Dance, fitness and fierceness. When former Miami HEAT dancer Janet Jones found herself missing the magic of movement while working at her corporate job, she created VXN, a hip-hop cardio workout class. With lights dimmed low and the latest pop anthems on full volume, VXN classes reimagine the often-tedious experience of hitting the gym as an empowering and calorie-torching performance. Chanting "Yes, I'm sexy!" and "Yes, I'm fierce!" may feel intimidating at first, but according to Jones, the joy of VXN is in releasing your inhibitions and feeling the sweat on your skin. (Request for Natasha Bedingfield's "Unwritten" for the cooldown, please!)
Dance Spirit spoke with Jones and college VXN instructors Addie Jasica and Mikayla McGee about how they've incorporated the thrill of performing and booty-rolling into a 50-minute class
Dance Spirit: Can you share some of your dancing background, growing up and professionally?
Janet Jones: I started dancing at age 3, and I only did ballet until 16. I then got into jazz and lyrical—hip hop wasn't as widely popular at the time. I got a BFA in dance at Florida State University, where I was introduced to African dance classes. Then, I joined an outside dance team called Flava, which was my first experience with hip hop! Later on, I came back home and auditioned for the Miami HEAT dance team, which was a whole new experience. I had to learn choreography super quickly and perform it that week. It was also my first experience as a brand ambassador and being responsible for my persona.
While I was on the HEAT, I got to know choreographer Darrin Henson, which led to the opportunity to assist on tour with him and be in his instructional video Darrin's Dance Grooves. I fell in love with the business and creative processes of artist development and putting shows together.
DS: What was your inspiration behind VXN?
JJ: I loved the industry, but eventually I wanted to settle down. I got a job in the corporate world before becoming a mom. Once I completely left the dance industry, I quickly realized how much dance contributed to keeping me emotionally healthy. I wanted to fill the holes of everything I desperately needed in my life. Dance can be exclusionary; you or your parents have to be able to invest a lot of time and money. I wanted to give the magic of performing to everyone.
DS: How has COVID-19 impacted VXN classes and certification training?
JJ: I had to pivot quickly. We had already planned to do a virtual studio and an online certification, but COVID-19 put those plans front and center. No one could help me during quarantine, and I set up the virtual studio myself as the only instructor. It was really challenging, but, luckily, we saw a huge success with online certifications, because it gave people the opportunity to invest in themselves and benefit their physical, mental and emotional health during that time. They can pay it forward within the community, too.
DS: What are your goals for VXN moving forward?
JJ: We're in eight different countries now, and I want to continue expanding. We're launching a platform to improve education for instructors. It will consist of accessible marketing, branding, community building and business education––everything that I've learned over the years.
DS: Any advice for dancers wanting to make a career in fitness?
JJ: As a dancer, it's so different being a fitness instructor and getting what I used to love from dance. There are so many things that make dance magic that are missing from fitness. Add that! Bring your unique perspective to the job.
Creating Confidence and Community on Campus
VXN classes have gained momentum at college campuses across the country. Addie Jasica is a former VXN instructor at Tulane University, and Mikayla McGee teaches at Georgia State University, Georgia Tech and around the Atlanta area. Both brought the virtual VXN heat throughout quarantine.
"When I was in third grade, I saw the hip-hop classes from my studio perform," Jasica says of her dance experiences growing up. "I knew that was what I wanted to do. I joined my dance academy's hip-hop performance and competition companies, and, later, the jazz, contemporary and ballet company in high school. When I came to Tulane, I wanted to dance more casually, and a senior instructor introduced me to VXN."
To start her campus classes, McGee contacted group fitness directors at nearby universities. "I let them know what I wanted to do and what the program was like. It helped to have success at Atlanta studios already, and I set up an audition to take them through a warm-up, the meat of the class and a cooldown."
Both Jasica and McGee have gained more confidence, opportunities and even better friendships from their classes. McGee shares, "Many of my friends I've met through VXN, and we've done some cool things together, like choreograph and perform for 'Weird Al' Yankovic's 'Smells Like Nirvana' at The Fox, a famous theater here in Georgia. We've also done the Wigwam: Wellness Festival, Home Depot Backyard, and I'm running the ATL Summer Fit Fest this year."
Jasica adds, "I learned to command a room. There's a kind of trust and confidence you develop in yourself, having to speak without a script."
When asked to describe VXN in three words, McGee smiles. "'Sweaty,' 'fun' and 'community.'"
Jasica agrees. "'Empowering,' 'strong' and 'fun.' 'Fun' really is the best way to capture VXN! You know, flirty and a little silly, all in good fun."
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