Jenyne Butterfly Interview | Life in Cirque | Episode #001
This is Episode #1 of the new Off The Pole Podcast, featuring pole icon – Jenyne Butterfly!
She is a multi-disciplined artist who has won national titles in the US, as well as competed, performed and taught workshops all over the world. She currently lives in Las Vegas and performs in the Cirque du Soleil’s show, “MJ One”.
Really hope you guys enjoy the 1st episode in the podcast series - you can subscribe to our pole podcast on iTunes to keep updated with all the latest episodes and it would mean the world to me if you could leave a review!
Hit play above or read the transcript below. You can also check out the video version at the Off The Pole Youtube channel.
Sarah: Welcome, Jenyne. Thank you so much for doing my podcast.
Jenyne: Thank you for having me.
Sarah: I appreciate you taking some time for us. I’ve already done a bit of an intro on you, and I know that everyone in the pole industry already knows who you are unless they’ve been living under a rock for the past 10 years! I wonder if we could jump in and give you a bit of time to maybe explain a typical training week or a typical week in the life of Jenyne?
Jenyne: Okay. Everything changed when I went to the Cirque du Soleil show. The journey to get here was a lot different than being here, and it’s usually like that when you have a goal to achieve and you’re trying to reach deep into your possibilities of becoming the best that you can be. When you’re trying to grow and get better, and stronger, and more flexible, then it takes a lot more work than just maintaining. Right now, I’m just maintaining by doing the show. It’s 10 shows a week.
Jenyne: My two days off are Wednesday, Thursday, so Friday is my Monday, and that’s when I head into work. For me, it’s a lot better than the dancers and everyone else in the show who has a lot more rehearsals because they’re in a lot of group numbers, but since I’m a solo act, then I really only have one to two scheduled rehearsals a week, and then everything else is just on my own. Not having a rehearsal day, I go in at 5:00 pm, and then I’m out of there at midnight, so it’s a long evening, a lot of hours there, even though most of that isn’t actually physical activity. It’s a lot of makeup and in-between cues and different things like that, but if I have a rehearsal day, I’ll go in two to three hours earlier.
The days that I’m working, I have to prep food every single day, and I’m not a morning person anymore because I’m getting out of there at midnight, and then I’m not able to go to sleep until two, sometimes three. Our house is usually asleep until noon, and then we get up and I really only have enough time to kind of prepare for the workday. My weekends get really full with getting things done, just domestic things, like normal life stuff.
Jenyne: I try to spend some quality time with my son. I did, not too long ago, add every Saturday morning I teach at a new studio here called Aerial Athletica that is being run by Yukari. She is a pole artist that is performing in another Cirque du Soleil show here.
Sarah: So she understands the schedule quite a lot.
Jenyne: She understands the schedule, and she has a lot of company meetings and activities at the studio that she is really forgiving knowing that not every instructor can usually make it to those because just adding the Saturday class and keeping that consistent for me has been difficult. If I have a minor injury or something that I’m dealing with and I’m not in the show that night, I can’t teach class. I can’t do anything outside of the show if I’m not doing the show, but it’s fun. I’ve never had such a normal schedule where everything happens same time, same day, just week after week. It’s been almost five years now.
Sarah: Do you do any other training outside of preparing for the show, or is it as you say just maintaining and keeping up with your strength and your flexibility?
Jenyne: Yeah, I have finally built a studio here in my house that I just don’t get to use yet. It’s been really challenging finding, not finding because the time is always there, it’s all a matter of priorities. It’s how you organise your time because it’s there, it just needs to get to the top of the list and it’s done. I think I have finally got to the place where the Saturday class that I’m teaching is good, and I can stay after 30 minutes or so. Friday, (my Monday) when I go into work, I have usually my rehearsal at work that day. After a couple days off, they schedule a rehearsal for me to go in and do show stuff, which is on the curve pole, so that’s just for the show. Any extra rehearsals that I put in on the curve pole, it’s great for the show, but I can’t take it anywhere other than that.
