Unless you have been living under a rock, you are probably familiar with the stir popular entertainer Miley Cyrus has been causing for her recent
forays into the realm of “twerking,” most notably displayed at the 2013 MTV VMAs as she suggestively grinded on “Blurred Lines” star Robin Thicke. Many of us have been aware of twerking for years, whereas perhaps some of the less culturally up-to-speed among us may just be getting introduced to the concept as former child-star Miley has brought it to mainstream culture. In fact, “twerk” was added to Oxford Dictionary Online right after Miley’s performance at the VMAs, going to show how a mainstream icon such as Cyrus’ twerking seems to have somehow brought the dance a higher level of legitimacy in mainstream channels.
Whether you have been aware of twerking for some time but never really researched the phenomenon, or are just now getting hip to it, you might be asking yourself the question, “where did twerking come from?” It is certainly an African-American cultural phenomenon, and some have drawn parallels between twerking and certain traditional African styles of dance, meaning that in one sense it may go back even further than its modern origins. In current times, twerking is generally traced back to the New Orleans bounce music culture of the early 90s. Early references to twerking in song included DJ Jubilee’s 1993 tune “Do The Jubilee All,” and NOLA rapper Cheeky Blakk’s 1995 song “Twerk Something!” More recently, songs like the Ying Yang Twins’ “Whistle While You Twurk”, NOLA artist Master P’s “Twerk That Thang”, “Round of Applause” by Waka Flocka Flame featuring Drake, and “Pop That” by French Montana featuring Drake, Lil’ Wayne, and Rick Ross, have solidified twerking in urban popular culture.
For years now, we have seen the twerking phenomenon beginning to cross ethnic and regional lines, with YouTube videos popping up left and right of “Whootys” (white girls with a booty), and even sometimes white girls who are not blessed with uncommon backside, opting to get their twerk on. Cyrus’ recent twerking excursions are pretty much the final step in the solidification of twerking as a cross-cultural American phenomenon which is not going anywhere anytime soon. However, let’s not forget where we came from, and be sure to respect the origins of twerking as a New Orleans-based African-American-originated dance phenomenon.