We Need To Get On The Same Page About Twerking

Photographed by Bianca Valle.
Unfortunately, there isn’t much we can do about the cultural appropriation of Black traditions and practices. White people insist on including themselves in just about everything we do, it’s the reality of our interconnectedness, I guess. I’ve accepted that our slang, our hairstyles, our clothing styles, and our dances are all up for grabs.
Such is the case with twerking. It was co-opted long ago, with Miley Cyrus ensuring that it reached a point of no return in 2013. I’m of the personal philosophy that the world needs more twerking, it truly is an art form. However, even though it’s been in the mainstream for several years, there still seems to be a misunderstanding about what, exactly, twerking is. If everyone insists on talking about twerking, I don’t think it’s too much to ask that we all get on the same page about what it is.
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Let's start with a visual primer. I brought GIFs.
Here is a GIF of someone twerking.
Here is a GIF of someone trying to twerk — I think.
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Here is a GIF of someone not twerking at all.
The first thing you need to know is that not every dance that involves the butt is twerking. Twerking is a movement that results from manipulating the fat and muscles in your butt. There are certain dancehall or slow grind moves, for example that can be easily mislabeled as twerking to an untrained eye. Educate yourself to know the difference. I recommend YouTube or a New Orleans bounce club. For both of these sources, prioritize booties of color. They are the authority here.
Contrary to popular belief, twerking is not easy. No, it’s not ballet or classical jazz, but not everyone with an ass can execute this dance. While it may come naturally to some, it can require years of practice and training to get your get your glutes up to par. Not to mention that while it may look uncoordinated, it does involve staying on beat and maintaining a certain form. While you might come across a fitness class that uses twerking as a baseline to activate certain core muscles, you’ll be hard-pressed to find an actual class that teaches twerk. It’s a communal, each-one-teach-one kind of thing.
Some people might not ever get it right. If that’s you, feel free to sit this one out, sis. The problem with cultural appropriation is that the appropriator lacks context. The result is misleading headlines that claim to include twerking when they actually don’t. We have to stop this, for the culture.
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