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Chasing after the anti-run: Twerking

Participants at Dancing Grounds can choose from a variety of classes.

Participants at Dancing Grounds can choose from a variety of classes.

Continuing my summer series on alternative fitness classes, I closed my eyes and dove … into a twerking class.

Well, it was a hip-hop fusion dance class, appropriately named Werk It Twerk It. I attempted to werk it, but I could in no way twerk it.

Twerking has made media buzz lately, from Australia’s Iggy Azalea and her bum, to her rivalry with America’s Nicki Minaj, to the ever popular Miley Cyrus, undoubtably wearing something tight, white and tiny.

What some probably don’t know is that the origin of twerking resides right here, in New Orleans. The move has been anthropologically traced back to NOLA, where it began as a street language in association with bounce music, a local hip-hop sub-genre.

I was excited, and nervous, to try Dancing Ground’s Werk It Twerk It class. Twerking is still dancing, right? How hard can that be? I mean, I do Zumba all the time. Plus, isn’t twerking what every college student does with a beer in tow at giant weekend frat parties?

At first, I was torn by choices. Dancing Grounds offers a variety of classes — everything from “Salsa SWEAT” to Afro-Brazilian dancing. Eventually I landed on twerking, although that’s only one of their specialty classes. I ruled out other specialties, Latin-based courses — a little too similar to Zumba, because I wanted to try something completely different.

And different is what I got.

When I arrived at Dancing Grounds (which, by the way, is fairly easy to find on St. Claude Avenue) I was greeted by a bustle at the front desk. There was a man with a pair of traveling drums strapped to his body who opened the door for me, and a clamor of voices as I was instructed to sign in — I had already paid my drop-in fee and registered online at the site. You can choose from the $12 drop-in fee, good for one class, a $55 package for 5 classes, or monthly memberships.

Photo courtesy of Dancing Grounds' Facebook:

Participants jump as part of dancing class at Dancing Grounds.

Located in a slightly residential neighborhood along St. Claude, Dancing Grounds is built within a house and is host to two studio rooms. I filed into the second one at the end of the hall, along with 29 other participants. But not before I was chatted up by a friendly guy I had a slight inkling was hitting on me. I did what any rational woman does — I hid behind my phone and when he asked how long I had been twerking, I let out a squeeky, “never” and immediately rushed into the studio.

It was relatively small, considering the 30 of us crunched up in there together without a fan or open windows — the building’s neighbors are actual residents. I won’t lie, it was semi-humid from our sweat by the end. Or perhaps from my salty tears.

We started out with a few warm-up songs. Yet while it seemed that everyone seemed to know what they were doing, especially the incredibly talented instructor, my butt just didn’t want to move that way. Or this way. Or back. At one point we had our hands on the ground and it felt like we were running and twerking simultaneously. I was baffled and quite impressed with everyone else in the class.

By the time stretches followed warm-ups, I was dripping in sweat. But the good kind of sweat, the kind that means you worked hard for it.

Next came abs. Fifty crunches followed by a 50-second plank, repeated twice. I had come into the class expecting dance. Not to be lying in trench position next to the Russian Giant who was invading my space like no other. Halfway through the first plank and my arms were quaking, but Russian Giant was cool as a cucumber, balancing on one foot instead of the requisite two.

After a significant period of heavy breathing by all, we proceeded into the choreo portion of the 75-minute class. Despite being a Zumba instructor, dance classes that require on the spot memorization of choreography still scare the living daylights out of me. We started out relatively simple, adding a few bars of music and choreography at a time. I was actually getting it.

Then came the moment of truth.

We began by dividing into two groups. Half the studio stood on one side while the other half danced to the choreography we had learned thus far. I twerked decently, messed up on a turn and kick, but didn’t fall…so I consider it a success. But then the choreography started to add up as the group size reduced into quarters, then eighths. I panicked. I may or may not have hidden in the back portion of the room with all of our bags and shoes and water. I”m a coward, I know. Even the little girl in the class — no older than eleven — did the eighths group. Brave soul.

And for the finale: twerk circle. I am not kidding. We stood in a circle and clapped as the chosen one — whether you volunteered as tribute or the instructor actually caught your eyes — twerked to the middle of the studio. I truly should have taken a poll to see how many from the class were returning students. It seemed as if every single one of them could twerk. Or at least, dance better than anyone from my high school could have. I did clap along, however, and when we spread out to twerk individually, I tried. I honestly did. But it takes something I don’t have. Swagger, maybe? A large butt?

I left the studio sweaty and in dire need of a shower; the next morning I woke up with sore abs. Okay, fine, they’re something I always skip at the gym but felt obligated to execute in the group setting. I need someone yelling at me, I need beady eyes from thirty other people dying right alongside me.

In all, I truly enjoyed Dancing Grounds. I’ll definitely have to go back for one of their other classes, perhaps the Salsa SWEAT. The staff was friendly and jumped into the class after everyone else had signed in.

But in conclusion: Despite 75-minutes of trying, I cannot twerk. It’s a skill; all of dancing is a learned trade. Next time I go I’ll know what to expect, and I’ll bring a sweat towel.

In addition to hip-hop, Dancing Grounds offers classes in ballet, salsa and yoga.

In addition to hip-hop, Dancing Grounds offers classes in ballet, salsa and yoga.


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