Twerking is a dance move that involves a person, usually a woman, shaking her hips in an up-and-down bouncing motion, causing the dancer to shake, ‘wobble’ and ‘jiggle.’ According to the Oxford Dictionary Online to twerk is ‘to dance to popular music in a sexually provocative manner involving thrusting hip movements and a low, squatting stance.’
Twerking carries both gendered and racialized connotations. The word is of uncertain origin. Possibilities include a contraction of ‘footwork,’ or a portmanteau of twist and jerk. Comparisons have been made with traditional African dances, for instance the Mapouka from West Africa which was banned from the television of Ivory Coast due to its suggestive nature.
In the United States, twerking was introduced into hip-hop culture by way of the New Orleans bounce music scene. In 1993, DJ Jubilee recorded the dance tune ‘Do The Jubilee All’ in which he chanted, ‘Twerk baby, twerk baby, twerk, twerk, twerk.’ In 1995 New Orleans-based rapper Cheeky Blakk recorded the song ‘Twerk Something!’ a call-and-response dance song dedicated to twerking. In 1997 DJ Jubilee recorded ‘Get Ready, Ready’ in which he encouraged listeners to ‘Twerk it!’
Twerking received recognition again in 2000 when the Atlanta-based Ying Yang Twins released their debut single ‘Whistle While You Twurk.’ They followed it with ‘Say I Yi Yi’ in 2002 which prominently features the lyrics ‘She got her hands up on her knees and her elbows on her thighs, she like to twerk and that’s for certain I can tell that she fly.’ In 2011, The Twerk Team (a term to describe twerkers) was mentioned in the song ‘Round of Applause’ by Atlanta-based rapper Waka Flocka Flame featuring Drake, including the line, ‘Bounce that ass, shake that ass like the Twerk Team.’ Bandz A Make Her Dance rapper Juicy J has a lyric, ‘Start twerking when she hear her song,’ while French Montana questions the ability of a girl to twerk by asking, ‘What you twerkin’ with’ in his song ‘Pop That’ featuring Drake, Lil Wayne, and Rick Ross. The song, along with ‘Express Yourself’ by Nicky Da B & Diplo, ‘Made twerking the most popular dance move since the Dougie.’