Aesthetically Speaking: Paige Draper

Please welcome Paige Draper to the Aesthetically Speaking series of artist interviews. I know Paige from wayback, when she was singing in something like four choirs and dancing her way through the halls of our high school. Looks like she’s kept that joy of movement in her new home of Philly. Thanks for sharing, Paige!

What is your name and city of residence?
Paige Draper, Philadelphia

What medium do you work in?
Irish step dance

How often do you work on your art–is it a full-time endeavor or something
you work on in your spare time?

About twice a week–I teach and take lessons myself.

Paige Draper

all gussied up for a competition

How does art fit into your life, in general? Is it something you think about
and talk about every day, or every week, or only in certain situations,
etc.?

Irish dance has always been a huge part of my life and I certainly think about it every day. I would like to be involved in more, but the economy makes it difficult at this point.

When you start on a piece, what kind of end result do you have in mind? Does
it get performed or published, put in a permanent form or is it more
temporary?

Usually if the dance is to be performed I’m mostly concerned about the nature and attention-span of the audience. The material needs to also accommodate the performance space and floor. Since Irish dance is performed in hard and soft shoes, whether or not we use hard shoes depends on whether it’s a hard floor or carpet. In terms of the audience, if they want traditional Irish dance we try to use traditional dances and if it’s more of a flashy show we use music and choreography from Broadway shows such as “Riverdance” and “Lord of the Dance.”

What goals do you set in relation to your art, both short- and long-term? Is
it something you hope to make money doing, or is it something you want to
keep uncommercialized? Does the term “sell-out” hold meaning for you or do
you see the art/commerce relationship as a necessary one?

Teaching Irish dance allowed me to afford graduate school and move to Philly, but now it’s more of a therapeutic part of my life. I someday will get my teaching certificate and hopefully make money as a teacher, but I’m focusing more on my role as a performer and competitor as of now. I’m not the biggest fan of the way Irish dance has been introduced in this country because it is a national symbol of Irish history and culture. “Riverdance” and especially “Lord of the Dance” represent Irish dance in a flashy, Broadway manner.

What role does collaboration with others play in your art, if any?
Concerning traditional Irish dance, we provide jobs and roles for Irish musicians, costume designers, and artists. If Irish dance were not as popular as it is in the US, these individuals may not have as many work opportunities.

How conscious are you of your artistic influences? Who are your artistic
influences?

I know that some children have expressed Irish dance as positive role in their social lives and has given them confidence as a performer and individual. I don’t have very many artistic influences, however expanding my knowledge of the history and importance of the dance has given me a powerful sense of my heritage and culture. I’d like to think that my ancestors smile upon my work to preserve and represent such a significant cultural symbol.

Since this is a travel blog, how does travel relate to or affect your art?
(Themes in what you produce, road trips to perform your music, thoughts on
what happens to your painting when you ship it across the country to a
customer, etc.)

Myself and many others travel great distances to perform and compete in Irish dance, in fact, so much to the point that it costs money and sacrifice.

And finally, a right-brain question: If your art was a map, what would it be
a map of?

I’d like to think my art is a map of Ireland and its history. The dances represent cultural traditions and historical events that have occurred in the past. It is a wonderful way to teach people about such things through movement and music.

Photo from Paige’s personal collection.

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