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Twerking (//) is a type of dancing in which an individual, usually a female, dances to music in a sexually provocative manner involving thrusting hip movements and a low squatting stance. Though the term seems to be of uncertain origin with common assumptions suggesting it is a contraction of "footwork" and a portmanteau of the words "twist" and "jerk", there is evidence from ethnographic interviews in New Orleans that the term began as street language in New Orleans with the rise of the local hip-hop music known as Bounce. Since the late 1990s, twerking was associated with Bounce music of the Dirty South and was disseminated via mainstream hip hop videos and popular video-sharing sites since the mid 2000s. In 2013, twerk was added to the Oxford Dictionary Online. The dictionary said the word had been around for 20 years. The word was a runner-up in the Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year 2013.
Comparisons have been made with traditional African dances, for instance the Mapouka from West Africa which was banned from Ivory Coast's television due to its suggestive nature. Twerking can carry both gendered and racialized connotations. 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." The video for the song increased the popularity of twerking. 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 first received national recognition in the United States in the early 2000s, when the song "Whistle While You Twurk" (2000) by Southern hip hop duo Ying Yang Twins, peaked at number 17 on the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs component chart. It was later referenced in their later track "Say I Yi Yi" (2002), in which 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", are heard. In her 2005 single "Check on It", American recording artist Beyoncé sings "Dip it, pop it, twerk it, stop it, check on me tonight." Beyoncé's single reached number one on the US Billboard Hot 100, following its release.
In 2006, the song "Pop, Lock & Drop It" by American rapper Huey, reached number six on the US Billboard Hot 100. Also in 2006, the hit single "Sexy Back", by American pop singer Justin Timberlake, featuring Timbaland, from the former's second studio album Futuresex/Lovesounds, featured Timbaland rapping the lyrics "Let me see what you're twerking with / Go ahead, be gone with it, Look at those hips". In 2011, a group of female dancers who call themselves the Twerk Team and have posted several videos of themselves twerking on YouTube, were mentioned during the song "Round of Applause" by Waka Flocka Flame featuring Drake, in the line "Bounce that ass, shake that ass like the Twerk Team".
Australian rapper Iggy Azalea, has been incorporating twerking into her live shows since 2011. In July 2012, during the Workaholics episode "The Lord's Force", Anders Holm says "Let's just, uh, put on some twerk videos or something, right?". The 2012 single "Bandz A Make Her Dance" by Juicy J, contains the 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 respective 2012 single "Pop That", featuring fellow rappers Drake, Lil Wayne and Rick Ross. The aforementioned songs, along with "Express Yourself" by Nicky Da B and Diplo, "Made twerking the most popular dance move since the Dougie".
In March 2013, American pop singer Miley Cyrus posted a video on Facebook which featured her performing a twerking routine while wearing a unicorn suit, to the 2011 single "Wop" by J. Dash. The popularity of the video, along with parodies and responses made by fans, influenced the song's re-emergence on the Billboard Hot 100. Miley Cyrus's "Wop" video would go to become viral; by April 9, 2013, copies of the video had amassed over 4 million views on YouTube. Also in March 2013, Mollie King, an English singer-songwriter and lead vocalist of British-Irish girl group The Saturdays, was seen twerking when her bandmate Rochelle Humes, uploaded the footage on YouTube. American actress and singer Vanessa Hudgens was also seen twerking in March on American late-night talk show The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. In September 2013, Hudgens was later seen twerking, this time to the song "Bubble Butt", during her performance at Bootsy Bellows in West Hollywood, with her girl group YLA. Hudgens was again seen twerking in a video for Shade 45's radio show Sway in the Morning. American actress and singer Ashley Tisdale can also be seen twerking in a video for Shade 45's radio show Sway in the Morning.
On July 9, 2013, a video was posted on the Twitter-owned video sharing service Vine entitled "Twerk Team", which featured a group of five women provocatively twerking to "Don't Drop That Thun Thun". The clip was shared by users over 100,000 times, and users created their own responses and parodies featuring the song, collected under the hashtags "#dontdropthat" and "#thunthun". The viral popularity of the Vine clips led to an unexpected increase in sales for the song; prior to the posting of the "Twerk Team" clip, only 4,000 copies of the song had been sold; in the following weeks, sales went up to 34,000, then to over 72,000. By late-July, "Don't Drop That Thun Thun" had reached #5 on Billboard's R&B/Hip-Hop Digital Songs chart, and it eventually peaked at #35 on Billboard's Hot 100 chart.
