Chasta Hamilton


Chasta’s Book: Trash the Trophies¬†

EP 77: Chasta Hamilton (autogenerated)

[00:00:00] Dane Reis: [00:00:00] you booked it, episode 77. 

[00:00:05] All right. Let’s get started. I am excited to introduce my guest today. Chasta Hamilton. Are you ready for this Chasta? 

[00:00:14]Chasta Hamilton: [00:00:14] I am so ready. Thank you so much for having 

[00:00:17] Dane Reis: [00:00:17] My pleasure. As the owner and artistic director of stage door dance productions, Chasta is reinventing the dance education model by focusing on character development and community involvement. In addition to technique and performance attributes, she is the founder and president of the nonprofit girls geared for greatness and the founder and former editor of the dance exec. She is also the author of the new book, trash, the trophies, how to win without losing your soul. Chasta is recognized by triangle business journal as a 2014, 40 under 40, and in 2016, a woman in business, future star, proud to call North Carolina home Chasta lives in Raleigh with her husband, John and they’re Scottish terrier Elvis. Chasta. That is a quick intro of who you are in what you’ve done, but why don’t you tell us a little bit more about yourself, filling the gaps, who you are, and a little bit more about what you do as a professional in the entertainment industry.

[00:01:22]Chasta Hamilton: [00:01:22] So I have always loved entertainment in the performing arts. Like it lights my soul on fire and it has just always been who I am and what I love to do. I started dancing at the age of two. And my favorite thing to do growing up would be to gather my cousins or friends, because I’m an only child. So I would recruit anyone possible and we would put on shows and we would perform, and we would just have a grand old time. And this was an Eastern Tennessee is very small town, very Humble beginnings of that. You know, it was just so great because it was so pure and creative and imaginative. , you know, then I got involved with community theater and I was just like, this is so magical. And then I started seeing tours of Broadway shows and I was like, this is phenomenal. And then went on my first New York trip then. I always knew that entertainment was just such a special place to be. And when I graduated high school, I received an academic scholarship to North Carolina state university. And I was wrestling with this imposter syndrome of, can you be an artist and a scholar? And I didn’t think he could, which was in this ridiculous narrative that I told myself. So I was on the track to be an attorney, which in its own regard, a slightly theatrical. And, you know, um, it just wasn’t for me. So at the end of college, I was like, I’m going to stick with what I love. I’m going to stick with a performing arts. And I felt so passionately about doing that through dance education, because it is what I know best. And that is when stage door dance productions was born. We opened in 2009, right in the middle of the recession. But never once did I think that it would fail in ever since that day, it has just been all in all the way of how can we make sure that we are empowering and inspiring individuals through the performing arts, because that’s what I gained from it. And that’s what I want to pass on, on. Through this company and through what we do.

[00:03:14]Dane Reis: [00:03:14] Yeah. Great. And I love all of that, what you said, and I love that you went into the part about. You know, you went to college thinking I’m going to do both things. I can be a scholar and an artist, and I can 100% relate to that because when I first went to university, I try to do premed and music, but the music part was so new to my life and the performance and the dance world was so new to my life that I said, you know what? I’m just going to go all in on this straight away. Um, but I can completely relate to that. And how, there’s a lot of crossover in both of those fields, I feel like, but you gotta go with your heart.

[00:03:49]Chasta Hamilton: [00:03:49] It’s true. It’s that gut feeling. And you know, the magical thing about the arts is bigger woven into every piece of our society. And that’s what makes them so magical and necessary and important. And I think, you know, during this time, especially as we navigate this pandemic where realizing their importance more than ever.

[00:04:07]Dane Reis: [00:04:07] Yeah, absolutely. And let’s move on to this next section here in Shasta. Look, I am a sucker for a good quote. What is your favorite quote? You’d like to share with everyone.

