Molly Long is the rare prodigy who grew up to be even more brilliant. At the ripe old age of 16, Long (now 25) took charge of the minis at her home studio, Dance Precisions, in Southern California, leading the team to big wins at Nationals. It wasn't long before she was traveling the country to choreograph and teach. Long's infectiously musical, explosive yet clean style has been seen on "Dance Moms," "America's Got Talent," "Abby's Ultimate Dance Competition," "Raising Asia," and at New York Fashion Week. Since 2015, Long's been touring with Revel Dance Convention and growing her Orange County–based company Project 21. Read on to find out where Long finds inspiration for her many winning numbers. —Helen Rolfe
Long with Moises Parra at Disneyland (courtesy Long)
I was born and raised in Orange County, CA, and still live there today. People are always envious of the idea of California. They feel like you can do so much more because L.A. is so close, and that out-there ideas are more acceptable because it's such a laid-back region of the country. Having spent so much of my life here gave me the creative freedom I need to do what I do.
I work with a choreographer named Noel Bajandas on Revel. He's so fabulous; I love his vibe and his energy. Every time I watch a combo of his, I want to learn it, I want to dance it. The feeling I get when I watch his choreography is the feeling I want people to get when they watch mine.
Long (left) with Emily Shock (courtesy Long)
Emily Shock is my most important mentor. I really respect her, not only for the way she choreographs but also for her integrity, which I know can be hard in this industry. Whenever I have an issue—a personal issue, a dance issue, anything—I always know I can go to her.
Late, late at night is when I feel most creative. Even when I was 16 and was just getting started choreographing, I would always go into my bathroom and listen to the music at one in the morning. Maybe it's something about the sleep deprivation that hits at that hour, but that's when the ideas and plans and outlines come.
One of Long's paintings (courtesy Long)
I grew up an artist—I even took AP Art when I was in high school! I love painting, especially landscapes. Anything colorful and beautiful inspires me. I paint when I'm really stressed-out and have a lot going on with the dance side of my life, just so I can do something that isn't directly dance-related.
A version of this story appeared in the February 2018 issue of Dance Spirit with the title "Choreographer's Collage: Molly Long."