“Today we’re going to be twerking on cars,” Faith McFluff announces to a group of eight women trying to balance plastic cups on their lower backs, popping them into the air to catch them right side up on their butt.
This is the graduating class of a four-week Twerkshop series, where McFluff has popped, locked, and dropped it while teaching each attendee the basics behind the popular dance move that originated from the New Orleans’ Bounce music scene. Most mainstream admirers of pop culture know about twerking from Miley Cyrus’ 2013 VMA performance where she looks like a demonic teddy bear grinding on Robin Thicke.
One class with McFluff and you’ll learn (if you haven't already) that there is a wild and wonderful world of twerking Youtube videos, showcasing different types of dance moves, locations, and people that have filmed their prowess. She plays the videos on a large flat screen while leading students through a yoga-based deep stretch of their hips, pelvic muscles, and glutes.
McFluff has worked at Cleveland Exotic Dance, located in a brick building on Perkins Avenue, for over four years, initially hired after taking classes at the studio in pole and burlesque.
“I hung out with other instructors from the studio. We swapped booty popping moves in an effort to make myself feel more comfortable with my own caboose. In middle school, a boy once said my butt looked like two pancakes in a fight. It probably did, due to bad posture,” says McFluff.
Brainstorming for new class topics inspired McFluff to create what she imagined first as an “ass class” incorporating stripper moves and yoga. Twerkshop was born three years ago and has grown considerably since then. “I worried no one would come,” she said. “I ended up having a sold out class and having to turn 8 people away at the door.”
I was slightly panicked when I arrived at my first twerk class. I’d missed out on the weeks of instruction leading up to this, and my booty jiggling skills are subpar at best. Advanced students stepped up to the challenge to help me find the twerk-ivalent of enlightenment, directing me on how to place my hands and position my body at an angle that I could successfully twerk in a handstand against my 2008 Toyota hatchback while Fetty Wap blasted from my car speakers to set the mood.
“While I may joke about getting more ‘bounce per ounce’ and ‘more jiggle to your wiggle’, the real science to twerking is all based in yoga,” says McFluff. The hiphop community has also caught onto this fact; Janelle Monae’s “Yoga” has become so popular that McFluff hopes to film a performance video set to the song to promote the class.
“My most basic twerking move is a series of Cat-Cow postures […] It teaches the technique of undulating the spine in coordination with the breath. There are four types: up-and-down, side-to-side, circular, and half-cat-full-cow. If you add any of these motions to common yoga postures, like squat or child's pose, put your hands on your knees, and bam! You’re twerking!” McFluff demonstrates.
People have debated whether or not twerking is an actual form of exercise, taking to Twitter to debate the health benefits of shaking your butt. “Anyone with an able body can twerk,” supports McFluff. “I made this class to become more comfortable with my own butt and to learn how to tone it. Many people suffer from bad posture and do not activate their glutes as they walk or stand, which causes a great lack of booty. Twerking can teach the proper methods to elongate and strengthen the core, while toning and activating the glutes.”
Most of McFluff’s students happen to be women, however men can twerk too.
“I have had diverse demographics, students anywhere from 15-50 years old in my classes and everyone comes for their own reasons. Some just want a fun way to work out, others want to do it for a man or partner. Some aspire to bust a move on a dance floor, or simply to learn how so their kids won't think its cool anymore,” McFluff explains.
For Carey Callahan, the Twerkshop student who turned me onto Faith’s course, “I knew I needed extra help [to twerk] and it wasn’t going to happen intuitively,” she said. “I felt disconnected from that area of my body, but I’ve learned where muscle, bone, and fat are.”
“I believe I have set a curriculum which promotes safety directly in correlation with being a badass. I am there to ensure good form, and students are only attempting tricks for which their bodies are ready. I offer modifications and/or strength building exercises to help my students reach their goals and set higher ones,” McFluff assures me.
It really doesn’t matter how big your booty is, it’s how much you love your booty.
Cleveland Exotic Dance is currently celebrating “Booty Month” with an expanded list of twerk-offerings. The Twerkshop™ crash course is Friday, June 19 from 7-9 pm, with a short video shoot after the class. The Pole-Twerking Special Edition Twerkshop™ will be Wednesday, June 10, at 6 pm. You can call Cleveland Exotic Dance at (440) 941-7653 to reserve a spot in advance. For more information, visit clevelandexoticdance.com.