In my introductory post, I mentioned highlighting friends of mine. Friends that are making a difference, friends who are thriving on their passions, friends who are inspiring and fulfilling a greater picture. Here is my first story- my college classmate and fellow Chicago-based dancer, Paige Fraser.
A former founding dancer of Visceral Dance Chicago, she is hot off her Lyric Opera debut as “Minnie” in West Side Story, dancing for the jets (I’ll allow it this time…).
*Note: this interview was conducted more than a year ago. Although I find all of it to still be relevant, quotes have been paraphrased.
Let’s start with the fun stuff:
Ali: What would you say are your top 3 go-to fashion items?
Paige: Earrings are at the top of my list. I wear a lot of hoops and afro-centric earrings as representations of my culture.
Onesies- to work and at dance. I have a black one from Target.
Tote bags- “look good with any outfit” and are convenient!
Bonus: crop tops- “I find they’re really flattering with high-waisted leggings” plus a hoodie or sweatshirt (Nike, Champion, Adidas)
Ali: What influences your style in and out of the studio?
Paige: Colors really influence me. They are staples in my wardrobe. I love bright pops of color.
Hairstyles- I wear my hair in updos, puffs, braids, cornrows. Hairstyles are really important to me so that I don’t end up having the same look as everyone else. They’re also part of my self-care routine. My hairstyle can really change up my mood.
Technique/Rep- I like to change my outfits based on what class I’m taking or what kind of rep I’m working on. I wear looser pants to help me feel less held and more in my body. I have 2 pairs of tribal print pants that I love!
Ali: How does branding yourself fit into all of this and your fashion choices?
Paige: Branding is definitely important for artists these days but you don’t need to post every day. You don’t need 10k followers to share your message. Nike Chicago connected with me through instagram. I didn’t have a ton of followers but I had a genuine personality and story. I was starting to build my platform as a dancer with Scoliosis.
I think PR isn’t always necessary either. “Sometimes it’s better for you to just represent yourself!”
Photos: Left: Eric Politzer, Right: Fabio Filippi
Ali: What attracts you to the dance world?
Paige: Dance saved my life. I truly believe that God selects professional dancers. Dance has helped me to become more aware of my body. As much as it breaks us down, it also provides healing. There is so much diversity in dance- the people, the places we travel, and the individuality we get to share. Dance has given me an appreciation of what I have to offer.
Ali: So, if you weren’t a dancer, what would you be doing?
Paige: Probably teaching kids how to dance. I’d also be interested in becoming an advisor and mentor to others. Or something in fashion and styling.
Ali: Well I definitely see you doing all 3 of those things! You’ve already begun. Tell me about your foundation. What led you to start it?
Paige: The Paige Fraser Foundation stemmed from a lack of resources for the people of my Bronx neighborhood. There was a lot of self-doubt and I started thinking about how to give back to my community. I wanted to represent dancers with disabilities and was also looking for an opportunity to marry the 2 platforms of dance and Scoliosis awareness.
Note: The first program, “Dance is Healing”, was held this past December 2018!
Ali: Is there something you wish you knew prior to entering the professional field/college? How can we feed that to the new generation?
Paige: “It took me years to learn how my body functions, especially after being diagnosed with Scoliosis. Several of my teachers growing up were professional ballerinas. They were the only role models I had in dance. I always felt like I had to fit into that box until I went on and trained at other places. In general I think that some methods and techniques just don’t always work for certain types of bodies. At times, I ended up cranking my body into shapes and compromising positions ... “fake it till ya make it”.
I really find that there can be a disconnect in the language and vocabulary that some teachers use. Students can end up imitating the teachers and forcing things, which leads to really unhealthy practices and injuries. In the last couple of years I have had to let go of bad habits. I try to work in the proper alignment and listen to how my body functions. I love taking Floorbarre class for this very reason. You never stop learning. The human body is truly fascinating.”
I’m with Paige. As educators of dance, we need to start encouraging healthier practices for our students. We need to be mindful of disabilities, mental health, and the vocabulary we choose to use. We need to make sure they still love to dance at the end of the day/week/year.
Thank you so much, Paige, for allowing me to prod and poke. I admire you dearly!
Be sure to check out The Paige Fraser Foundation, linked above, and follow @lovingthispaige for fashion, dance, and life inspo!