There are certain dance moves that distinguish themselves as accomplishments of the human physique: the Charleston, the Twist, the moonwalk, and so on. Other styles remain well-kept secrets of their respective scenes until suddenly they are thrust into the mainstream and appropriated by the masses.
One such dance trend is twerking. The word “twerk” boasts a rich etymology. It is considered a mix of “twist” and “work,” “twitch” and “jerk” or any such combination. The exact origins of twerking are somewhat disputed — it bears resemblance to a West African dance called the mapouka, yet the most modern form of the enthusiastic dance probably originates from the New Orleans bounce music scene.
For those who have only heard of the word and not seen any sort of Internet video displaying someone twerking (what’s it like to live under a rock?), twerking is stylized booty popping. Depending on the situation and the dancer, it can be mesmerizing and even admirable, but in other cases it is alarming and downright appalling.
Though current pop culture might suggest that twerking is a new craze, in reality it has been around since 1993. This was the year that bounce artist DJ Jubilee told his crowd to “Twerk baby, twerk baby, twerk, twerk, twerk” in his booty-bumping anthem, “Do The Jubilee All.” Following DJ Jubilee, other bounce artists began to use the word and concept in their music, launching a style that would eventually dominate the airwaves, in one form or another.
Bounce is an up-tempo style of music that relies heavily on bass and is ideal for fast-paced, booty-popping moves. Mainstream artists such as The Ying Yang Twins, Justin Timberlake and Queen Bey herself took notice of twerking during the early half of the last decade. Each artist used the suggestive word in hits such as “Whistle While You Twurk,” “Sexyback” and “Check On It.” Returning the dance movement to its Southern roots, Fuse will be debuting a reality show in October about Queen Diva Big Freedia, a NoLa bounce rapper whose influence in the twerkosphere has been monumental.
Let’s face the facts: people have probably been shaking their lower halves as a form of dance since dance emerged as a means of expression. A rhythmically swaying, nicely shaped ass is more hypnotizing than a psychiatrist’s pendulum. That is just plain science.
Though the South might have been privy to the glory that is twerking longer than the rest of us, it is a dance craze that has recently spread throughout the rest of the country like wildfire, especially since this year’s MTV Video Music Awards. A certain tongue-baring singer definitely made a name for the dance move; if there was any doubt people had never heard of twerking before the awards show, that doubt has now been eradicated in a flurry of teddy bears.
On the other hand, there is so much more to this dance move than meets the eye. Twerking exists in multiple forms, each difficult and awe-inspiring in their own right. Some dancers twerk while bent over — an observer might refer to these as traditionalists. Others twerk against walls and still others assume a crouching position in which their moneymaker is thrust repeatedly to the tune of a thumping bass.
Twerking is actually an effective workout that will leave you breathless and toned. Wall-twerking not only works your lower back and other obvious parts of your body, but it requires arm strength to properly support your body as it defies gravity and possibly the manners your mama taught you.
Even just the squat and thrust position is akin to a wall sit since you are relying on the stability of your legs to support your body’s movement. If you’re really dedicated to making your dance session into a twerkout, you could probably infuse the dance with arm weights. Go crazy; it’s your twerk and you can do what you want.
Therein lies the beauty of twerking, as is the case with other dance styles and moves that have come before it. A general structure must be understood but once this technique is mastered, or at least marginally accomplished, the individual dancer can incorporate his or her own personality and quirks to make it their own.
Once you get more comfortable with moving your butt in time with whatever beat you’re following, leg movements are a common addition to twerking. When watching videos on YouTube, such as those of the Atlanta-based Twerk Team, this might appear to be easy but it actually requires some finesse.
Les danse des fesses are a subtle art that requires vigorous practice — practice that is best done in the privacy of your own room with a mirror. You might think you can twerk, but merely moving your butt up and down sort of fast will not cut it. The gluteus must almost be treated as a separate entity; consider it a limb, an arm or leg, and treat it as such. Move it independently of everything else and allow it to lead the rest of your body into the rhythm of the song.
Some take twerking seriously and others only twerk for a few laughs. No matter how you go about it, twerking has entered the public subconscious. Recently, twerking even caused a fair amount of academic outrage when it was reported that the term had been entered into the Oxford English Dictionary. Not to worry: these reports were false, but they are evidence that our current culture is enthralled by twerking.
Is our obsession with twerking an extension of the concept that “sex sells” or is it just another trend that is entertaining to sensationalize? The answer remains unclear but, in the meantime, keep twerking.
Nick Cimarusti is a senior majoring in English literature. His column “#trending” runs Wednesdays.