Interviews

GET TO KNOW….: Paige Hernandez, “PAIGE IN FULL”

by Keya Maeesha
Paige Hernandez may be the definition of “a diamond in the rough”. A pioneer in her own right, Hernandez takes the definition of the “B-Girl” and hip-hop head to an entirely different level. She’s a teacher, entrepenuer, dancer, director, artist, and an all around dope woman. I had the opportunity to chat with Hernandez about her currently running production, “Liner Notes”, which is currently being shown in DMV as well as New York’s Summerstage. Check her out.
When did you first fall in love with hip-hop?

I’m not sure when I first fell in love with hip hop. I think I came out the womb with gazelles and fat laces, but one video always stands out. Grandmaster Flash’s “U Know what time it is”. I love that video…like the dang vhs tape got chewed I played it so much. I just wanted more of what that video/song had  to offer: Great beat, scratching, rhyming and state of the art creativity.

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How did you know that integrating hip-hop and education would bring you the success that you have now?

I had no idea that integrating the two would be a success.  I just knew that I enjoyed teaching the arts and that students were drawn to me and my teaching style. Eventually I put the needle on the record and realized that I was infusing hip hop into everything I taught. Once I could put my finger on what I was doing, I was able to share it with other colleagues and teachers.

You have toured all over the country. What would you consider your most memorable experience?

That’s a tossup between performing in Lancaster, PA and performing at Wellesley College in Massachusetts. In Lancaster, an Amish gentleman said, “You call your play a mixtape, but I would call it an American quilt”. Wowsers. In Wellesley, the students from three different organizations sponsored the show. It just happened that the three different organizations(Black, Latin and Asian student groups) represented my ethnic makeup . Words can’t describe the feeling of looking into an audience and seeing a mirror of yourself across 400 women. Insane. The love that night, at that performance, could move mountains.

Who are your influences? Have any of them reached out to you regarding your art?

All of  the pioneers in hip hop theatre influence me. I admire and respect so many of them including John Leguizamo, Marc Bamuthi Joseph, Psalmayene24, Eisa Davis etc. I’ve been very fortunate to collaborate and work with all of the aforementioned (except John Leguizamo) and look forward to working with and supporting others in this very neccessary genre of theatre.

As a teacher, do you feel that the dramatic decrease in arts program funding has negatively affected the student you interact with?

Paige: Without a question. A decrease in arts programming means a decrease in academics, social skills and problem solving in the students…among many other things.

How have you found creative ways to merge your art into your teaching?

Paige: I’m a “teaching artist” so merging my art with teaching is exactly what I do in the classroom. I incorporate a lot of music, rhyming, call and response and movement into almost every lesson.

Not much light has ever been given to the history “B-Girl”. Do you feel that this is on purpose? How do you plan to change the b-girl perception?

Paige: B-girl’s are definitely the underdogs but we’re just as strong and present now, as we were decades ago. I don’t think society knows what to make of us, honestly. We’re tough, educated, delicate and creative women. We are gender bending, confident, purposeful and badass. In my experience, the perception of B-girl’s hasn’t been negative but more “under the radar”. One thing’s for sure…we thrive best underground…or on America’s Best Dance Crew.

What was the motivation behind creating “Liner Notes”?

I wanted to see more live hip hop music. I wanted to re-live profound moments from artists in the past. I wanted to collaborate with the best artists in the jazz, spoken word and theatre worlds. I wanted to be onstage with my husband and my father.

I remember as a child reading the notes and thank yous from the artists. Did you ever dream to have your name listed? If so, by whom?

Anyone who was down with Native Tongues or the Soulaquarians. To me, they were the coolest kids in school. I would daydream about us going to the same school and sitting at their lunch table in the cafeteria. Questlove would bang out a beat on the table and we’d all start free styling and dancing…a lot like De La Soul’s “Buddy” video.

You’ve teamed up with one of my favorites, Akua Allrich, to bring “Liner Notes” live and give it a voice. How has working with Akua brought your vision to reality?

Akua’s talent amazes me. She opens her mouth and time stops…like…for real. She sang at my wedding as I walked down the aisle and even though it was “my” moment, I couldn’t help but to think, “Dang, Akua sounds soooo good!!” Anywho, she’s the first person who came to mind when I thought of vocalists for  this project. She’s just so talented and versatile and has a spirit that will warm you from the inside out. She’s also willing to do whatever it takes to make the performance a  true success, so yes, she will sing and read Liner Notes and write poems and do old school hip hop moves on stage. Yup. She’s got us covered and I’m so grateful that she’s on our team.

What is the main message you hope the audience will capture from this project?

“Respect the history. Embrace the remix. Google it when you get home.” That’s a line from the show, but I think it sums up the message perfectly.

Will “Liner Notes” only take place in DC or are you planning on touring it?

Paige: I’m happy to announce that we just got picked up as a series at the Atlas Performing Arts Center. Each season we’ll bring you a new show that explores the intersection of hip hop and its many influences. The first show in the series is on August 10 and 11th at 8pm at the Atlas. After that, you never know what’s in the works! Stay up to date with BFly Entertainment.

Keya:  Has there ever been a moment where you felt like what you do as an artist or a teacher didn’t make sense? If so, what kept you motivated?

Of course. Knowing that I can try again keeps me motivated.

Any other upcoming projects that the good people should know about?

Paige: I’m still touring my one woman show PAIGE IN FULL across the country. Next stop? Two weekends in Brooklyn in June. I’ll be sharing the stage with other artists such as Bobby Womack and get this…Big Daddy Kane. Very excited.

Paige Hernandez is a dynamic woman with so much to offer in today’s culture. I’m excited for everything that she is doing and the mark she is leaving in our society. She’s is definitely a young lady you should get to know.
Make sure you check out Paige’s new hit “Liner Notes” presented by UpStage in Washington, DC. Tickets are only $20 and being shown at The Dunes. Click here for tickets and more information.

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