Web Star Jelena Jensen: From Screen to Stage

This article originally ran in the December 2015 issue of AVN magazine. Click here to see the online edition.

After spending the past 11 years performing in front of the camera, I finally decided to pursue feature dancing for the first time this year. With all of us having a limited “shooting life,” the time felt right to get out there and meet/perform for my fan base.

My first performance was booked via the Lee Network at Sapphire NYC, and I had a blast. The house was packed with tons of fans who knew me from my on-camera work. I was even able to meet a gentlemen who has been a subscriber to my website for over a decade. I immediately saw how performing live allowed me to engage with my fans across the country in a way that was never possible while I was primarily only shooting movies and scenes.

For me, I always enjoyed going to the set—the same friendly people with laid-out expectations. But as I got older, I got more comfortable with the idea of performing on my own in clubs. It is just a much different environment than what I was accustomed to. Having lots of people you don’t know watching you and possibly able to touch you wasn’t something I was too keen on early in my career, but these events are the best way to interact with my fan base.

Although I hadn’t previously received any stage/choreography training, my years of experience filming soft-core translated well to my performances. Like soft-core, feature dancing is all about selling the experience. Eye contact and knowing how to “be sexy” can engage an audience—it’s not all about having sex, but rather the connection you have with the audience.

But with all the great things that have come from performing in clubs across the country, there are things that continually remind me that this is a job—a hard job.

For those who have never performed in this capacity, there is a lot of time and effort that goes into the process before we ever step on stage. Between costumes (which are expensive), VIP/lap dance apparel, song sets and choreography choices, there is a lot that goes into the success of a single performance. Making sure you are wearing something you are confortable and confident in goes a long way on stage. And costumes don’t have to be elaborate productions; rather it is more important to own your individual style. Simple is often better.

The travel and performance schedules can be taxing physically and emotionally. Typically, I fly in the day of the performance, go to the hotel, get ready as fast as possible in order to make it to the venue on time, and then it’s show time. For me, living on the West Coast certainly helps with the late-night shows, but I still always put another travel day on the end of each performance for recovery purposes.

With my current obligations to shooting and running my own website (JelenaJensen.com), I try to schedule only one date per month to avoid burnout and throwing my body out of whack. Staying healthy is one of the most important things in the business, period, so making sure I am getting adequate amounts of sleep, taking my vitamins, and eating healthy is imperative. Scheduling events with adequate downtime on both ends is preferred.

When booked by a venue, you are on the clock from the time you arrive until the time you leave. You must be pleasant, engaging, and portray your excitement of performing for your fans regardless of the situation—which can be taxing. Because I often travel to performances alone, I will ask a club employee to help me out as an assistant to take some of the stress away, so I can focus on the performance.

Every once in awhile, you may come across a club that is far from packed. Don’t let this bother you: putting on an energetic show and interacting with the customers who did come out will earn you future bookings. Fan draw and recognition at club locations is a wonderful way to make you a regular at a particular venue.

One of the best things I have done and continue to do is rely on my friends and colleagues in the industry for advice and tips. Because they have more experience than me, I have been able to pick their brains and avoid stressful situations. For anyone interested in becoming a feature dancer, don’t be shy about reaching out to other performers to get their take on things.

Is being a featured dancer an easy job? No, but it is an absolute blast. Performing for my fans across the country has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my career. Having a platform to perform, as well as express my gratitude for the fan support throughout my career, is an amazing experience.