From an early age, Paige Fraser knew she wanted to be a professional dancer. When she first began to dance at the age of 4 at the Ballet Atlantic Academy in New York, she won the role of the first black “Clara” in their production of The Nutcracker. As Fraser continued to dance, she increased her level of training by dancing in summer intensives at the American Ballet Theatre and Dance Theatre of Harlem. Although, at the beginning of her high school years, just when she was becoming confident in her abilities, Fraser was thrown a curve ball that would affect her dancing career for the rest of her life.
During her freshman year of high school at the Professional Performing Arts School in Manhattan as a dance major at the Alvin Ailey School, Fraser was in a routine physical, and when she bent over to touch her toes, the doctor noticed a curvature in her spine. He suggested that she see an orthopedic surgeon for further analysis, and what the results showed were shocking. After further x-rays, the surgeon confirmed that Fraser did have a curvature of her spine, otherwise known as scoliosis. He suggested that she had surgery to correct the curve since over time it would get worse and potentially cause her further health complications, mainly in the heart and lungs.
As a pre-teen just growing into her body, surgery was scary for Fraser because she didn’t know if she would have to give up her dream of becoming a professional dancer. Thankfully, her parents opted for her not to have the surgery, but instead performed their own research on other options to treat her condition. Soon after her diagnosis, Fraser began her alternate treatment regimen that consisted of seeing a chiropractor who specialized in treating scoliosis, and wearing a back brace specifically made to correct her posture. Luckily, Fraser’s spine responded well to her chiropractor’s treatment, and, even though her brace was hard to function in, she was able to take it off when she danced.
According to Fraser, “Being diagnosed with scoliosis at the age of 13 taught me a lot about my body.” In order to keep dancing, Fraser’s treatment for scoliosis couldn’t just be a temporary thing; it caused her to develop a new lifestyle. Today, through her dance company, Visceral Dance Chicago , she receives physical therapy once a week to deal with any aches or pains that her condition may cause. She also uses a foam roller almost every day to keep her muscles loose. As someone who has scoliosis myself, I’ve discovered, much like Fraser, that the key to staying active is keeping your muscles as strong and loose as possible.
Despite setbacks early on in life, Fraser has many accolades in the dance world underneath her belt. She is a graduate of Fordham University/Ailey BFA program and was featured in Dance Magazine, Dance Teacher, Essence, Lucky, and Revolution Dancewear. Some of her notable performances include Randy Duncan’s Dance for Life Chicago in 2014 and 2015, Beyonce’s “Bow Down” 2013 tour opener, and V Magazine’s holiday video featuring Chanel Iman. Most recently, Fraser became a founding dancer of Visceral Dance Chicago, and starred in an Intel commercial that was played during the Super Bowl and Grammys. Although, her proudest dance moment was winning the 2016 Princess Grace Award in Dance. The Princess Grace Foundation-USA is a non-profit, publicly supported charity, and was established by Prince Rainier III of Monaco to honor his wife, Princess Grace Kelly’s legacy. Its mission is dedicated to identifying and assisting emerging talent in theater, dance, and film by awarding grants in the form of scholarships, apprenticeships, and fellowships.
Since Fraser was able to succeed in the dance world living with scoliosis, she is adamant that others can follow in her footsteps. “Do not give up because it’s possible to dance with this condition. It will not always be easy, but you have to do the research and find out what regimen works for you,” said Fraser. She is just another testament to the fact that if you put your mind to it, you can achieve anything. Scoliosis can be debilitating if you give in to it, but the more you push past it, the easier it becomes to work with it. Like Fraser told me, you just have to remember that no one is perfect.
*Photo Credit: Nomee Photography