[00:04:19] Chasta Hamilton: [00:04:19] Yes. Well, I’m a sucker for good quotes too. I used to have them all over my notebooks and high school. Um, but this is one that has kind of, I read it, um, right towards the end of college. And it is just been kind of this affirmation that I live by every single day. And the quote is every morning in Africa, I guess they’ll wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the fastest lion, or it will be killed every morning. A lion wakes up, it knows it must outrun the slowest gazelle, or it will starve. Whether you are the line or gazelle, when the sun comes up, you better be running.

[00:04:53]Dane Reis: [00:04:53] I love that. I’ve never heard that before. And I’d love to hear your take on how you’ve incorporated that into your career and your daily life.

[00:05:05]Chasta Hamilton: [00:05:05] So I think the essence of that quote and what I love so much about it is it captures the necessity of the hustle, right? That willingness to be all in every single day, pursue the passion elevated and know that if you’re not moving and, and keeping the pace and being at the front of it, someone is going to pass you and you’re going to get left behind. So it’s just a gentle reminder that everybody is out there fighting for something. And you want to make sure that you’re at the front of what you’re fighting for. And that you’re going all in.

[00:05:36]Dane Reis: [00:05:36] . So good. And reminds me of a book. Have you read Jeff? Olson’s the slight edge.

[00:05:43]Chasta Hamilton: [00:05:43] No, but I’m going to write it down right 

[00:05:44] Dane Reis: [00:05:44] Yeah. It’s . Well, it’s not, uh, an animal  analogy, but it is the idea that . You know, you’re either moving forward or you’re moving backwards, not drastically, but incrementally over time. And it addresses that whole subject wonderful book. Um, yeah, check it out for sure. I think you’d like it, especially with that quote.

[00:06:00]Chasta Hamilton: [00:06:00] Okay. Great. Thank you. And you know, even worse than moving forward or moving backward are the people that just kind of stand still like the parallelization. I think that is one of the worst things we can do, even if, you know, we’re messing up or where we’re making mistakes, we’re trying. Um, we’re reinventing. The important thing is that we are moving.

[00:06:17]Dane Reis: [00:06:17] Absolutely could not agree more. And let’s move on to this section here. And Chasta, of course you are an entertainment professional. I am an entertainment professional, and I’m sure that you would agree that this industry. Can be one of the most subjective, brutally, honest, personally emotional industries in existence. And you know, you know, as well as I, that in order to create and have a successful career in this industry, like you’re having now takes a lot of dedication and hard work. And while yeah, there is no rages amount of fun and excitement doing what we do. There are also our fair share of obstacles, challenges, and failures. We are going to experience and we’re going to have to move forward through. So tell us what is one key challenge, obstacle or failure you’ve experienced in your career? And how did you come out the other side better because of it.

[00:07:15]Chasta Hamilton: [00:07:15] I love that question. And you know,  one of my friends, who’s an entertainment professional. She told me years ago, she said working in this industry, It’s Hills and valleys. It’s the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. And it’s so true. Um, just that extreme emotional range that we experienced as artists working in this as a profession. And one of my greatest challenges with centered around the competitive dance industry. And, you know, that’s what I really talk about in the book was this hardship of this. Piece of our industry, that the valuation of our educational businesses rely so heavily upon, but it was so contrary to everything that I believe and making that decision to kind of say, Hey, we’re going to opt out. And then formulating a new plan that focused on technique, performance, community, and character, a complete rebrand, and then getting to the other side, seeing our increased enrollment and then also seen students success outside of that industry. And beyond ranging from national tours to Broadway too. Um, the university of Southern California, Gloria Kaufman school of dance.  it’s, it’s so great to see how we can reconceptualize the definition of success in something. And it was a really dark point that has become a really bright piece of our history.

[00:08:34]Dane Reis: [00:08:34] Yeah. I really, really liked that. And. I like that you brought up that and how you’ve kind of transitioned the model of, or at least what I’m hearing is you’ve transitioned the model of the comp world, the dance comp world. Am I correct with that?

