Brazilian lyricist Paulo Coelho once said, “When you dance, you can enjoy the luxury of being you.” While I have two left, I'm always open to talking to someone passionate about dance. Read on for my chat with dancer, travel nurse, and Tiktoker Phoenix James.
1. Reviews & Dunn: When did you discover your passion for dance growing up?
Phoenix James: I grew up dancing mostly just by myself in my living room for fun, but I didn’t really fall in love with it until later in life. My first love was actually singing, then music and acting. My passion for dance came quite a bit later. Growing up, we didn’t have much money, so I had to wait until I was old enough to work and pay for classes myself. I took my first class at 14, and immediately, I was hooked.
2. Reviews & Dunn: What is the most common misconception about pole dancing?
Phoenix James: That there’s a difference between pole and stripping. Pole was invented by strippers in the clubs long before celebrities tried to make it more mainstream. A movement began that tried (and still does) to separate pole from stripping with things like #notastripper or stressing that it’s “pole fitness” instead of pole dance. As an aside, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with doing it for fitness (I mean, strippers are athletes, too), but the term carries very negative connotations. On a lighter note, I also frequently hear from people that they feel they’re not strong or flexible enough to try pole. I promise we definitely, 100%, will not be teaching anyone to flip upside down in your first class. Anyone can try pole!
3. Reviews & Dunn: I was a huge fan of last year’s documentary Strip Down, Rise Up on Netflix. Do you feel that accurately portrayed the art of pole dancing?
Phoenix James: Ehh…there were a lot of controversies swept up in that. There were a lot of potentially harmful things being taught, such as pole instructors essentially functioning as therapists when they have no legitimate training to do so. I could say a lot about it, but the most important takeaway is to keep in mind that though pole can be very therapeutic, it is not therapy and should not take the place of therapy with trained professionals. It also gave the impression that most women trying pole dance are somehow “broken,” which is also very misleading.
4. Reviews & Dunn: What are some of the health benefits of pole dancing?
Phoenix James: As a nurse, I can tell you that pole can offer the same health benefits that any exercise would also offer, such as reduced stress, improved sleep, lowered risk of heart attack, stroke, etc., but pole can also be particularly demanding regarding strength and flexibility so, in addition to cardio, it also helps build significant muscle and can improve pliability. And while bearing in mind that pole does not take the place of therapy, as I mentioned above, there is something to be said for how it offers feelings of empowerment, especially regarding sexuality, as well as boosting confidence and self-esteem. I definitely experienced that as a stripper/sex worker in that you learn how to harness your sexual energy. Society often tells women to mute themselves, turn it down, and be “classy” and demure, so being in an environment that encourages the exact opposite can be extremely liberating.
5. Reviews & Dunn: In your years of instructing, have you ever had any males take your classes?
Phoenix James: Absolutely! One of my best friends is male, and he just won 3rd at our National competition! He and I started pole just a few months apart. I have another beloved student who is male, and he turned 74 last year!
6. Reviews & Dunn: Which choreography routine do you think would be harder to master, New Edition “If Its Isn’t Love” or Michael Jackson’s “Thriller”?
Phoenix James: Hmm, neither is actually particularly difficult technique-wise, but I think I might tire out doing New Editions because it’s so bouncy. It also runs longer than the core Thriller choreography.
7. Reviews & Dunn: Is there any artist you have on your musical bucket list to see live in concert strictly for the dancing?
Phoenix James: My child is OBSESSED with K-pop music, and we’ve gone to a couple of concerts, and those shows are incredible. I like some of the music, but I get SO inspired watching the dancing. Other than that, I’d love to see Kayla Brenda live (she’s one of Jason DeRulo’s dancers). It’s also a bucket list item of mine to dance onstage myself.
8. Reviews & Dunn: The year is 1985, and it’s Friday night in the Hollywood Hills at a swanky Night club. Ren McCormack (Kevin Bacon) from Footloose and Tony Maneroo (John Travolta) from Saturday Night Fever both ask you for a dance who gets the yes first?
Phoenix James: Depends on who offers more money…
9. Reviews & Dunn: As a parent yourself now, do you think Baby’s parents were too strict in the classic film Dirty Dancing?
Phoenix James: I was raised in a super strict, legalistic Christian home, and my parents were a lot like Baby’s, so I feel they were too strict for who Baby was; what I’ve learned as I’ve gotten older, through raising a teenager and also in working with families as a NICU/peds nurse is that there’s often no right or wrong. What works for one child won’t for another, so parenting becomes extremely subjective to who your child is. I think a lot of the struggle parents go through (and what we see in Dirty Dancing) is parents fighting to maintain who they want their child to be versus learning and accepting who their child actually is. We as parents always like to think we know best, but it’s really important to be able to let go a little and listen to what your child may be telling you.
10. Reviews & Dunn: Is there anything you would like to add, and where can fans find you on social media?
Phoenix James: Thank you so much for giving me the opportunity to share a little about myself!
I''m on IG and TikTok as @phoenix.james
Twitter as @phoenix_james1
FB at facebook.com/theofficialphoenixjames (though I’m not on FB much)