I have to admit, when I got the invite to attend a “twerking” workout session at Vixen Workout Studios here in New York City, I was a little nervous. Though I’d taken pole and exotic dancing classes in college (the latter being my ultimate favorite), with Miley Cyrus taking cultural appropriation to a literal new low, I was skeptical about a class based on another trend inspired by---but never credited to---Black people.
First of all, let me just say that I’m not against sharing aspects of one's culture with others outside of it who may like or want to respectfully partake in it. (This particular workout is led by a Latina woman, who has one of the most amazing, life-changing stories I’ve heard.) However, as I walked to the Midtown studio, I thought about the fact that yet another part of our culture has been monetized in a way that doesn’t really represent or benefit us. If you, the reader will allow a bit of history here, twerking essentially is inspired by traditional African dance, specifically from West Africa. While it did hit a heightened popularity the US in 2000 when hip-hop group Ying Yang Twins debuted their hit song, “Whistle While You Twurk," that was nothing compared to the crazy phenomena that surrounds it now. And let’s not forget that the Queen herself, Beyonce, chanted “dip it, pop it, twerk it, stop it” in her hit song “Check On It” only five years behind the Ying Yang Twins.
Now, I twerk at the club, at home, with my girls and for my boo. That’s nothing new. But twerking in a class full of women I thought I’d have no real cultural connection to (the class was primarily full of White women), scared the crap out of me for some reason.
However, I have to admit that amongst all of the hesitation, I found myself involved in one of the most vivacious, exhilarating workout experiences I’ve ever had. And when the music came on and the lights went low, I realized that the connection us ladies had in that room had nothing to do with race, or age or background. We were all just trying to secretly unleash our inner vixen. We all wanted to workout and enjoy working out. We all just wanted to feel good about ourselves.
The dance moves were sexy, simple and repetitive, making it easy for newcomers to catch on. You were encouraged to do your own thing if you couldn’t keep up, though. There were fluorescent strobe lights hitting the walls and ceiling. The young instructor with a chic short cut and amazing bod yelled out to us, “Vixen Army! Are you ready to get sexy?” Hell yeah, we were.
Mid-workout, I was already drenched. My scarf wouldn’t stay on with all of the hair flipping and sweat dripping, so I just took it off and let my weave go wild. (Warning: you’ll more than likely want to wear your hair out in a class like this. Yes, Black girls; I know our hair…but still, keeping your hair wrapped up takes all of the fun out of it.)
By the end of the class, I had zoned out and forgotten that I was there. The music really puts you in a trance. With an opening Rick Ross song, mid-class “Drunk in Love” dance number and cool down to Ciara’s “Body Party”, you really do forget you’re actually working out. After each class, the ladies take a picture for Instagram and send you off with words of empowerment.
Since my first class, a month ago, I’ve been twerking my way to my fitness goal. Usually twice a week. It’s $15 per class, but I figured that I usually spend about $30 on brunch or drinks during the weekend, so investing in my health instead makes perfect sense. Plus, there’s nothing better than being able to look forward to a workout.
So there it goes. I’m twerking my way back into shape, and I’m proud of it. But what I want to know is, would you?
Melanie Yvette Martin is the Associate Beauty and Style Editor for EBONY.com and a lover of all things beauty for brown women. Follow her on Instagram @MelanieYvette!