Sarah: Yeah. It’s not transferrable into outside of having a curved pole, which most studios will not have!
Jenyne: No. I wish!
Sarah: Is it the only one in the world?
Jenyne: It’s the only one, and it’s great. I wish I could share it. I wish I could bring it out and have everyone try it. It’s really fun. Other than that, I have a plan to start adding now another day. I’d like to get back into more aerial stuff, so I think on top of my Saturdays, I’m going to shoot for Mondays and Tuesdays to add some trainings before I go into work.
Sarah: Is there anything specific like you have to do for a recovery routine? Because obviously, you’re having to perform to a really high standard, 10 times a week, which is an insane amount for anybody. Is there specific things that you do to help recover or to make sure your body’s staying on top form?
Jenyne: I think cross training is really important, and they do provide really great services at Cirque du Soleil where we have a strength and conditioning coach who’s really your typical gym workouts, nothing specific to circus. They also offer Pilates, which a lot of the dancers utilise that. I work a lot with our performance medicine department. They’re physical therapists and athletic trainers that have come from a more sport background but have been with Cirque du Soleil now for at least twice as long as I have working with all the artists there, so they’re really familiar with wears and tears and injuries. A lot of the dancers have knees and hips problems, and us as pole dancers and aerialists, we have back and shoulders and kind of neck and all the tension that we have from hanging and holding our body.
My shoulder is starting to get some minor tears and some overuse and long-term injury stuff, so on top of the exercises, and really specific, acute pressure trigger point therapy manipulation that they’re working on, I’m trying to stretch all the muscles in the front area and pull back with my lats. On top of that, I found a supplement that I’ve been taking that’s really amazing for sports recovery, repair. It’s two different ones, actually. One is made with all sea elements. I’m sure there’s a lot of seaweed and different things like that. The other one is for cartilage and tendons, so I’ve been taking those, and I’d be happy to share that.
Sarah: Yeah, maybe we can put a link underneath* when I post the video. I’m sure lots of people would be really, really interested in that for sure.
Sarah: You mentioned your diet, so you do meal prepping. Obviously, you don’t have a lot of time when you wake up, so you’re on the go, you need to be fuelling your body correctly. Do you have any specific diet advice that you would give to people that are trying to stay on point with their training, or is it something that is very personal to you and you find that it changes depending on your body’s needs?
Jenyne: Yes, I do think that every person is different. Aside from the fact that we’re all human and created to function a certain way, I think that we’ve evolved so much. I’ve tried a lot of different … I’ve studied. I’ve studied, especially meeting my best friend who is a raw vegan chef, and very holistic, and studied Ayurvedic principals in Bali. She’s really been a wealth of information based on the theories and the practices that she’s been leaning towards, but there are so many. It’s hard to know who to listen to and what to believe between gluten-free, the paleo, all these different scientists that have these studies.
Sarah: You can look at one thing in the internet and say ‘definitely do it’, and then the next article is like ‘definitely don’t do it!’, so it’s difficult to be like “I don’t know what I want to do!”
Jenyne: With that, I think the most important thing is just how you feel. How do you feel? Really try to maybe take a log. Write down a diary and try different methods for a while. You need to try to let them really start functioning, and whatever you’re cutting from your diet, let that completely clear your body, and just pay attention to your energy levels. It’s really important that we have a good amount of energy, so that’s what I’ve based everything on is how do I feel when I eat this, when I don’t eat this, and I found that I feel the best when I’m mostly plant-based in my diet, when I just eat tonnes of fruits, and vegetables, and whole grains, and nuts, and everything that just comes directly from the earth. That’s what makes me personally feel the best.
Sarah: I think intuitively eating is really important, listening to your body and not just eating for eating’s sake or eating because you think you should eat something, or cutting something out because everyone else is cutting it out. I think your own reflection of your diet is really important, that mindset of it, rather than trying to stick to something that isn’t necessarily going to work for you. That’s really important.