[00:08:46]Chasta Hamilton: [00:08:46] That is correct. And will unfortunately, like I haven’t transitioned the model of like the competitions that exist, but I transitioned how we approach our tra our high end training. So we have an intensive training program now, and we don’t do competition, but we reconceptualize how we can train these students at a higher level to be successful in the entertainment industry or to just be amazing humans pursuing a different career as well.

[00:09:14]Dane Reis: [00:09:14] Yeah, I love that. And. You’re right. When you get into the comp world, it’s certainly. Has its benefits of being able to push. The students to be better because you suddenly get thrown into a room full of people from all over the place, and you can see what your peers are doing, you know, with your own eyes, not just a YouTube video. And it can help push you, but there’s also absolutely that, that kind of negative side that can come with the comp world. Um, working also, and even the logistic sides, I think can sometimes get a bit wrapped up in the pure finances of it. Um, and I love that you have restructured that you saw that, and you’re like, you know what? This is not necessarily the best environment for our students. How do we still push them? How do we get them to grow as human beings? And. Didn’t have that all encompassing in your studio. I think that’s absolutely fantastic.

[00:10:02] Chasta Hamilton: [00:10:02] , you know, it was a process and it was one where I said, I need to watch this for two years. To make sure that I don’t have a bias that I’m not just feeling extra grumpy, that there really is something that can be changed and redial. And re-inventing. To heighten this dance education experience. And, you know, it was scary. And I think a lot of times when we’re feeling scared or uncomfortable or outside of our comfort zone, that’s often when we have the greatest opportunity. To find something really amazing. If we can just kind of push through that discomfort.

[00:10:36]Dane Reis: [00:10:36] Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. And let’s move on to this next section now to a time that I like to call your spotlight moment. That one moment in time you realized, yes, I am going to be an entertainer for a living or maybe it was. Yes, this is what I need to be doing in the entertainment industry. Tell us about that.

[00:11:02]Chasta Hamilton: [00:11:02] So what, you know, there was this conflict, this inner conflict that I had of sticking it to a performance path or sticking to kind of more performance education path. And. when I started doing choreography, you know, towards the end of high school and in college, I was like, this is really fun. And I really enjoyed teaching. Of course, there’s the glitz and glam of performing and. Um, you know, , I went into auditions and I wrestled this whole do this, do that. But ultimately what it came down to is this simple moments, the small moments, when you. Empower and inspire a person. Um, through movement for me because theater dance is my passion. Um, when you see that light bulb go off in that person recognized. The talents that they have, and not only how those talents can help them in the arts, but also in their everyday endeavors, by just standing a little bit taller, being a little more confident. That for me is so magical. And being able to do that, you know, day after day, year after year to see a variety of different outcomes is truly so rewarding. And I feel like I have these light bulb moments, you know, every so often, um, that are just general reminders of like, yes, this is the path. This is the right choice. And you’re doing what you’re doing, what you were destined to do.

[00:12:24]Dane Reis: [00:12:24] Yeah, that’s so great. And I love again, you brought this up earlier, but you said it just now. That you love developing. These students and these young people into whatever it is they might become and they discover these new talents. Are they. Get a bit more confidence in themselves. And I love that. That is so much of your approach as well that you’re not saying, alright, this is a professional school. We’re all going to Broadway. , that you are developing humans because I can imagine a lot of your students. You don’t. Doing this professionally isn’t necessarily something that they want to do. Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t, but they don’t know enough about themselves or their skill sets even make that kind of a decision yet. And that it’s about developing the person and then seeing where that leads. And I think that’s so important. I’m so glad that that is it’s clearly something that you make a giant focus of your curriculum.

[00:13:16]Chasta Hamilton: [00:13:16] Yeah, it’s. It’s the humanistic approach. And at the end of the day, when we think about arts and empathy and how they connect us, you know, when we take that and we apply it to training and education, we have the opportunity to reach a much greater audience. And then if we were just narrowing in on. Um, I only want to work with kids that are going to go to a conservatory, or I only want to work with kids whose destiny is, you know, Broadway, it’s it opens this bandwidth to where you can really share your art and you can train students to do whatever they want to do. And I think the power of the arts is that belief that it keeps dreams alive. Right. And that optimistic spirit is so important.

