All her life, dance has been a way of escape for Janet Jones. "When I danced," she says, "everything would just flow out of me."But when she was nearing the age of 30, the Miami native and former Heat dancer, believing it was time to grow up and get serious, stopped working as a choreographer and took a job in the corporate world. She ceased dancing altogether and entered a deep depression.
After four years, Jones had a realization: For her, dance was the key to everything. And if twerking, jumping, and spinning to Beyoncé was such a release for her, maybe it could help other women stressed out by all the world's demands.
"I had to let the people in my life do something to feel alive," she says. "So that's when Vixen started."The class, which promised to make women feel like VMA opening acts or Beyoncé back-up dancers, was selling out within weeks of starting in fall 2012. Today Vixen has a posh studio in Wynwood and certified instructors across the nation.
Born in Hialeah, Jones began dancing at 3 years old. She thought ballet was boring at first. But that changed after her dad got sick with diabetes and she became his main caretaker. "I didn't know how to talk about it," she says. "So I would just dance it out."She wanted to be a ballerina, "but then I got thighs." She took jazz and hip-hop classes and competed on her studio's team.
After graduating from St. Brendan High School, Jones attended Florida State University, where she majored in dance. She had to return to Miami when her dad became ill, so she enrolled at New World School of the Arts. After finishing, she landed all kinds of jobs in dance — as a Heat dancer, an instructor, and a choreographer. She briefly lived in Los Angeles but returned to Miami again when her father passed away.
Jones' decision to leave her choreography business came around 2009 during the recession. She began working as a financial coordinator. She was also raising her first child. "For the first time in my life, I experienced what it was like to be in corporate America, to feel invisible, then go home and have these domestic responsibilities," she says. "And then to do it again. And how easy it is to abandon yourself because there's really no time — it's about everyone else."
Her answer to that existence — Vixen — wasn't supposed to be full-time. She was still teaching jazz and hip-hop to kids and thinking that, at most, maybe the mothers of her students would be interested in taking some classes themselves. Even now, she still seems amazed the idea took off the way it did. "People are like, 'Oh, this was your dream,'" she says. "I'm like, 'No, my dream was to have a dance studio for little kids.' This way surpassed anything I ever dreamt."