There are bums gyrating at me from every direction, sheathed in lycra, revealing every twitch of wobbling flesh.
“Work it bitch,” I hear, and try my utmost to do so.
I am at a twerking lesson, along with 12 other hopefuls, to learn to squat, thrust and jiggle my way to a toned posterior.
Twerking has its roots in American strip clubs and hip hop’s New Orleans Bounce scene of the Nineties, which itself traces back to West Africa, most likely to the very similar Mapouka dance in the Ivory Coast.
Since Miley Cyrus shook her booty up against Robin Thicke’s crotch at the MTV Video Music Awards, the dance move has come under the spotlight. Twerking has been rejected and defended by and on behalf of women and African Americans, serving conflicting arguments on sexual objectification and cultural appropriation.
London-based Tone N Twerk’s founding instructor, Brooklyn Sanchez, has been cashing in on the boom in interest since 2013, and has taught the stars, including shopping guru Mary Portas, radio DJ Nick Grimshaw and TV presenter Alexa Chung.
Now I’m here in the basement of Gymbox in Covent Garden at a 45-minute class to find out what it actually feels like. Resident DJ Chillz is booming hip hop and the luridly coloured strip lighting and outsized metal tubing running through the building make it feel like a nightclub on board a space ship.
I am slightly terrified that the other people in the class will take one look at my thin, pallid body and shriek “imposter,” but instructor Brooklyn Sanchez reassures me: “It’s those skinny-ass Russian bitches who are the best.” A big behind is not required; it’s relaxing your muscles that creates the signature twerk wobble. A variety of skin colours and bottom sizes are in attendance, but while men are welcome, everyone is female.
We are told throughout that we won’t be able to master the twerk this week, nor next week, nor even the week after. It’s much harder than it looks, requiring a core of steel to maintain a squatting position. For some reason any rhythm I have is not revealing itself. After 10 minutes my eyeliner has mingled with my sweat, my thighs burn and I have developed an alarming and unfortunately arrhythmic spasm in my bottom.
“The real twerking is not sexual,” says Sanchez. “Miley just ‘jacked it – I’ve been doing this since I was six years old at Carnival with my aunties and my granny.” I nod slowly, mesmerised by her pelvic pumping.
For one tiny moment I am doing it right, twitching cheeks and swivelling hips, and I hear her purr: “Yeah, you got it, girl.” Uh oh, I’m welling up with pride and before I can stop myself I am grinning. I am definitely not playing it cool and sexy; the only thing I could arouse is laughter. Next time I’ll bring a friend – the sight of me is too entertaining not to share.
A quick guide to twerking: turn your feet out and arch your back, drop your bum in, bring it back up, drop it again and so forth. This is the basic twerk, which we learn first.
However, we are not simply “basic bitches” and there are many ways to twerk, so we then learn to drop it down low “pon de floor”. By the end we are doing it up, down, side-to-side, and one-legged in a booty-twitching routine.
On the bus home, stroking what I think could be new definition on my thighs, I have a flashback to catching sight of my bottom in the mirror, thrust outwards, gyrating ominously.
Did I achieve the elusive twerk? In one session I may not have been reborn totally stripper-tastic, but I find myself strangely proud that I did get it right for a few brief, gratifying seconds. And no one can take that away from me.
Contact Tone ‘n’ Twerk on email@example.com and Gymbox on 020 7395 0270
Website: Places are limited so tickets should be booked in advance at http://tonentwerk.com/
Tone ‘n’ Twerk classes are 45 minutes and £8 or £20 for 4 classes, or £10 on the door.
Classes and are held on Mondays to Thursdays and Saturdays at Gymbox, in various locations across London.
If you’re lucky you can catch DJ Chillz playing the music at your class on Saturdays, Wednesdays and Mondays.
Originally published by the Huffington Post.