Shake It, Shake It

An Old Person's Guide to Twerking

The suspension of 33 high schoolers for a homemade ‘twerking’ video has sent the Internet into a butt-thumping tizzy. What’s this bootylicious bouncing all about? The Daily Beast breaks down the art of the twerk.

05.03.13 4:38 PM ET

The twerking-induced suspension of 33 high school students in San Diego has brought the crazy, sexy, coolness of butt-jiggling to center stage. As the booty-shaking storm heats up, some are still scratching wondering: What is it?

The Wikipedia definition of twerking is, oddly, perfect. “Twerking is a dance move that involves a person shaking their hips and bottom in a bouncy up and down motion causing it to shake, wobble, and jiggle.”

If the combination of shake, wobble, and jiggle in one sentence has sent you into a butt-thumping tizzy, you’re halfway to twerk-town.

Contrary to what the sudden popularity of twerking suggests, it’s not new.  The dance was born in 1993 during DJ Jubilee’s reign as king of New Orleans' “bounce” music—a form of hip hop that revolves around call and repeat chanting.  DJ Jubilee dropped the work in his song 1993 classic “Do the Jubilee All.” In it he chanted: “twerk baby, twerk baby, twerk, twerk, twerk," and unknowingly gave birth to a new dance phenomenon. 

In the song's music video, Jubilee featured boys and girls backing it up—just as he had described. Twerking had officially arrived. As more rappers caught onto the trend, and rapped about it, the dance shifted to the mainstream. From strip clubs to house parties, good dancers and bad, the purpose and point of twerking has remained intact throughout its storied history: shake it like you mean it.

So who's twerking these days? And where are they twerking? The answer is everyone, and anywhere. Even Snow White’s getting involved. So should you.

Part of the reason it's taking off is its sheer simplicity. As proven by the high school students’ now-infamous video, twerking requires nothing more than a little bit of skill and whole lot of ass. It’s endlessly entertaining, bizarrely addicting—and might even be the ticket to losing weight.

The goal of twerking, as the Internet delights in explaining, is to move your hips and butt in the most sexually provocative way you can muster. If things go well, this results in a rippling of muscle that somehow translates into “this is why I’m hot. (I work out).”

Luckily for us, there isn’t just one flavor of twerking. It can be smooth and steady, fast and rough, or just plain spicy. You can twerk in your bathroom, at Walgreens, even at church.

As with any dance, attitude is everything. Whether or not you’ve got enough junk in the trunk to make a real splash doesn’t necessarily matter, as long as you’ve got sass.  Or, er, a big ass.

If you’re still confused, you’re not alone. Amanda Bynes thinks twerking is a word she made up, to use for anything. Thirty-five percent of some group thinks it involves tweeting at work. Australia may have successfully figured out how to reduce gun violence—but twerking, one of their most searched-for words on Google in 2012—is a nut they haven’t cracked.

But with the help of gifs and this professional twerker, it's safe to say you've got enough tools to convincingly fake it ‘til you make it. So before you throw in the towel and start YMCA’ing, give it a try. A few butt-thumps later and you’ll have the whole room singing “Sexy Can I.”