Chelsey Hamilton ’11 currently writes for Dance Magazine. She began her dance training at Chester Valley Dance Academy at a young age, danced lead roles in The Nutcracker, and was a member of the Ballet, Modern, and Jazz Companies. She participated in numerous conventions and festivals and also studied at various summer dance programs. After graduating from Downingtown East High School, she went to study Journalism with a focus on Magazine Journalism and Dance with a focus in Performance and Choreography at Temple University.
At Temple, she participated in yearly dance department showcases as well as some off-campus events in Philadelphia. At Temple, she had the opportunity to take classes with guest artists and train with a faculty of world-renowned artists including Kun-Yang Lin, Jillian Harris, Meredith Rainey, and many more.
All senior dance majors on the performance/choreography track at Temple are required to complete a
Senior Choreographic Project, an 8-minute piece of original choreography. Chelsey, and the other majors, were required to recruit own dancers, set choreography, select lighting, and costumes for their pieces, and produce the show. Reflecting on this experience, Chelsey said, “There were only 5 of us in the show that semester, and it was an amazing learning experience because we had to create and produce the entire show. I worked so hard on making my vision for my piece come to life in my choreography, and I was so happy and proud of the final product.”
As a college dancer, Chelsey found many differences in training at the collegiate level. She said, “Being a part of Temple’s dance department I took performance/choreography classes along with dance theory classes, which are a large component of Temple’s dance major program. Their goal is to develop ‘thinking dancers’, so we had academic courses focused on dance/arts topics along with our technique classes.” She noted the difference between dance at the high school level and collegiate dance was the immense focus on modern dance. She notes, “My technique classes were stricter and more challenging, and our coursework was generally focused a lot more on choreography, improvisation, and the creative process, which is often the case in college dance programs.”
On top of her department required classes, Chelsey became more involved with extracurricular dance activities at Temple. She often found herself really missing jazz and hip-hop, since the Temple dance major did not offer those classes. She auditioned for and joined an on-campus dance group called InMotion. A fellow CVDA alumna, Leah Sobocinski, introduced it to Chelsey! Reflecting on her time with InMotion, she said, “I ended up choreographing some jazz for the group, which was a really fun experience because I had the opportunity to create a 3-part jazz piece to Michael Jackson music that I was really proud of.” Chelsey was also in a sorority at Temple and had additional opportunities to choreograph dance showcases. She mentioned, “I was in charge of a yearly Greek Life dance showcase event for three years in a row. Obviously, it was a low-pressure situation, but I ended up choreographing a lot of jazz and hip-hop dances for the girls in my sorority and produced some really exciting works.”
Currently, Chelsey is living in New York City and works as an assistant editor for Dance Media which includes magazines like Dance Magazine, Dance Spirit Magazine, Pointe Magazine, Dance Teacher Magazine, and Dance Retailer News. Chelsey not only edits articles for these magazines but also pitches and writes for the Dance Magazine website and print publications, conducts interviews, manages freelancers, manages social media and other digital work. Her articles focus on topics related to dance and dancers like health and wellness, fitness, beauty, and style. She also spends time writing and interviewing principal dancers, choreographers, and Broadway stars. Previously, She has written for Time Inc., Health Magazine, and Philadelphia Dance Journal. While writing for Philadelphia Dance Journal, she reviewed a number of dance shows like the Koresh Dance Company’s Come Together Festival and performances in the Fringe Arts Festival. To see some of her work, check out her articles on www.chelsey-hamilton.com.
When she’s not editing, writing, or interviewing, Chelsey performs with the company DanceWorks. With DanceWorks, she recently performed some contemporary works and a burlesque jazz piece in May. She is currently in the process of rehearsing contemporary pieces for her next show in November. Chelsey loves living in New York City and having the ability to take open classes in the city and is so inspired by all of the talented dancers in the city.
While catching up with Chelsey and all of her accomplishments, she had some advice and words of wisdom for CVDA Dancers looking to pursue dance after high school.
How did you experience and training at CVDA help your dance education in and after college?
My experience at CVDA helped me in many ways. Not only did I receive my basic level of training and knowledge of dance there, but it also opened up the door for me to enter the dance world and realize that I want this art form to be a part of my life, in one way or another. The main thing I took away from my time at CVDA was the close relationships I built with fellow dancers and teachers that meant the world to me, and the experience of having a close-knit dance family during my adolescent and teenage years. I also learned that you don’t always have to be the best, but as long as you work hard, try your best and enjoy what you’re doing, you’ll come out of it with a great experience.
What advice do you have for CVDA dancers that want to pursue dance/dance studies after high school?
If you love to dance and it’s a big part of your life, don’t be scared to continue dancing in any way possible! You definitely do not have to be a professional dancer or pursue a full-time dance career in order to keep dance in your lives—there are so many other ways to stay involved. Continue taking classes, take up teaching dance on the side, choreograph and audition your work for showcases in your area, join a dance group after work, write for a dance blog, design costumes, volunteer in the competition/convention circuit; the possibilities are endless. It doesn’t matter if you had the best technique or were the best in your class, what matters is how much dance means to you. I knew I wasn’t going to pursue dance professionally as a full-time job, I just knew I wanted to continue working in the industry, and now I’m a dance writer! I often see people who grew up dancing assume that just because they don’t want to pursue a professional career, they have to give up dancing altogether, when that’s not the case at all.
And for those who do want to pursue dance professionally, go for it and put your all into it, but also be realistic with yourself about your goals. I work with full-time professional dancers often, and I see first-hand how competitive and disheartening it can be to make it in the dance world, especially if you’re in competitive cities with huge talents like NYC or LA. If you want it, you have to want it more than anything in the world, and it’s not going to be easy or stable. But if you have the right amount of talent, drive, experience, professional connections, and most importantly, an extremely strong work ethic, then you can make it happen for yourself!