Paige Fraser, Professional Dancer/Scoliois Advocate
What drives your work, what is your why?
I have always been driven from a young age. I started dancing when I was 4 years old and instantly fell in love with it. Dance instilled discipline in me at a very young age. When I was 13 I was diagnosed with Scoliosis. This was a big trial for me. Although doctors suggested surgery, my parents helped me find an alternate route. Fortunately I never went through with the surgery and sought out Chiropractic care as well as wore a back brace throughout my 4 years in high school. This was a difficult time for me but I knew I wanted to be a professional dancer and did the extra work to make sure I was strong enough. At a young age I chose to persevere and chase my dreams and 15 years later I am grateful I never gave up. This challenge keeps me motivated every day. I am a proud Scoliosis advocate and a dancer of color breaking barriers in my field. Not only do I work with a company Monday – Friday and perform over 20 times per season, but I also invest my time into body maintenance. I take Floorbare 2-3 times a week to condition my body and spine. I am never fully satisfied and because of that I push myself to keep going and striving to be better each day. The work never stops. I am always recreating myself as a performing artist and as a human being living with Scoliosis.
What is the moment/event/situation that inspired you to enter the field you are in now?
When I was 10 years old I was cast to be Clara in the Nutcracker. This was a big deal because it is the leading role in The Nutcracker. I trained at a studio in Westchester, NY and the fact that an African American was playing this role was very big deal for that community. Looking back I had no idea how big it was. I loved being on stage by myself and acting in front of a big audience. I knew from that age that I wanted to dance professionally.
What do you believe best prepared you to be successful in your career?
I am so thankful for the love and support my parents have given me. They are the reason I have even made it this far (and of course God). Every time I am on stage I carry them with me. I love my family and I am very fortunate to have them in my life. They have been my biggest support system. Even when times were rough they always found a way to send me to class and buy any ballet shoes and leotards I needed for my recitals. From the first day I decided to dance to now they have been in my corner. They have lifted me up when I wanted to quit dance during my diagnosis with Scoliosis. Dealing with painful rejection and broken promises is never easy as a child yet alone a professional. I can honestly say that all of these trials made me stronger and the woman I am today. It made getting the breakthrough so much more meaningful. My testimony is that I never gave up even when so many odds have been against me.
Who is the mentor that has made the most impact in your life and why? What was the best advice they gave you, and how has it stuck with you throughout your career?
The mentor who has made the biggest impact in my life is Kenneth Epting. I met him in 2011 when I was in Ailey II. I remember always seeing this statuesque man who was friends with my director. He quietly watched us rehearse whenever he was in town. Little did I know that a few years later he would reach out to me to teach at his dance studio in Houston, Texas. This is a testament to you never know who is watching. Our bond has grown over the years. I can literally call Ken whenever and talk about anything. We are both strong believers in God. He has also overcome so much in his life and is living proof that I too will make it through my trials. Ken always reminds me of my worth and reminds me “not to let anyone steal my joy”. He believes in me so much and I just want to continue to make him proud. He also keeps me grounded and offers me feedback on any videos of myself I send him or my choreography projects. Ken reminds me that I am enough but also when I need to do more. He keeps it real and I appreciate that about him. Not to mention he makes me laugh!