According to Vanessa Long – dancer, choreographer, businesswoman, athlete – performing ballet is like running a successful company. Although it may look easy to those looking on, it is anything but.
“It takes a lot of motivation, determination and persistence,” she admitted. “If you don’t have that drive every day, you won’t excel as a dancer or a business owner.” It’s that kind of drive that pushes Vanessa to make a change in the world – one plié at a time.
Although native to suburban Pennsylvania, Long moved to New York City after graduating with a degree from West Chester University to pursue her dream in dance choreography. It didn’t take long before she found success. In her first week, a show called “The Boogeyman Diaries of a Broken Home” enlisted Long’s help. The word got out about Long’s talents, as the newest Empire State resident moved from show to show, also choreographing music videos and films along the way.
But an entrepreneurial spirit stirred in the Hamburg native in the fall of 2014, and the Vanessa Long Dance Company was born. Knowing that troupes of the like are a dime a dozen in the Big Apple, Long knew she needed to make her company stand out. But that was the easy part. Long loves choreography, she breathes dancing – but what she was obsessed with was making a positive difference in people’s lives. Officially, the Vanessa Long Dance Company focuses on raising awareness of social and political problems in today’s world.
Although owning and operating her own business may have been new, the subject matter was familiar. Long had always been a dancer, and being athletic comes with the territory. Don’t think ballet is a sport? She’s got one suggestion.
“Try it. See how hard it actually is.”
Instead of wasting her breath trying to convince people, Long invites them in. “Many pro football players train in ballet and say it’s the hardest part of their training, both physically and mentally.”
From Vanessa, a day in the training life of a dancer looks something like this: “Our company warmup before starting rehearsals includes intense stretching, isometric exercises, and a few ballet exercises to get our technique in place.” Mind you, that’s the warmup.
“Each of our company members train a little different,” she says. “Some practice yoga and weight train. Some take several hours of ballet a day. Dance takes an enormous amount of endurance and strength.”
And to fuel their muscles and aerobic capacity, Long says nutrition is just as important: “Our general diet is heavy in protein and veggies. We’ve found that using the Proven4 Pre-Game Formula, our performance in rehearsal was stronger, and we had higher energy. Some of the dancers even found they were more alert, mentally. And we found that with the Recovery Formula, after a long rehearsal, we were still energized and ready for the next one.”
So what’s next for Vanessa? Using her talents to make a difference in how we view the world.
“The goal is to create work that is engaging to an audience and questions 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.”
With a world tour in her sights, and a dancer’s strength and determination, Long has no ceiling for her company’s ambitions. Despite what she perceives to be a drop in attendance in dance performances in the last ten years, Vanessa isn’t giving up.
“I believe that by using movement with a purpose, we can get our audiences interested in dance again.”