Jenyne: I think stress is also a huge part of injury and part of getting sick. It’s not good to be really stressed, so if you’re stressed about your diet, it could also counter the effects of what you’re trying to do, so just try to be happy. If you want to reward yourself with a cookie every once in a while, then don’t stress about it.
Sarah: Yes, exactly. Well, you said it, so now we all can. If Jenyne said we can eat cookies, then we’re going to do it! (laughs)
Sarah: Do you have any days where you’re completely lacking in motivation? Obviously, you’re performing in a show, so you’re having to put on an act and be a larger-than-life character. Are there any days that you completely lack motivation, and are there any tips that you’d say to help pull yourself out of it?
Jenyne: Yes. There are days that I feel like my energy just isn’t quite there or the energy of the cast around me. The people that you’re surrounded with, maybe everyone else is down or everyone else is complaining. How do you balance yourself and just stay focused? Sometimes the audience isn’t giving me anything like they’re just silent.
Sarah: They’re probably sitting there in awe, but you probably want some applause to what you’re doing!
Jenyne: Sometimes they’re sleeping.
Sarah: They’re in Vegas, so they might have drunk too much…
Jenyne: They had a crazy night, they were out at the pool all day, the sun has drained them, or they’re on a different timezone. Maybe they literally just landed and just got off the aeroplane, and that was the only time there were tickets available, so I try not to rely too much on them. I am doing it for the audience, but I’m also doing it for me, and I think I’m just trying to be always better than I was yesterday. I’ve always been my own biggest competition. I’m not trying to be better than anyone other than myself. I also look at the 1,800 people that are out there in the audience, and I say to myself it only takes one person. It only takes one to be really happy, to really appreciate or be inspired by you, and you never know who it is. You never know who’s watching. Just last night, Mariah Carey was watching our show.
Sarah: She’s going to take up pole dancing and demand a curved pole, and the studio is going to be like “we don’t have one”. She’s going to pull a diva strop and want one!
Jenyne: That would be quite an honour to inspire someone that has inspired me. I’ll never forget being in the audience at Cirque and that feeling that I got realising that that was an actual job, and that it could be a career, and that I thought that I could do it, and just that motivation that was in me to get where I am. That comes up almost on a daily basis and just reminds me that how hard you worked to get here, so enjoy it and make the most of it because who knows how long I’ll stay. Something might happen tomorrow where it might be last day that I was ever able to pole.
Sarah: That’s a good way to look at a lot of things, kind of living in the now rather than always thinking about what could be happening or what better things are around the corner. If you appreciate what you’ve gotten, then you’re going to make the most of it. I don’t know if he’s still wandering past, but you’ve got a gorgeous son. I think he wants to be in the podcast too.
Jenyne: Just always wants to be with mommy, whatever she’s doing, including pole.
Sarah: I bet. After your pregnancy, did you have any struggles getting back to training? Did you take any specific time off, or did you again listen intuitively to your body and just take it as it came?
Jenyne: That was actually what the doctor told me, that just listen to your body. During pregnancy, I performed until I was four months in the shows.
Sarah: Wow, that’s insane. The body’s an amazing thing. I think we all think that pregnant women just need to shut down, and it doesn’t necessarily need to be the case.
Jenyne: That could also be a cultural thing. I think when I was four months along, I was showing a little, but not a lot, and I was able to just squeeze my core and just hold him in. I remember one of my last days before I decided to leave the show, I’m riding in the elevator for the finale, and there were some of the Japanese guys, the smooth criminals were in the elevator with me, and I’m just relaxed. My belly was kind of poking out a little bit to where it was, and one of the guys looked over, and he went, “Oh!” He noticed, and he said, “Be careful!” I was like, “It’s fine. I’m okay, yeah. We’re good. See you,” and I just kind of squeezed it in a little bit. One of the Japanese guys had their baby, they don’t even allow the child to leave the home three months after being born. It’s like such a sacred thing. They just treat it really differently.
Sarah: Kind of a protective bubble.
