Photo: Courtesy of MTV.
If you're just arriving to the Miley-infested twerking party, you'll realize that most of the attendees are either passed out, or sloppily tripping over one another. Nonetheless, The New York Times decided to mention the unmentionable. The Grey Lady tried her hand at twerking and, well, let's just say she was no Amber Rose.
To many people, twerking wasn't a thing until Miley Cyrus paraded across the VMA stages. The New York Times isn't in the wrong to assume that parents of kids whose knowledge of the world comes primarily from the Internet are questioning what it means to twerk. It's a conversation that has to be had because as it stands right now, you can't pop one rump without someone getting up in arms over cultural appropriation.
A curious parent turning to the Oxford Dictionary for a definition would learn that twerking is a "dance to popular music in a sexually provocative manner involving thrusting hip movements and a low, squatting stance.” If only it were that easy. The art of the twerk involves more than a "low, squatting stance," there's the (and these are very basic requirements) arching of the back, muscle isolation, and rhythm. But the oversimplification doesn't stop there. Twerking is not, as The New York Times says, "a dance move typically associated with lower-income African-American women." Sure, the dance has roots in the hip-hop, rap, and its various sub-genre worlds, but associating it with an economic status seems dubious, to say the least. How can anyone define a "low-income" dance, anyway?
Teddy Wayne's op-ed is meant to be satirical, and sometimes, it's funny. It might even be a meta-criticism of itself, pointing out the sheer awkwardness of older white people trying to get in on the twerk-tastic fun when they're more accustomed to a good old-fashioned polka. But, at times, it comes off as an ill-informed, overly gentrified way of bridging the cultural gap between what "the kids" are doing and what their parents know. Wayne argues that "it’s far better for you to be the one to explain than for them to learn on their own by searching YouTube," when honestly, if Urban Dictionary can't nail down a proper definition, raw video is probably the best way to learn more about the dance without plucking it out of its original context and turning it into a novelty, instead of an item of genuinely expressive form of movement. Simply brushing up on Big Freedia and the New Orleans bounce scene will show the curious parent what it really means to twerk. Further digging would lead them to Lady's "Twerk" video, and even the impact Major Lazer's music has had on the dance movement. Merely defining it as a poor African-American woman dance move hardly gets at the heart of twerking's twenty year history. It's a surface-level inference that, like Miley Cyrus' appropriation, is all imagery without the credibility. So, maybe, kids, sit down with mom and dad and watch some OG twerking videos instead of following this guide — it's a fun activity the whole family can enjoy! (The New York Times)