Hamburg native Vanessa Long reaches for her dreams in New York City

Vanessa Long Photo courtesy of In The Eye Photography

In just three short months, Hamburg native Vanessa Long has worked on one off-Broadway show and one off-off-Broadway show as well as currently preparing for her next show which premieres Nov. 7 in New York City.

“My main focus is stage direction and choreography, although I also act and dance,” said the 23-year-old and 2010 graduate through Lighthouse Christian Academy. “I prefer stage directing and choreography because I enjoy putting the show together. I find it so magical to watch a play develop from an idea to a tangible piece of work.”

Since her move to New York, Long was the lead choreographer for “The Boogeyman, Diaries of a Broken Home” and was also a dancer for three pieces and played the lead character’s mother. The show premiered on July 10 at the Roy Aria Theatre (off-off-Broadway). Her next show premiered Aug. 23 at the Theatre at St. Clements (off-Broadway) in which she was the assistant director for “And Baby Makes Three.” Just recently she was hired as the assistant director and dance caption for “Still on the Corner.” The show premieres Nov. 7 and runs until Dec. 7 at the Castillo Theatre (off-off-Broadway). In addition to stage work, Long also had the opportunity to be in the indie film “Numb” as a 1940s girl. The film will be presented at several film festivals.

Even with the success in her career, moving to New York City was not the easiest decision for the now resident of Staten Island.

“Moving to New York City was more difficult than I ever could have imagined. Coming to New York City from such a rural area was a bit of a shock. It took me a long time learn the subway system and to get used to all the people,” Long explained. “That being said, New York City is a very exciting place to live. There is always something happening and the food is phenomenal.”

It was the opportunities in New York that made the decision for Long to move. As much as she enjoyed growing up in Hamburg and the area, the chances for her to work as a choreographer and director were far greater in New York City than at home.

“While I was still in high school I worked as a dance teacher. I absolutely loved teaching kids and sharing my passion for dance,” she said. “My senior year in high school I also went for my 200 hour Yoga Teaching Training so I was able to work as a yoga teacher. While I loved teaching children and choreographing for national competitions I felt that I needed to take a break from teaching and concentrate on pushing my artistic limits.”

As a May 2014 graduate of West Chester University with a degree in theatre and dance, Long not only wanted to work in her field of choice but she also wanted to grow as an artist.

“I believe that to truly grow as an artist you need to be surrounded by talented and creative artists to push you further than you ever imagined. I knew prior to moving to New York City there was quite a lot of theatre in the area, but I never realized how much there actually was. I am still amazed at the sheer amount of theatres and companies in this city,” she said.

Long always had an interest in the arts and began taking dance classes at the age of 5 at various dance studios in the area. She credits the amazing teachers she had at the various studios for teaching her all sorts of different styles and techniques. Long also attended many dance classes in New York City while she was growing up. Along with annual recitals at the studios, Long was part of several performances of “The Nutcracker” as the Sugar Plum Fairy, Sentry, Lead Arabian Coffee, Courtier and Snow Flake. She also competed in several national competitions every year during middle and high school. Her young theater credits include Meg in “Little Women” and Miss Method in “The Emperor’s New Clothes.” At just 15 she had the opportunity to perform at Union Square Theatre (off-Broadway). Adding to that list, she was a part of several films by director Joey Lisa such as “The Art of Deception,” “The Concealment of Fate,” and “Missing Persons: Case 695.”

It was at 13 that the young dancer was part of a select few chosen to attend a workshop in New York City held by Peter Sklar.

“He was touring the country speaking to young performers about the importance of nutrition,” recalled Long. “At the end of his lecture he led an audition and selected a few of the younger performers.”

At this workshop, Long had classes every day with professional artists from New York City such as Jennifer Lee Crowl, Tracy Edwards, Ben Cameron, Laura Osnes, Worth Williams and Liz McConahay.

“After this workshop I was inspired and continued to pursue theatre,” commented Long.

She was committed to reaching for the career that she wanted and made the decision to move to New York City for more theatre opportunities. Though she was ready, it was not necessarily easy to find a job in the arts in the city.

“I sent hundreds of e-mails contacting theatres, directors, choreographers, companies and anyone else I could think to contact,” Long responded on how she went about finding a foot in the door. “I also went on casting websites such as backstage.com to find jobs and auditions. In New York City it is very difficult to get work in the arts. Rejections is an everyday ordeal, but after a while you learn to focus on the journey ahead rather than being pulled down by the rejection.”

Dance and theatre is where Long’s passion is and her favorite part is being able to create the world of the play.

“If a show is done right, you can gain the full focus of your audience and make them feel something. I believe the art should make the viewer feel something, anything. Much of my personal work is focused towards that belief,” said Long.

As if she did not get enough dance while on the job, Long spends time outside of work creating dance pieces that are usually based on social or political issues. She thinks heavily about what the audience is getting out of the pieces and tries to not only make the pieces entertaining but also easily relatable for the audience.

“I thought my dream job was to choreograph a show on Broadway, but I’m not sure anymore. I am still in awe that I’ve come so far. I never dreamed that I would work on off-Broadway shows so soon after graduation from college,” explained Long when asked about what her dream job would be. “I found that the work being done off-Broadway and off-off-Broadway is more progressive than the work on Broadway. It seems that Broadway is more for the tourist, but off-Broadway is where the magic happens. Since these types of performances are in a smaller theater, the cast is able to explore and try new approaches.”

Long may be figuring out exactly which direction to take her dream in, but she still has plenty of time while she enjoys the fast-paced ride that she is currently on with one show having just premiered and the other approaching quickly. It is not a stretch to say that Long is dedicated and passionate about growing as an artist. In just these few short months, she has already accomplished more than she could have imagined and her enthusiasm for her work shows that she is exactly where she needs to be.

About the Author

Shea Singley

Shea Singley is the editor of The Hamburg Area Item. She grew up in Berks County and spent three years at the University of Arizona, Tucson, where she double majored in Creative Writing and English before transferring to Kutztown University where she majored in Professional Writing. Shea graduated from Kutztown University in 2012 and during that time completed an internship in the publication department of a non-profit organization in Washington, DC. She joined Berks-Mont Newspapers in March of 2013 and had enjoyed getting the chance to explore the Hamburg area and meet the readers. Reach the author at ssingley@berksmontnews.com or follow Shea on Twitter: @hamburgitem.