Jenyne: Yes. What my doctor told me is that you can just continue doing everything that doesn’t … There’s a point when the fetus comes out and is close, they’re at large enough size to where they’re pretty close so that if you impacted the belly, that it would actually get to them, but until I think it’s 28 weeks or something, you’re fine. They’re so small in there that they’re protected. That was the, I guess, only warning sign to stop having anything that might have a blow to the stomach or something that would be dangerous. Other than that, the dancers after me that had babies went until five months in the show, and then they were just showing too much. That was the only reason that they needed to stop because there’s no danger in dancing. People can run marathons. You can continue doing. This is what the doctor said. Each case is different. You might be a high-risk pregnancy or something different.
Sarah: Of course.
Jenyne: Each pregnancy, you should be able to continue doing what you do exactly how you do it until you give birth. Not adding new things or trying really risky, like there was a certain point I think that I just didn’t want to be going upside down. What I did was I left the show at four months. I continued playing in the studio on the pole until six months, and then the last two months, I just kind of went slowly declining, just working out in the gym a little and then just doing mat Pilates and stretching until the week before I was giving birth. I was doing my mat yoga stretching kind of exercising, holding planks and things. I just walked down the stairs, like a long, slow decline, and then the same after giving birth.
Luckily, I had no complications. I gave birth naturally at home. Everything went well, and I was able to … Just they say after everything heals up, you’ll know. You just stop bleeding and everything’s fine, and then you can start activity again, so I went to the gym and just walked on the treadmill. I’ll never forget the first time I tried to do a pull-up after birth because it actually, as much as I slowly declined, as soon as I tried to do it again, which was only what, two weeks after birth I was in the gym, probably two weeks after that, I tried to do a pull-up and I couldn’t even do one.
Sarah: Your body was like nope…
Jenyne: I’ve never had that feeling. In pole and aerial, I’d never tried a pull-up before, but when you climb, you’re using your legs with pole and aerial, so then after starting pole and aerial, I started cross-training and doing more training. I started doing pull-ups and I was able to do them always. I was always able to do them after climbing things, so this was the first time I had experienced that, and I really had a little bit of a panic attack and thought I’m never going to be the same. What am I going to do? It’s gone. I’m done. I had a just little panic attack, but then I just had faith. I just kept trying, and it really didn’t take very long. To get it back, it’s not the same as getting it in the first place.
Jenyne: Instead of doing a pull-up just me hanging, I would go into the stretching bar thing that they have and I would put my feet up, and I would do more of a row so I had my feet up on the bars, and just started rowing myself up into a pull-up position, and it just came back. It was, let’s see. That was one month, and then four weeks later, I just kept going back, and it was like every single week, every single time I went, it was progress, progress, progress, and everything just tightened up quickly. They gave you three months pregnancy leave, and at six weeks, I was already back on the pole in the studio, so then by the time the three months or the 12 weeks came, I was ready to go back into the show and run the act just because I slowly inclined and worked out on my own.
Sarah: That’s still a quick turnaround though. You’re like “it’s just slow and steady” and most people are like “it’s straight up!”
Jenyne: I think knowing that I had that three months, and then to go back into the show, I didn’t want to go back to the show and have that be my first time on the pole.
Sarah:: Mm-hmm, you didn’t want to struggle back into it.
Jenyne: No, yeah. I kind of wanted to just be at my own pace and be a little bit more ready. The skin was the worst part, actually. I had never taken a long break from pole, and it was like-
Sarah: We forget how much it hurts.
Jenyne: I forgot. I have so much more compassion for my students now when they’re crying and whimpering about the skin pain. I know now because it was so years, and years, and years. I’ve been pole dancing for 15 years now, so it was good.
Sarah: Yeah. It gets numb from the chin down, just numb, no feeling in the skin at all (laughs) Yeah, you hit a new area and you’re like “oh, that’s what it feels like for them to sit on the pole the first time!”
Jenyne: I had no crocodile areas at all. My skin was baby soft and beautiful.
Sarah: I bet you were moisturizing all the time.
