An Old Person's Guide To Twerking
The suspension of 33 high schoolers for a homemade ‘twerking’ video has sent the Internet into a butt-thumping tizzy. What’s this bootylicious bouncing all about? SeniorSite.com breaks down the art of the twerk.
Guess What? Miley Cyrus Ain't Even Twerking
The twerking-induced suspension of 33 high school students in San Diego has brought the crazy, sexy, coolness of butt-jiggling to center stage. As the booty-shaking storm heats up, some are still scratching wondering: What is it?
The Wikipedia definition of twerking is, oddly, perfect. “Twerking is a dance move that involves a person shaking their hips and bottom in a bouncy up and down motion causing it to shake, wobble, and jiggle.”
If the combination of shake, wobble, and jiggle in one sentence has sent you into a butt-thumping tizzy, you’re halfway to twerk-town.
Contrary to what the sudden popularity of twerking suggests, it’s not new. The dance was born in 1993 during DJ Jubilee’s reign as king of New Orleans' “bounce” music—a form of hip hop that revolves around call and repeat chanting. DJ Jubilee dropped the work in his song 1993 classic “Do the Jubilee All.” In it he chanted: “twerk baby, twerk baby, twerk, twerk, twerk," and unknowingly gave birth to a new dance phenomenon.
In the song's music video, Jubilee featured boys and girls backing it up—just as he had described. Twerking had officially arrived. As more rappers caught onto the trend, and rapped about it, the dance shifted to the mainstream. From strip clubs to house parties, good dancers and bad, the purpose and point of twerking has remained intact throughout its storied history: shake it like you mean it.
So who's twerking these days? And where are they twerking? The answer is everyone, and anywhere. Even Snow White’s getting involved. So should you.
Part of the reason it's taking off is its sheer simplicity. As proven by the high school students’ now-infamous video, twerking requires nothing more than a little bit of skill and whole lot of ass. It’s endlessly entertaining, bizarrely addicting—and might even be the ticket to losing weight.
If you're going to appropriate a suggestive dance inspired by strippers, at least do it right.
Once upon a time, a pre-teen became a Disney Channel star. As the pre-teen became a real teen, she needed to show the world that she was no longer pure as the driven snow; she was now a sex object, and he was going to make sure you knew it. She performed on MTV's 2013 VMAs, stuck her tongue out way too many times, rubbed her vajajay with a foam finger, danced in a suggestive manner and mostly just annoyed the audience — all in the name of "twerking." She may have gotten her point across, but there's one point a lot of people are missing: Miley Cyrus was not even twerking.
I guess it's the fact that Miley (presumably) believes that she's twerking that has everyone confused. Oh, and that "Twerk It" intro song that kicked off her VMA performance. The fact that she's been spitting rhymes with rapper French Montana and sporting an edgier look (complete with grill) certainly adds fuel to the fire. From her Twitter hashtags (#twerkmileytwerk) to that viral video of her working her tiny frame inside a unicorn suit, Miley has led a nation of people to misunderstand what twerking is. For those of you who care, here's the breakdown.
Like most dances that are popularized in hip hop culture, some historians can trace the roots back to Africa. I'm not one such historian. But I can trace twerking back to the '80s and '90s New Orleans, Miami and Atlanta music and strip club scenes. Specifically, it was Cheeky Blakk's "Twerk Something" and DJ Jubilee, who shouted out "Twerk it" in his song "Get Ready, Get Ready," that perhaps immortalized the word "twerk" on wax before anyone else. But it was Miami's 2 Live Crew that showed what twerking really is in their video for "Pop That P*ssy" — and most of their other videos, too. On a national level, Atlanta's Ying Yang Twins get the most credit for bringing twerking to the mainstream with the chart-topping "Whistle While You Twurk."
The movements of many of the women in those old (and newer) videos showed twerking at a level that Miley Cyrus didn't approach with her VMA performance, in which she bent all the way over and swung her little butt from side to side. As Urban Dictionary puts it, twerking is "the rhythmic gyrating of the lower fleshy extremities in a lascivious manner with the intent to elicit sexual arousal or laughter in ones intended audience." Twerking is a combination of twisting your hips and bouncing your butt at work. Who twists their hips and bounces their butts at work? Strippers, of course.
Visit a strip club in Atlanta, Miami, or New Orleans and you'll see twerking — real twerking. You'll see women who gyrate to match the money that comes their way. You'll witness lap dances that are twerking for a one-person audience. Rappers have been obsessed with strippers and big booty b*tches since the dawn of hip hop. There are too many odes to strippers to name them all but "Shake It Like A Salt Shaker," by the Ying Yang Twins, "Ass & Titties" by DJ Assault and even my personal favorite, T. Pain's "I'm In Love With A Stripper" show the influence that strippers have had on hip hop culture. And now many of us know the influence that strippers have on Miley Cyrus.
Miley Cyrus, that talented young woman, did not twerk at the VMAs. She danced, rubbed a big foam finger at her private parts, bent over, acted provocative, shocked Robin Thicke and bored Rihanna; but twerk she did not.
In fairness, maybe Miley thought didn't think she really twerked at the VMAs. It's my belief that she just wanted to prove to the world that she was no longer Hannah "The Virgin" Montana. Period. She wanted to be raunchy. She wanted to touch herself. She wanted to be controversial. She wanted to cause a stir. She wanted people to look at her and stare. And stare — with dumfounded expressions — they did.
If it was, in fact, Miley's intention to act like a stripper on stage, I have a suggestion to make it more authentic. The next time the world is watching, leave that foam finger at home, get a stripper pole and recruit the Ying Yang Twins to stuff money in your g-string. After all, what does Robin Thicke know about twerking?
The goal of twerking, as the Internet delights in explaining, is to move your hips and butt in the most sexually provocative way you can muster. If things go well, this results in a rippling of muscle that somehow translates into “this is why I’m hot. (I work out).”
Luckily for us, there isn’t just one flavor of twerking. It can be smooth and steady, fast and rough, or just plain spicy. You can twerk in your bathroom, at Walgreens, even at church.
As with any dance, attitude is everything. Whether or not you’ve got enough junk in the trunk to make a real splash doesn’t necessarily matter, as long as you’ve got sass. Or, er, a big ass.
If you’re still confused, you’re not alone. Amanda Bynes thinks twerking is a word she made up, to use for anything. Thirty-five percent of some group thinks it involves tweeting at work. Australia may have successfully figured out how to reduce gun violence—but twerking, one of their most searched-for words on Google in 2012—is a nut they haven’t cracked.
But with the help of gifs and this professional twerker, it's safe to say you've got enough tools to convincingly fake it ‘til you make it. So before you throw in the towel and start YMCA’ing, give it a try. A few butt-thumps later and you’ll have the whole room singing “Sexy Can I.”