[00:13:57] Dane Reis: [00:13:57] Yeah, absolutely. I love that. And let’s piggy back on that question and let’s talk about your number one, booked it moment. Walk us through that day. If auditions and call backs happened to be a part of it. Let’s talk about that. What was going on in your life and what about that moment? Makes it your favorite? booked it moment.

[00:14:22] Chasta Hamilton: [00:14:22] Oh, my gosh. Let me see. I mean, you know, I always tell people, never see it hung up on  anyone. Great moment. Um, but I am going to share. just a really incredible experience. And , you know, it was past this exit from the competitive dance industry and it had been just this really, really intense process where you question yourself and you’re wondering, um, did I do the right thing? Have I done the right thing? And, um, I had a student who had been with me since he was two years old. . He had booked a regional show and he had booked a national tour, but then he booked his first Broadway show. And, um, in a one year period, he booked three different Broadway shows, a Bronx tale, Harry Potter, and the cursed child. And the ferryman. And just kind of seeing that journey of, okay, like this, this is what we can do. And at that same time, having another student receiving a full academic scholarship at Duke university, and then also seen our new intensive training program, raising money for these incredible philanthropic philanthropic organizations in our area. She’s just this Trinity of everything that I had imagined actually coming to fruition. And while it’s not like a book that moment in a traditional sense, it just felt like a book that moment to me, like a moment of saying, okay, this is acceptance in this field.

[00:15:45]Dane Reis: [00:15:45] Yeah, absolutely. And I would say that is an amazing book that moment, because it was literally seeing everything that you’ve been working for come to fruition in, in very drastically different fields and concentrations. That’s amazing.

[00:15:59]Chasta Hamilton: [00:15:59] So that, that was really, really good. And I directed and choreographed 30 some theater productions in our area. Plain 2013 and 2019. And I just being immersed in theater, you know, there’s so much to be said about the community and that piece of the art, and that’s what I wanted to take from the theater community and drop into what we were experiencing in dance and to see kind of all of those worlds collide. Was just really special.

[00:16:27]Dane Reis: [00:16:27] Absolutely. I love that. And let’s take a moment to talk about the present. What projects are you working on now? What are you looking forward to? And. Look, it’s a crazy weird time. We are amidst this global pandemic. How do you see the entertainment industry moving forward in the next couple of years?

[00:16:48]Chasta Hamilton: [00:16:48] So for us right now, we have been full throttle nonstop since March just completely pivoting. And I always tell people, I can’t wait until we’re back to doing pivot terms instead of business pivots. Um, but so when, you know, all of this kind of happened in March, we flipped our programming in 48 hours, fully digital. So we were able to keep our studios, which like I said, the community is so important, connected in that regard. Um, and we just kind of navigated that for a few months. We weren’t able to have our year end recitals. So we changed it to an outdoor film shoot because you know, with screen and stage, if we can’t do stage, let’s do screen. So we did that and we’ve. Been running day camps and we’re adding academic enrichment programs for this coming year, which again is just, you know, seeing the worlds collide. Um, my love for academics, with my love, for the performing arts. And it’s, it’s just, you know, reading the room. I think that’s really important right now. Read the room and see what safe and see how you can innovate and support that. And I think that’s so important for the arts to do. I don’t think that should be a pause for the arts. I think it’s an opportunity for us to say, how can we still be present within the limitations that we are currently facing?

[00:17:59]Dane Reis: [00:17:59] Yeah, absolutely. I love that. And I love, like, I love that you said I’m looking forward to doing pivot turns and not business pivots. But I love that you have been able to take all of your. Passion for the academic side of things and meld the two and making things work and continuing. And I think you’re so right that this is absolutely not a time for. The arts to pause. Sure. There’s the practicality of, you know, filling theaters, but we can’t pause on the creation of art and inspiring people.

