best in Show winner) and "Bohemian Rhapsody" (which has nearly one million views on YouTube). "All of Molly's dancers are great soloists, but they work unbelievably well as a group," Bell says. "They understand how to share this energy onstage, and it's definitely their defining quality."</p><p>That cohesive energy has attracted an impressive crew of guest choreographers. Many of them come to Project 21 to set pieces after working with the dancers at conventions over the years. (That route brought Bell and Teddy Forance to the studio in 2020.) Others discover the studio thanks to its competition and social media reputation, like Madison Hicks, who reached out to Long early last year<strong> </strong>and is now on faculty at Project 21. A Juilliard graduate and former member of L.A. Dance Project, Hicks, who is currently enrolled in the graduate dance program at CalArts, was blown away by everything Long and the students had to offer. "It's so beyond a studio," she says. "Molly is an incredible businesswoman, role model, and teacher. She makes sure that everyone who is at Project 21 wants to be there, and I think our small size and unity are what set us apart."</p>
A Foundation for the Future<p>While Project 21 has already experienced a ton of success, Long knows there's always room to grow. "I'd love to build a stronger technical program going forward," she says, "and while I'm not sure if expansion is in the cards yet, it would certainly be nice—I always dreamed of having a huge studio." Beyond that, Long's unwavering goal is to mold her kids into the most respectful, responsible, and hard-working dancers they can be. "We're not always going to win, and that's okay," she says, "because my kids know that at the end of the day, they have the work ethic to get them where they want to be."</p>
Photo by Quinn Wharton
Photo by Quinn Wharton
Photo by Quinn Wharton
Last night, the "World of Dance" contestants entered a new phase of the competition—and with that came their first opportunity to dance on the official "World of Dance" stage. This week turned on the lights, smoke, and effects, and the dancers brought their A-game to match. While only two of the six acts could advance to the World Finals, each performance showed off exactly why they made the top 12. Here are the two acts advancing to the finals this week, and one that narrowly missed the top of the leaderboard.
Jefferson y Adrianita
This salsa-dancing couple brought some of the most authentic chemistry of the night, but how could they not, with their son Derek (yes, named for that Derek) in the audience? Their energy was electric, their footwork crisp, and they brought tricks that even Derek had never seen done before. Neyo said a few of the lifts looked labored, but J.Lo thought they were perfectly in step. Their performance netted them a 94.3, the highest score of the night, and sent them spinning into the final round.
The tutting trio from France continue to impress, but the judges wondered how the group could keep their very specific and unique style feeling fresh. Any reservations were blown away when the trio whipped out an umbrella and seamlessly incorporated it like a fourth dancer. The piece opted for a laid back and smooth vibe to show off the group's confidence without being overworked. A score of 94 secured them the second spot in the final round.
The Young Crew
We're not at the final round yet, and already The Young Crew have battled their way back from the edge of elimination. They were the only act in the entire contest to compete in every round so far, including winning last week's redemption duel. Their "Bohemian Rhapsody" routine was clean, but not quite enough to earn a top-two spot. Once Géométrie Variable knocked them to third place, the judges sent them home with a standing ovation.
Tune in next week when the other six semifinalists take the stage to show the judges why they deserve to compete in the World Finals!
While taking all those #SocialDisDancing Zoom classes at home certainly helped keep your technique up to par, the relaxation of your daily schedule—no need to wake up early to catch a bus!—may have messed with your sleep cycle. Finding it harder than usual to get up for that Saturday morning rehearsal? Here's how to make your circadian rhythm dance to the right beat.
Cue the Sunshine, and Cut the Lights<p>According to the National Sleep Foundation, blue light, like the kind emitted from both the sun and all your electronic devices, has a huge effect on your natural sleep and wake cycles. That's because exposure to blue light delays your body's release of the sleep- inducing hormone melatonin. In the morning, take advantage of blue light's effect: As soon as you wake up, sit somewhere sunny indoors or go for a quick stroll outside. At night, decrease your exposure as much as possible. Using the "night-mode" setting on your devices or wearing blue-light–filtering glasses can help. But the most foolproof method is to limit all screen time at least 30 minutes before bed.</p>
Get Your Sweat on Before Supper<p><span style="background-color: initial;">Studies have shown that as little </span><span style="background-color: initial;">as 10 minutes of aerobic exercise during the day can help you sleep better. Most people should avoid strenuous exercise late at night, but if you can't move that 8 pm jazz class, don't sweat it. Just make sure to give yourself some screen-free time to wind </span><span style="background-color: initial;">down afterwards. And if you're </span>hungry, go for something light and nutritious. Eating a heavy meal right before bed is likely to keep you awake as your body digests.</p>
Consistency is Key<p>Set up morning and night routines and stick to them—even on weekends. These daily rituals signal to your body that it's time to wake up or prepare to sleep. If you're looking to shift your bedtime or morning alarm, the National Sleep Foundation recommends you do so in 15-minute increments. If you're struggling to make it through a long day, it's OK to squeeze in a nap, but try to limit it to 30 minutes or less. </p>
Control Your Cave<p>Your bedroom environment plays a major role in the quality of your sleep. Whether it's morning or night, avoid doing homework, watching TV, or scrolling on your phone while you're in bed, and keep your bedroom cool, dark, and free of distractions. </p>
Meet Ava Holloway and Kennedy George, the Teens Whose Photo Dancing On a Confederate Statue Went Viral
Last month, a photo of two 14-year-old Black ballerinas—Ava Holloway and Kennedy George—dancing on Richmond, Virginia's Robert E. Lee statue lit up social media as Black Lives Matter protests seared through the U.S. The dancers, clad in all black, stood balanced in sous-sus with their fists raised while the statue awaited its still-anticipated toppling.
Holloway had decided to pose for photos in front of the monument after Virginia governor Ralph Northam announced its pending removal. When her mother, Amanda Lynch, uploaded the images to Facebook, a friend of local photographer Marcus Ingram asked if Lynch and Holloway would be interested in professional photos.
Upon arriving to shoot with Ingram the following morning, Holloway ran into her longtime friend Kennedy George, who was preparing for a group shoot with Holloway, other dancers and a teacher from their studio, Central Virginia Dance Academy, scheduled for later that day.
Reuters photographer Julia Rendleman spotted the dancers at the statue and photographed them. After Reuters tweeted the shot, it received thousands of likes and shares on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
We spoke with the dancers about the shoot, their activism, and what they want to see in the dance world.