Lee Gumbs Photography, courtesy Gracyn French

Meet Out-of-This-World Comp Kid Gracyn French

What do you get when you cross a 1920s jazz baby with an absurdly flexible alien life-form? Ten-year-old Gracyn French, who's taken the comp world by storm over the past two years. After she became KAR Miss Petite Dance America 2017, the 2018 Nationals season saw Gracyn break the Top 20 at Radix and the Top 10 at her very first Dance Awards (where she clinched the title of Mini Female Best Dancer this year). She's also danced in six Old Navy commercials, appeared on "Dancing with the Stars," and speaks Spanish thanks to her attendance at a dual-immersion school. A frequent muse for choreographers Easton Payne and Molly Long, Gracyn dreams of following in Long's footsteps one day: After a career as a "DWTS" pro, she wants to open her own studio with younger sisters Emmerson and Harlow.

"My mom and dad always tell me that I have the heart of a champion—which means that they don't care if I win, as long as I go out there and do my best. In dance, all you can do is try your best and have fun!" —Gracyn French

Lee Gumbs Photography, courtesy Gracyn French

Fast Facts

Birthday: November 28, 2008

Hometown: Santa Monica, CA

Current city: Irvine, CA

Trains at: Project 21, Yorba Linda Academy of Ballet

Favorite foods: Mini corn dogs, salads with bacon and tomatoes

Currently watching on Netflix: "Liv and Maddie," "Bunk'd"

Non-dance hobbies: Tetherball, swimming, and relaxing with her family

Favorite dancers of all time: "My Project 21 teammates"

If she were a superhero, her power would be: "The power to help the world, especially to help homeless people"

Latest Posts

Project 21 dancers (from left) Selena Hamilton, Gracyn French, and Dyllan Blackburn (Photo by Quinn Wharton; hair and makeup throughout by Angela Huff for Mark Edward Inc.)

How Project 21 Is Shaping the Next Generation of Competition-Dance Standouts

"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."

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Dear Katie: What Can I Do to Get More Flexible?

In our "Dear Katie" series, Miami City Ballet soloist Kathryn Morgan answers your pressing dance questions. Have something you want to ask Katie? Email dearkatie@dancespirit.com for a chance to be featured!

Dear Katie,

I'm a strong dancer, but I don't have a lot of flexibility. I stretch every day, but it feels like I'm getting nowhere. What can I do to get more flexible?


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