[00:18:31]Chasta Hamilton: [00:18:31] it’s so true, you know, whether it’s, you know, just playing music through these  digital outlets or writing a new play. Um, there’s so many ways to stretch creatively and, and it is hard when you’re stressed and you’re exhausted, which of course we’ve all been experiencing in our own unique ways, um, the past five months, but I think the arts are so necessary for healing. And I think it’s important that we, um, you know, just band together and say, you know, we’re here as artists and we’re going to get out of this and we’re going to rise above it. And we are going to . Um, help us all get to the other side.

[00:19:08]Dane Reis: [00:19:08] Yeah, I love that. And let’s move on to one of my favorite sections in the interview. I call it the grease lightening round. I am going to ask you a handful of questions. I want you to answer them as quickly and concisely as possible one after another. Are you ready?

[00:19:26]Chasta Hamilton: [00:19:26] I am ready. I love a game show.

[00:19:29] Dane Reis: [00:19:29] First question. What was the one thing holding you back from committing to a career in the entertainment industry?

[00:19:36]Chasta Hamilton: [00:19:36] Financial stability.

[00:19:37]Dane Reis: [00:19:37] There you go. Second question. What is the best piece of advice you have ever received?

[00:19:44]Chasta Hamilton: [00:19:44] This too shall pass.

[00:19:46] Dane Reis: [00:19:46] Oh, so good. Third question. What is something that is working for you right now? Or if you’d like to go pre COVID, what was working for you before our industry went on? Pause.

[00:19:58]Chasta Hamilton: [00:19:58] In regards to the business or personal life, or a little bit of both. 

[00:20:06]Um, well, what was really working for me? Was it just storytelling? I think telling our stories is so important and that’s what connects us. So whether it’s relating to person to person or you have a business and you’re using your business to do intrinsic and. Um, external storytelling. It’s so important that we be honest and open and vulnerable and sharing our stories.

[00:20:26] Dane Reis: [00:20:26] Yes. And the fourth question. What is your best resource? Whether that is a book, a movie, a YouTube video, a podcast, maybe a piece of technology that you found is helping your career right now.

[00:20:40]Chasta Hamilton: [00:20:40] The movie LA LA LA land.

[00:20:42]Dane Reis: [00:20:42] Oh, yes. Very good. And the fifth question. If you had to start your career from scratch, but you still had all the knowledge and experience you’ve collected from your career in this industry. What would you do or not do, would you do anything differently or would you keep it the same?

[00:21:02]Chasta Hamilton: [00:21:02] I would be confident in it being okay to not fit in.

[00:21:06]Dane Reis: [00:21:06] So true. Just do you.

[00:21:10] And the last question. What is the golden nugget knowledge drop you’ve learned from your successful career in this industry? You’d like to leave with our listeners.

[00:21:20]Chasta Hamilton: [00:21:20] It’s it’s adaptability and it’s resilience. It’s saying yes, we can. Yes, we can go big. Yes, we can do better. Yes, we can reinvent. And, um, just to be willing to ride the wave, the ups, the downs, the highs, the lowest, just soak it all in and realized that as artists we’re truly blessed to get, to have this opportunity to professionally share our passions for our livelihoods.

[00:21:45]Dane Reis: [00:21:45] Could not agree more. And to wrap up this interview, Chasta, it is time to give yourself a plug. How can we find you? How do our listeners connect with you? Is there anything you want to promote?

[00:21:59]Chasta Hamilton: [00:21:59] So I do have a new book it’s called trash, the trophies, how to win without losing your soul. It’s available on Amazon and Barnes and noble. I also have a website And. You can find me on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, I’m out there. And I believe I’m one of the few jazz to Hamilton. So I’m pretty easy to find. 

[00:22:20]Dane Reis: [00:22:20] Perfect. And for everyone listening out there, I have put the links to everything Chasta just said in the description of this episode. So you can easily click and grab that book, check her out. Chasta. Thank you so much for being here, sharing your journey. It has been an absolute pleasure having you on today. 

[00:22:36]Chasta Hamilton: [00:22:36] Thank you so much. I really appreciate it.