When she was younger, people would hear the name Jen Berres, and their first question was always, “Oh, is she the dancer?”
Yes, there’s no denying that dance has been a huge part of life for Berres — who now owns and operates Jenstar Yoga and Dance in De Pere — since a very early age. “That was my thing,” Berres says. “It was who I was.”
So, when it came time to head to college, the Wisconsin native decided on UW-Stevens Point to pursue her dance degree. It seemed like the only natural choice.
But, that’s when things got really tough for the aspiring professional dancer. While attending school, Berres’ father died.
“We had the fortunate experience to be able to say goodbye to one another before he passed,” she says. “And, that was when I really made the decision that I was going to go full speed and try to become a professional dancer.”
Full speed it was. Following graduation, Berres packed up her car and drove to Las Vegas, where her journey really began. She landed an agent and began working as a professional dancer in one of the country’s greatest entertainment hot spots.
“It’s funny,” she says. “People hear the words ‘Vegas’ and ‘dancer’ and immediately feel the need to ask, ‘Uh, what kind?’”
Despite the stereotypes that may come along with the city of flashing lights, Berres indeed made her living with dance. Her agent booked her gigs at various shows and events, which brought her to cities like New Orleans, New York and Miami.
She spent the majority of her twenties traveling and dancing. But, after a while, it began to take a toll both physically and emotionally — and Berres soon realized that it might not be a sustainable lifestyle.
“I went through a period in my late twenties where I just didn’t want to do it anymore,” she says. “It’s a very demanding industry where people are constantly asking you to change, and I wanted to be happy with who I was. So, I stepped back because I wanted to feel self-fulfilled.”
It was then that Berres discovered what she considers to be one of her other great loves: yoga.
“Yoga was a super healing process for me around self-confidence and really loving myself. And, in addition, it was great because my body had gone through a lot as a dancer, and yoga was a way for me to be strong but also maintain flexibility and range of motion,” she says.
Fast forward, and Berres moved back to the Green Bay area — partly because she had her fill of her traveling lifestyle and partly because she was ready to settle down with her fiancé, who lived in the area.
Moving back to her home base gave Berres the opportunity to evaluate where she wanted to take her career moving forward.
“Since I was a kid, I always talked about having my own business one day,” she says. “I knew that I had a business mindset, and I knew that I wouldn’t be able to work for anybody but myself.”
Berres didn’t have the funds to jump in with both feet, so instead she started small. She established her limited liability company, rented space and began teaching classes. Slowly but surely, word-of-mouth marketing came into play and her presence in the area grew.
Three years ago, she opened Jenstar Yoga and Dance — named after a stage name friends and castmates had lovingly given her years before. Today, her movement studio employs 16 other people and offers a variety of yoga, exercise and dance classes.
“I’m one of the main teachers,” she says. “I couldn’t be someone who wasn’t present at my own business.” Berres enjoys incorporating many different disciplines into the classes that the studio provides.
Since its opening, Jenstar has continued to foster a positive reputation in the community, including creating the popular “Yoga on the Deck” event, a free weekly summer yoga class on the CityDeck in downtown Green Bay.
“We are very impressed by the work that Jen has done,” says Jeff Mirkes, executive director at Downtown Green Bay, Inc., “I often often talk about how she came up with this concept of Yoga on the Deck, and how she showed up with a yoga mat on a Tuesday night and social media took over. It wasn’t long, and there was 150 or 200 people showing up for Yoga on the Deck. She’s very dynamic, draws a great crowd, is high energy, and does so much for the community.”
As far as what’s next for Berres and Jenstar, she’s looking forward to continuing to get involved in the community and changing the lives of people who attend classes at her studio.
“I love people and I love helping them,” she says. “If people are looking for peace of mind, they can get that in a class at the studio. If they want to become more strong and fit, they can find it at the studio. If they just want to be creative and let their hair down, they can get it at the studio. It’s easy to go to a negative place and think that you’re not good enough. But, when you come into our space, who you are is perfect. That’s my favorite part.”