This month we are highlighting one of our newest instructors, Jessica PhoEnix. She is an incredibly talented Dancehall and Afro Caribbean teacher. Jessica definitely brings the FIYAH to all of her ETD Outreach Workshops!
1. When did you begin dancing? Has being a dancer always been your dream job?
I started dancing at age 6, my mom danced when she was young. And later after having us, she owned a fitness franchise for over 10 years. So my sisters and I were definitely encouraged to incorporate physical activity & performing arts.
Actually up to about age 15 I wanted to be a veterinarian, but after graduating from high school and heading to college, I knew dance was it!
2. When did you join ETD Outreach? Where do you teach for us? How has your experience been so far?
I believe its been about 5/6 weeks now. My main location is with the Acacia Network Detox/Rehab program in Bronx. And now a Mental Health care facility in Queens. My experience has been incredible. The power of music and movement is very real. I have established great connections with my participants and truly enjoy bringing healing and happiness.
3. What other dance, theater, or film companies have you worked for or taught with?
I have had a very full and vibrant dance life thus far including International & National touring with iLuminate & Universoul Circus. For the past 8 years I have been focused on the development of my company Fiyah Productions, LLC. In 2013, Fiyah Productions produced the first of its kind, full length Dancehall Theater production in New York. It performed annually through 2017.
In addition to FIYAH Dancehall Theater, my focus has also been in women's community fitness. I cofounded the FIYAH FIT brand in 2015 whihc is a ladies Afro Carib Dance Fitness tecnique.
4. What is your ultimate goal as a professional dancer/instructor?
Currently my goal and lasting dedication is to continue advocacy for Afro Caribbean culture from the ground level up. Cultural Artivism, Health & Happiness through Music, Art, & Dance as a platform to educate, entertain, and reach community spaces and beyond.
5. Describe your style of dancing and teaching. What artists have impacted you the most?
I mostly teach Dancehall and Afro Caribbean in Dance and Dance Fitness formats. My style of teaching is definitely a mix of structure with an organic flow. No class will be the same because I like to leave room for an exchange of energy between myself and the participants. The style of dance I teach has foundation, technique, and is deeply rooted in social, community, and cultural life. So I like for my classes to reflect that.
The people I have met during my travels to Jamaica have inspired and motivated me to continue my path.
6. What public figure has had the biggest influence on you and why?
Honestly, my biggest influences are in my family and in my personal relationships. While of course I admire many public figures, I don't know their full stories. So I feel the biggest impact from the heroes who I have connected with and know their personal experience.
7. Do you have a quote or mantra that you live by?
I have a few. The big one right now for me is "Busy but balanced" putting more value on what keeps me grounded, happy, and peaceful.
What's been the largest obstacle/struggle in your life to becoming an artist in NYC? How did you overcome it?
One of the big ones that I learned was how to balance and not let the distractions take me away from why I began and where I want to go. There can be so much to get caught up in here in NYC. To me, much of it is trivial and small matters in comparison to what truly matters.
With all the distractions, it can be very easy to miss the beauty that the city has to offer. If its not positive and productive to the mission, it's not worth it.
Constantly balancing, taking time, & recentering has allowed me to be both accomplished and at peace in mind, body, and spirit