Sarah: Just cut that out and get back on the pole.
Jenyne: Yes. I loved being pregnant. I loved taking the break, but I was anxious to get back, so I did work to get it at that three months, just know that that was my … It’s good to give yourself goals and dates and things to work towards.
Sarah: Yeah, especially if you’re competitive with yourself. You’re going to try and beat yourself and beat those times and beat those dates. That’s good. I have to finish off because I know I’ve kept you for some time already. I’ve got a quick-fire round. I mentioned I gave the group, my Off The Pole Facebook group, a little heads up that I was going to be interviewing you, and I said are there any questions that you’d like to ask Jenyne? And they fired me a huge list of questions! Some of them you’ve already answered within your questions, which has been very helpful, but the quickfire round, so try not to think about it too much. We won’t judge you if you say the wrong thing, but the first question…. Do you have a favourite performance of your own and why? It’s a hard one, I know.
Jenyne: Yeah, it is a hard one.
Sarah: Because they’re all listing all their favourite ones of yours. I don’t want to give you any help. It could be for any reason. It could just be you liked the song or you liked the audience…
Jenyne: I think I have three because they’re all so different, and they’re a top pick for a different reason. The one that is probably what I’m most known for, the Dog Days Are Over routine-
Sarah: That was mentioned, yeah.
Jenyne: That one has a very significant meaning to it, how it was developed. I had been to a pole convention before and known what I was going in for. I think probably a group of pole dancers is the most nerve-wracking group to perform for.
Jenyne: Even though it should really be the opposite because they’re the most supportive and loving, wonderful people, and they always scream and clap, and they know what’s good. It shouldn’t be that way, but you always get this feeling like they have expectations or they’ll know when you make a mistake when maybe a general audience just appreciates anything like a split. I was a little nervous to go for that pole convention knowing that it was going to be a massive group of pole dancers that I was performing for, and I just had gotten my career to a point where I felt like there was expectation from me, so I wanted to prepare something, which most of my performances are freestyle.
I was always at the last minute going and doing bookings, and never took any time to choreograph anything and didn’t come from a dance background, so not really much of a choreographer. I would just always freestyle because I like just feeling free, not being put and having timing or restrictions. But I wanted to prepare something, so I went to the studio, and I had my song, and I had a lot of pressure. I was just putting pressure on myself. It was three days in, and I was not feeling good about what I was coming up with. Finally, that song, the Florence and the Machine song came on during my warmup, and I started dancing around to it, and it was so fun.
I felt see, this is what pole dancing is. It’s fun. It’s like being a kid on a playground and just having fun. That’s what it should be. You shouldn’t feel pressure. I just wanted to emulate that. I thought I’m changing my song. I’m just going to do this song and I’m just going to play, and I’m not going to choreograph anything. That’s me. That’s how I feel the best, and I want to share that passion and just remind people that the kid in you comes out and you can be playful. I think that read. People got that from that performance, and the message that I wanted to say, just that ….
Sarah: It was very pure. It was a very pure performance. I think people would be very surprised to know that it was a freestyle performance because it just seemed to flow so nicely, but that was definitely in the top of the list that everyone started commenting in the thread saying that that was their favourite one. It’s a great, great performance.
Sarah: What is your favourite trick or combo if you have one?
Jenyne: I wouldn’t be able to pick one trick. I would be able to pick a favourite flexible move or a favourite strength move... I really love doing a nice, fast-spinning Over Split Allegra. That will always be fun to me. I think it just looks really nice. It’s a good classic-spin move.
Sarah: What about who inspires you? Is there anyone that inspires you?
Jenyne: Everybody, everything.
Sarah: Constant inspiration?
Jenyne: Yeah, there’s inspiration in everything. I think just in my last class on Saturday, my student, we were working on a combo that you kind of lay back in a Brass Monkey and cross the leg over and get into Pegasus, and she laid back in the Brass Money and her leg slipped off, and she kind of backflipped and landed on her feet. Then, that’s all we wanted to do the rest of the class was backflip off the pole out of Brass Monkey, and it was so fun. I took a video. I was going to post that. I forgot to do that.
