Miley Cyrus recently made headlines for her performance on stage at the MTV Music Awards, shaking her rear end in what many described as a scandalous or inappropriate manner, while barely dressed in what was akin to a skimpy bathing suit. Anyone who watched the news in the days following her August 25, 2013, performance at the Video Music Awards could not have missed the commentary, and there was a lot of commentary. Some thought Miley’s performance was extreme and perverted. People talked, and many pondered this new dance. Was this artistic expression, or obscene absurdity, and did Miley create this new dance known as, “twerking?”
This paper discusses the origins of twerking, its transplantation from its origins into the American dance scene, and Miley’s performance of the progressive version of the original dance. It also explores the values and criticisms associated with the dance, and some of today’s social views of the dance. Finally, it discusses the historical aspects of the dance and considers the future of twerking.
Performance by Miley Cyrus
As background, Miley appeared on stage on the night of August 25, scantily clad, and performed a dance that is now commonly referred to as, “twerking.” She appeared to have made this dance famous, as she received massive media coverage and commentary, comedic reprisals, and critical acclaim by some as to her media genius. In fact, this term was added to The Oxford Dictionary Online just this year. “Twerk” is defined as, a “dance to popular music in a sexually provocative manner involving thrusting hip movements and a low squatting dance” (Definition of twerk in English). Miley certainly did dance in a sexually provocative manner, thrusting her hips and squatting as she cozied up to her co-performer, Robin Thicke, on stage in a very sexually suggestive manner. Did Miley Cyrus really this new dance that brought her, and the dance, so much attention? The answer is, surprisingly, no, although she certainly did bring it to the forefront.
Precursor to Twerking
To understand twerking, one must explore and understand its origins. In fact, this type of dance has been around, in various forms, for some time. Numerous articles credit traditional African dance, specifically the Mapouka dance from West Africa, as the likely origin of twerking (Philpott and Powell). Although the precise timeline seems unclear, it appears to have originated at least as early as the 1980s.
According to Doumbia, “[t]he Mapouka originated in a small village in the southeastern region of the Ivory Coast called Shizi and appeared in cities in the 1980s” (44). Mapouka dancing involves, “the surprisingly difficult act of wiggling one’s buttocks without moving one’s hips” (Akindes 100). Mapouka has been described as,
… merely intended to serve exclusively … respective local or regional customers. ...in no way acceptable to, or compatible with, European ballroom standards. … accused of having an obscene character or...