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Hamburg native changes the world through dance

Hamburg native choreographs pieces about social and political issues

By Lisa Mitchell, The Kutztown Area Patriot

Monday, January 4, 2016

Hamburg native Vanessa Long choreographs pieces about social and political issues. Her goal is to create change in the world through dance.

“Anyone can follow their dreams and work to change the world. It only takes one person to make a change, to make the world a better place for the generations to come,” said Long.

Long enjoys creating work about social and political issues faced in everyday life. Through her company, the Vanessa Long Dance Company, she focuses on creating pieces that will help encourage conversations about these issues in hope of pushing for change.

“Dance used to be a method of story telling in many cultures. I feel that this was an effective way to communicate and that it still is today. By combining theatre and dance I can fully tell stories that are easy for audience members to interpret,” Long said. “Many dance companies work with movement without purpose, but I feel that movement with a purpose is equally as important and is often rarely explored.”

Long is the artistic director of the Vanessa Long Dance Company which has performed more than 30 times in New York City.

The 2010 Lighthouse Christian Academy alumnae moved to New York City immediately after graduating from West Chester University with a bachelor’s of arts in theatre and dance in 2014 to pursue a career in choreography. She has choreographed several Off-Broadway Shows, Off-Off Broadway Shows, films, and music videos.

“While I loved to help bring the director’s vision to life, I wanted to begin to bring my own vision to life,” she said.

In October 2014, Long founded the Vanessa Long Dance Company. The company has performed in majors theaters such as Dixon Place, Gelsey Kirkland ArtsCenter, and The Celebration of Whimsy Theatre. They won the New York Young Artist Award, and their piece “Black Damp” was the winner of XYZNYC cycle 21 at the Tank Theatre. They are also the resident dance company at the Manhattan Repertory Theatre, and resident artists at both Anita’s Way and RAW.

“The goal for VLDC is to create work that is engaging to an audience and questioned the status quo. I believe that by creating pieces about social and political issues we can start conversations and begin to solve the problems we face,” said Long. “I want to create work that audiences can easily understand and enjoy.”

Long said that over the past decade there has been a large drop in dance performances attendance.

“I believe that by using movement with a purpose and storytelling methods we can get our audiences interested in dance again,” she said.

The dance company has many goals in the upcoming year. Currently starting their third season this January, they have 10 upcoming performances scheduled from January through April, mostly in NYC and one in Philadelphia on Jan. 20 at the Trocadero Theatre.

“This season we are focusing on revising and premiering our newest piece ‘Urban Tumbleweed,’ which focuses on our growing issue of plastic waste,” said Long.

“Urban Tumbleweed” premieres on Earth Day, April 22 at 8 p.m. at the Medicine Show Theatre on 52nd Street in NYC.

Also, the Vanessa Long Dance Company is in the process of starting a pre-professional company this fall, and a dance festival in NYC spring 2017.

“My larger goals for the VLDC is to go on a world tour in a few years. We have already accomplished quite a bit, but we are always looking to the future,” said Long.

Company members include Mechelle Armbruster, Emilie Paap, Esther De La Cruz, Maria Carla Spagna, Sarah Groginsky, Emelie Hedvall, Kristen Stuart, Justin Heim, Kelly Vaghenas, Roseanna Bell, Elysia Roscoe and Tessa Anton.

While growing up in Hamburg, Long attended many different dance studios in the local area, spending about two years or so at each. She also took several classes in NYC and at De Sales University while in high school.

“I believe that attending different studios and training with different teachers helped me broaden my dance education and expanded my style of choreography,” said Long. “I learned something valuable from each teacher I worked with. There was a particular instructor who helped me fall in love with dance, her name was Alissa Clark. I always looked up to Miss Alissa’s choreography style and I was thrilled to be able to work with her in my younger years.”

Dance is also an ever changing career field, she said.

“There are always new styles and new approaches to dance emerging but it is always constant with classical styles as well.”

What she loves about dance is the ability to express emotion and tell stories through movement.

For more information about the Vanessa Long Dance Company, follow on Facebook page, Instagram @vanessa_long_dance_company, Twitter @VLDanceCompany, and Tumblr.