Sunday, May 27, 2018
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Seriously, it's a real twerkout

Yolyvee Gordon popped and percolated down to the floor as the night club lights flashed and the f-bomb-filled rap music rattled eardrums. On weekdays, Gordon's an attorney with a large Tampa law firm. But on this night, she was assisting Janet Jones in her campaign to liberate women from the gender roles and social mores that keep them two-stepping at holiday parties. In the safety of Ybor City's Club Prana, Gordon and Jones encouraged 39 women in workout gear to twerk their hearts out — free of judgment — and join the Vixen Workout's Vixen Army.

"It's just so freeing," said Gordon, 31, who once danced for the Miami Heat. "To be able to come to a place like this and just dance like no one is watching. It's a great feeling and I really believe in Janet's message."

On paper, the Vixen Workout is the next evolution in the dance-as-fitness craze that's seen dozens of iterations — from latin-dance inspired Zumba to strip-club inspired Strippercise. In practice, the class not only teaches raunchy dance moves, but stresses confidence and embracing sensuality.

Jones, 32, of Miami, worked as a professional dancer with the Miami Heat and rap acts before settling down to work a corporate job in finance and become a wife and mother. "I found myself as a woman, you're expected to be so many roles,'' Jones said. "You have to be a mom. You have to be a wife. You have to be this domestic diva. And for the first time in my life … I felt invisible. I went through a real depression."

After being laid off, Jones returned to dance in the studio. Under the lights, she felt at home.

"Having my experience with a corporate job, I realized that there must be a lot of women who felt the same way I did," Jones said.

Starting with a couple of relatives, Jones began teaching the Vixen Workout in Miami. Routines were performed to uncensored rap. Women-only classes gathered in gyms and sometimes in nightclubs. The class grew from one gym to 11. More than 1,300 women a week were paying to burn calories while shaking it in the 60-minute sessions.

Jones' unusual new terminology landed on merchandise — like Sophistiratchet, Jones-speak for sophisticated women letting loose — and the Vixen Workout morphed into an organized sisterhood, the Vixen Army.

Women would post sweaty selfies on Instagram in full makeup wearing their latest Vixen gear. They were encouraged to wear tank tops, sexy leggings and wedge sneakers instead of normal ratty gym wear.

Jones traveled around the state teaching classes, before deciding it was time to open it up and set up shops outside South Florida. She got the idea to do a college tour. "A lot of girls from Miami who took the class go to school all over the state and they had been encouraging us to come up (to Tampa) for a while," Jones said.

Natasha Olano, 29, a medical receptionist, brought her sorority sisters out to the Oct. 17 class at Club Prana. It was her third time in a Vixen workout. "It's empowering," she said. "I just have a great time every time. "

The Oct. 17 class was a part of a five-city tour called the Vixen Workout School of Ratchet Tour. Jones and her team hit Boca Raton, Tampa, Gainesville, Orlando and Tallahassee, teaching classes and holding auditions for new instructors. During the class, Jones announced that beginning today, Gordon would be teaching a new class at FlavaFitness Studio in Tampa.

"I'm excited and nervous," Gordon said. "You want to follow Janet's example and have the same energy but you never know if they're going to follow you."

Erika Hunter, 30, a Media General employee from Tampa, said she was all in. "I loved it," she said. "Especially for women like me, who might feel a little too old for the club environment — I was never really a club person — getting to dance and have fun to the music that you would hear in the club is a lot of fun."

Jones said that's no accident.

"We are offering women a safe space, there are no men around in the gyms, to be themselves and dance as nasty as they do at home with their friends," she said. "It's ratchet but in a very controlled environment."

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