Dancing Through Adversity

(Courtesy of Paige Fraser)

I was born and raised in the Bronx, NY, and began dancing with Ballet Atlantic in Pelham, New York when I was four. What began as a hobby quickly became my passion. A big turning point for me was when I was cast as Clara in The Nutcracker. This was a big deal. My teacher made a bold choice to cast an African American as the lead role. I was 10 years old and so eager to make her and my family proud. I loved the feeling of being on stage by myself. I knew in that moment that I had to really focus and work even harder if I wanted to one day become a professional dancer.

During my freshman year of high school, I was diagnosed with Scoliosis (an abnormal curvature of the spine). I was 13 and had just begun attending The Professional Performing Arts High School which had a dance program affiliated with Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre. I was a teenager growing into my body and now had to deal with this diagnosis. I again found myself working harder than the other kids in my class to do the simplest things. Since my spine was curved, it affected my balance and stability. I wore a corrective back brace when I was not dancing and saw a Chiropractor regularly. I went from living a normal life to now battling a spinal condition. It was extremely frustrating, but I had a strong support system.

Despite this challenge, I was able to live my wildest dreams. Yes, I have had to put in a lot of extra work to make it to this point in my career, but it was totally worth it. After graduating from the Fordham University BFA Program, I was one of 12 dancers handpicked from the school to dance and tour internationally with the Ailey II Company.

I am a founding dancer in Visceral Dance Chicago and have danced for artists like Beyoncé and Chanel Iman, as well as being a featured dancer in an Intel Campaign “Experience Amazing.” I am currently on the national tour with The Lion King, which is on hiatus due to COVID-19.

Starting a foundation was not on my radar. I was at a point in my career where my hard work was paying off. I had just won a Princess Grace Award and Dance Mag listed me as a “Top 25 to Watch”.

My dreams were coming true.  I had worked hard for recognition and overcame many challenges to do so. I have always had a strong desire to give back to my community. Over the past few years, I have taught dance all over the world in various countries in Europe as well as Haiti and Jamaica.  I wanted to help others who were facing their own challenges and use my experience as a means of inspiring them with love and kindness to realize their dreams.  I talked about this a lot and in one conversation with my family, the idea of starting a foundation was discussed. We all live in the Northeast Bronx, a place that has areas of poverty, health disparities, and economic hardships.

In 2017, The Paige Fraser Foundation (TPFF) was established as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit with me as the Founder and Artistic Director and my aunt, Lesmah Fraser, as Co-Founder and President.  The mission of TPFF is to create a safe space for aspiring young artists, with or without disabilities, in Dance, Music, Theater and the Visual Arts. Our initial program, named Dance is Healing (DIH), is an annual 1-2 day dance intensive provided for free to young dancers ages 10-17.  TPFF continues to collaborate with other Bronx community organizations such as Mind-Builders Creative Arts Center, BronxNet Television, and the Bronx Art Center. During these COVID-19 times, TPFF has offered virtual free dance classes taught by our Founder Paige via Zoom and an upcoming Spine Series free program for dancers with spine conditions also offered virtually.  TPFF continues to create a broad community of partners and supporters to spread kindness through the arts and one day build a Performing Arts and Wellness Center in the Northeast Bronx.

You can learn more about TPFF at https://www.thepaigefraserfoundation.org and follow Paige at paigefraser.net or @lovingthispaige.

Paige Fraser

Paige Fraser - Performing Artist and Scoliosis Advocate Originally from The Bronx, NYC. She graduated from the Ailey/Fordham BFA program. Paige danced professionally with Ailey II, Visceral Dance Chicago, and Deeply Rooted Dance Theater. In 2016 she was featured in an INTEL commercial “Experience Amazing.” She is a Princess Grace Award recipient (2016) and Dance Magazine’s “25 to Watch” (2017). Theatre: West Side Story(Lyric Opera) and The Lion King National Tour. Founder of The Paige Fraser Foundation; which aims to create a safe space for dancers with or without disabilities. IG - @lovingthispaige paigefraser.net

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