“I have a get-it-done personality,” says professional dancer Paige Fraser. At 29, Fraser has done it all. Her many accolades including training with The Ailey School, American Ballet Theater, and Juilliard, among others; appearing in Beyonce’s making her musical theatre debut in West Side Story at The Lyric Opera; and most recently, living her dream in The Lion King North American Tour.
It’s all the more remarkable considering Fraser has scoliosis, a curvature of the spine that can become painful (especially if you’ve been pirouetting in pointe shoes all day). When Fraser was diagnosed at the age of 12, it threatened to bring the curtain down on her dance life. “I remember looking at the X-rays, feeling overwhelmed, frustrated and thinking, Why me?” she recalls. During high school, she wore a corrective brace and sought out the help of a chiropractor. “A lot of fine-tuning is required,” explains Fraser, “because your spine is doing everything opposite from what it needs to do in dance.”
Though the condition is something Fraser could never have prepared for, she found her footing as a scoliosis advocate, spreading awareness and encouraging other dancers with scoliosis to continue to pursue their dreams. In 2017, she formed and made it her mission to create a safe space for young dancers with or without physical challenges. “I want to be a voice for those with disabilities,” she says. “I want them to know they are not alone and that they are supported, seen and loved.”
A fireball of energy with soaring talent, she credits her professional success to a strict physical regimen and a whole lot of determination. “For many years, I was working three or four times as hard as my classmates just to accomplish one exercise or to get through a show,” she says. “But as I got older, I did research and connected with people who specialize in retraining the body. That’s when I realized I didn’t have to work so hard—I just needed the right information in order to learn how to make my instrument work.”
Indeed, she’s doing her part to change the narrative. For Scoliosis Awareness Month in June, Fraser creative directed a short film starring herself and other professional dancers with scoliosis around the world. Aptly titled it took something often pegged as a hindrance and turned it into a powerful statement. Her DMs were flooded with messages of support from members of the scoliosis community, including supermodel Martha Hunt, who has also been vocal about her personal experience with scoliosis. “Sharing my story has been really healing for me,” says Fraser. “I have bad days just like everyone else, but [scoliosis] is a lifelong journey that I have accepted and embraced. I know why I was put here on Earth, and that in and of itself is so beautiful.”