Sarah: We’ll all be trying it now!
Jenyne: Yeah. I love finding new, creating things from mistakes. I think my students have been the ones that have inspired me the most. Usually, it’s music that makes me want to move a certain way, and if a song can really get me letting go, if I’m out of my mind and just in my body, then things will come out. I think music is really important for what we do.
Sarah: What about favourite movie?
Jenyne: Oh my gosh. I have a few. Also, I’m really bad with favourites. I just like so much.
Sarah: That’s all right.
Jenyne: It’s hard to compare an action movie to, I don’t even have a favourite genre, type of movie, but there are movies that just impact me a lot, and not really a lot of new ones. My first favourite movie was Pretty Woman. Oh my gosh, that was such a great movie.
Sarah: Still a great movie.
Jenyne: Yes. I loved City of Angels, and Nicholas Cage came to watch our show also, and I was kind of fanned out because I loved that movie, City of Angels. When the Matrix came out, I was like, mind blown. What a crazy concept. I recently saw Lucy, and I was like wow. I couldn’t sleep that night. There are just movies that have an impact, you know?
Sarah: Not as serious this one, well, maybe it is the most serious question… I don’t know. You’ll have to decide. What is your favourite pig-out food?
Jenyne: Pig out food?
Jenyne: I am a baked goods, yes, definitely. Baked goods are a huge weakness for me, not so much candy or things like that, but baked goods, and ice cream, and pizza. I love all those things.
Sarah: Which Disney princess would you be?
Jenyne: I think it’s got to be Moana. It’s so great that the movie was just about her being strong, and a leader, and caring about her people. I loved her with nature. There was no prince charming. It was just like …
Sarah: She didn’t need one.
Jenyne: No, exactly.
Sarah: She’s an independent woman. She’s fine.
Jenyne: She is just beautiful, and I love her island hair.
Sarah: Well, we all want island hair!
Sarah: Would you or do you follow any other workout routines aside from pole dancing? We kind of covered that earlier, but is there anything else? You’ve mentioned Pilates and yoga a few times. Is that something that you try and do regularly?
Jenyne: Yeah, I’m not a Pilates person. I do really love yoga, like love yoga. I just find that’s one of the things, you have to make time for it because I only have so many hours that I can train now that I’m at the show five days a week for up to 10 hours a day, so the yoga and being a mom, that’s slipped from my life, but probably when I need it the most because that Shavasana man, that meditation. The way that it’s mind and body, it is the best thing for anyone I think. It’s so balanced, one side and the other side. That’s something that pole dancers need. I saw the funniest meme the other day that was a huge crab arm and then a really time arm, and it’s like, I really need to do my bad side more often. ‘Pole dancers be like!’
Sarah: Yes. We are all guilty of that sometimes. This was, again, probably one of the most requested questions. Are you planning on touring again, specifically the UK and Europe? Because obviously in the US they have a bit more access to you with your class in Vegas now. You can always say to be continued if you don’t want to answer that question, but yeah. You got a lot of requests. Everyone misses you over in Europe.
Jenyne: I have big plans to travel again, and I’m very excited to share my project with the world. It will hopefully be happening very soon, and can’t really give a lot of information yet.
Sarah: That’s fine. It’s good to end with a teaser. Keeps them coming back for more. Then they’ll keep checking in and seeing if you’ve released it. No, that’s fine. I think that will please many people that you’ve got something in the works.
Jenyne: Thank you so much.
Sarah: Thank you so much for taking the time to answer these questions. I know we ran over a little bit, but it was all just good stuff, and I wanted just to listen to you talk and drop your knowledge bombs. I appreciate you taking the time, and hopefully, I haven’t taken up too much of your free time because you probably have to go to work soon. Thank you very much, Jenyne. Hopefully, we’ll speak to you soon.
Jenyne: Okay, Bye!