Jacksonville dance studio entry draws complaints

JACKSONVILLE | Some have taken to social media to react to a float seen in the Christmas Holiday Parade this weekend in Jacksonville.

The backlash comes after a local dance studio, Studio 360 Pole Fitness, Dance, and Gym, decorated a float with poles for pole dancing.

Dusty Maxwell, a local youth pastor, said he was thrown off guard and shocked when he saw the float.

“As it got closer and I realized what it was and saw a lady performing on a pole in a provocative way, I had to turn the heads of my 5-year-old and 3-year-old to keep them from seeing it,” he said. “A family oriented parade is not somewhere that parents should have to worry about their children being exposed to what they were doing on that float.”

Representatives of Studio 360 said nobody was doing anything inappropriate on their float.

“America’s going to get offended by something,” Brianna Owens, head instructor and studio manager, said Sunday. “What we set out to do, we accomplished (Saturday). We knew we would offend some. It took a lot of guts (for the dancers) to go out there (Saturday).”

Owens said the studio has being receiving posts and comments to their social media, telling them how terrible what they did was and calling the dancers on the float names, including the children on the float.

“I wasn’t trying to offend by any means,” she said. “We are a family-friendly place. We knew the consequences. We knew the backlash. We were prepared for that.”

Pole dancing isn’t the only thing taught at Studio 360. The studio also teaches things like fitness and yoga, although they are predominately a pole-dancing studio.

“It’s just like a regular gym where you’d go in and do aerobics. You have to have a set schedule when you can go in and work out every day,” Owens said. “We created a place people can go to feel non-judgement.”

Studio 360 has classes children can be at and classes they aren’t allowed to come to, Owens said. The studio, which has been open since February, is working on creating mommy and me classes.

Children know better than adults what their bodies can handle, Owens said. “They’re fearless. They take to it better than adults do.”

Maxwell said he hopes the Jacksonville-Onslow Chamber of Commerce takes steps to ensure floats like Studio 360’s don’t enter a family-oriented event again.

The parade entry forms request the organization’s name, contact person, phone and fax numbers, address and email, and asks them to identify their float category: motor vehicle, walking, equestrian, motorcycle oriented, vehicle oriented, commercial vehicle or amateur float. It also asks if the participant wants to be judged, declares holiday theme decorations a must, and asks if there will be music with the entry. Participants must also provide a “20-word narrative” about the entry and a photo or drawing providing specific details about the entry such as “emphasis on holiday theme, colors, type of music, size and number of riders.”

Among the rules listed on the form, it states that “all entries must meet the approval of the Holiday Parade Committee.”

Sabrina Thomas, special events manager at Jacksonville Onslow Chamber of Commerce, could not be reached for comment by deadline.

“We put it out there (Saturday). I couldn’t be more proud,” Owens said. “How they’re handling it now, with horrible comments about them and their children, they’re handling it tremendously.”

Michaela Sumner is a reporter for the Jacksonville Daily News.