The Origins Of Twerking

woman twerking on a stage
Briona Lamback
June 6, 2024

Lie #1: Twerking Isn’t New

    The word "twerk" was first recorded on 1993's "Do The Jubilee All," a New Orleans bounce song. Although often assumed to be a new phenomenon, twerking has ties to other West African dances. Ivory Coast's Mapouka is known as "the dance of the behind" and uses similar hip and buttock movements. Comparable dances exist across the diaspora, like whinin' in Caribbean countries, Kole mabouya in Haiti, and 'Despelote in Cuba.

Lie #2: Twerking Isn’t Indecent 

   For centuries, colonial ideas have depicted Black women as "naturally" promiscuous and treated them as human zoos just for existing in their bodies. Black bodies aren't inherently indecent. 

Classic movements, like Josephine Baker's famous banana dance, were once called indecent. Consider this: For centuries, our bodies didn't belong to us.  Dancing is freedom of expression through movement.

Lie #3: Twerking Isn’t "Ghetto

   Mainstream culture steals from us and calls us “ghetto.”  Ethnographer Elizabeth Pérez says, ”Twerk violates the politics of respectability that … demand virtue, industry, and decorum in exchange for full citizenship."

The way we move our booties is a reclamation of our Black bodies. Feeling free enough in our bodies to move as we wish is beautiful and nothing to be ashamed of.