Both "Wop" and "Don't Drop That Thun Thun" have been cited as examples of how viral and user-created videos can bring renewed interest to songs; Spin writer Jordan Sargent considered "Wop" to be rap music's "Harlem Shake moment", but not a meme to the same extent as it. In April 2013, American rapper Danny Brown released the song "Express Yourself", inspired by music producer Diplo's song of the same name. The song, produced by Trampy, features a fast-paced electronic beat and is a composition about the popular dance craze twerking. Brown dedicated the song "to all the ladies that like to turn up and have fun," in which he raps "Toes on the wall and her ass in the air / And she twerk that thing like she ain't have a care".
In the music video for Barbadian singer Rihanna's single "Pour It Up", which was released in May 2013, the singer can be seen twerking. In June 2013, American rapper Busta Rhymes released a Jamaican dancehall-inspired single titled "Twerk It", featuring Nicki Minaj, who has been featured on several other "twerking songs", including "Shakin' It 4 Daddy" by Robin Thicke, "Dance (A$$)" by Big Sean and "Clappers" by Wale. Minaj can be seen twerking in all four of the aforementioned songs' respective music videos. Minaj can also be seen twerking in the music videos for American rapper Nelly's single "Get Like Me" and American singer Ciara's single "I'm Out". In August 2013, the song "Twerk", by Lil Twist, featuring pop singers Miley Cyrus and Justin Bieber, was leaked online.
In August 2013, Juicy J announced via Twitter, that he would give out a $50,000 scholarship for the girl who can twerk the best. The competition is inspired by the track "Scholarship" on his third album Stay Trippy, which contains the lyric "Keep twerking baby, might earn you a scholarship." In early September 2013, a video titled "Worst Twerk Fail EVER - Girl Catches Fire!", began circulating around online; the video went on to become viral with over 9 million views, and received media coverage. The following week, American comedian and television host Jimmy Kimmel revealed the video was a hoax that he and his team had devised, on Jimmy Kimmel Live!. In April 2014, the video was named best viral clip at internet awards.
Also in September, "Twerk" from the MTV VMA show was named the Top Television Word of the Year (Teleword) of the 2012–1013 TV season by the Global Language Monitor. In October 2013, American actress Beth Behrs, of American television sitcom 2 Broke Girls, was seen twerking on The Ellen DeGeneres Show. Behrs was later seen twerking to the 1992 hit "Baby Got Back", in January 2014, during the 40th annual awards ceremony of the People's Choice Awards, which she hosted alongside her co-star Kat Dennings. The fifth episode of the fifth season of the American musical television series Glee, which aired November 13, 2013 and was titled "The End of Twerk", revolved around the twerking phenomenon. The seventh episode of the second season of the American reality television series Bad Girls All-Star Battle, which aired February 25, 2014 and was titled "Twerk It Out", featured the contestants twerking as fast as possible with pedometers on their back.
In 2005, a trio of teenage girls founded The 'Twerk Team', and joined YouTube on June 5, 2009. Now composed of two African American sisters from Atlanta, Georgia. Since the foundation of the team, they have been posting videos of "them gyrating and shaking their butts, to a point that it’s artistic." It was called "YouTube's foremost ass-shaking troupe" by gossip website Gawker. As of December 2012 their channel had a total of more than 74 million views and more than 250,000 subscribers. Their Twitter account has about 115,000 followers. The website Urban Dictionary, claims that they became popular for their dance to the song "Donk" by Soulja Boy.
In August 2013, American recording artist Miley Cyrus generated controversy following a sexually provocative performance during the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards, in which Cyrus twerked during a medley of her track "We Can't Stop" and "Blurred Lines" and "Give It 2 U" by Robin Thicke.
In August 2014 American recording artist Taylor Swift also generated controversy with her twerking on the Shake It Off video. Rapper Earl Sweatshirt said the video was "perpetuating stereotypes."