You might have stumbled upon the 25-year-old Ukrainian twerk-sensation and fitness instructor with 6.7 million followers on Instagram, known as "Nastya Nass." No? Well, maybe you live in a remote, sheltered and pure land and don’t know what twerking is. Also known as "ass clapping," "booty popping" or "backing that thang up," "twerking" is defined as “a dance to popular music in sexually provocative manner involving thrusting hip movements and a low squatting stance …”
If you cut out all that romanticism, it’s basically the rhythmic movement isolated in the hips and glutes — and I’m here to tell you, it’s not easy.
Last weekend Nass stopped in Addison at the Dallas Dance Studio on her Twerk Tour of the U.S. Dallasites had two chances to learn from the Instagram-famous twerk icon, and that still wasn't enough. With both Saturday workshops sold out, another full day of booty shaking was added Sunday, with fitness classes called "twerk basics" and "twerk combo."
Upward of 200 women and a few men filled the dance studio in attire ranging from chic athleisure to booty shorts. Sandwiched between two wall-length mirrors, the event space buzzed with fangirls and fitness enthusiasts ready to learn. As Nass skipped to the front with a white crop top reading, "Vegan state of mind," in floral shorts and a huge smile, the crowd roared like they were championing the headliner at a sold-out concert. The next four hours flew by … and hurt. Yes, we twerked for four hours.
In "twerk basics" we jumped, squatted and danced to everything from reggaetón to slow jams, depending on the movement we were practicing. From twerking standing upright — letting gravity take hold of what our moms gave us — to squatting with hands on knees and even down to the ground, we did all of that. And it’s all about activating the muscle and releasing for the "jiggle" effect.
Between a frenzy of cardio and intense focus on the isolation of muscle groups, the groans of exhaustion began to echo. Which brings me to why twerking isn’t easy. This is where I ask you to literally feel my pain: isolate and activate your left glute muscle. Now your right glute. Now left, now right. Keep doing that until you’re done reading this, OK?
“Show your booty to everyone,” Nass continued to say passionately. The energy in the room was intoxicating. Women who didn’t know one another were cheering their fellow students regardless of their butt-shaking skills. At the end of the first two-hour class, we formed a human circle for the bravest twerkers to show off their newfound skills. The energy was high and the music was blasting. If you wanted to get in, you would have to wait for Nass to gently pull you into the circle while her camera guy rigged his camera.
The second class, "twerk combo," was much more intensive and made us bounce our butts in a choreography set to Nicky Jam and Daddy Yankee’s “Muévelo.” We spent two hours learning to twerk along to two minutes of the song. This more advanced class taught us to lean into listening to the song to couple our movement to the beat. The twerking techniques were more advanced and begged for more skill… and booty. As we approached the four-hour mark, another human circle formed to get footage for Nass’ Instagram. On my way out, I weaved through the line of people waiting to get a photo with the international twerk icon. My Apple Watch read, "1,042 active calories burned."
This all brings us to the burning question — why would you go to a twerk shop?
“For nearly a year now, my friends and I have ogled Nastya’s videos and asking ourselves, 'How can she move like that?' so when we saw that she was doing a workshop in Dallas, we knew we had to go,” said attendee Kelsey. “It was a fun day for us to spend together exercising and learning something new from someone whose talent we admired. The physical skill and precise muscle control, not just of the glutes but the entire body, is a challenge that few other workouts can claim.
"Add on top of that the performance aspect — it is dance, after all — we had an immersive physical and emotive experience.”
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And it was. Nass exuded a quiet confidence that stomped the stigma and taboo, which in turn made us all feel comfortable and able to embrace the movement without judgment.
“Sure, it’s twerking, which is probably laughable and sexual but you better believe it was the most extreme 4-hour workout I’ve ever done,” said another attendee, Natalia.
While I won’t discredit the centuries-old link between dance and sex, and neither should you, twerking as fitness practice is challenging and empowering for women of all kinds. It doesn’t matter if you’re working with a lot or a little, you have glute muscles — so use them.
While Nass’ workshop was only for the weekend, if you’re ready to try out twerking, there are a few places in Dallas that offer classes and workshops: “Shake it Off” Twerk Class in Addison hosts $10 workshops at 7 p.m. Thursdays in a judgment-free zone, and PowerBAR Women’s Fitness in Balch Springs, Arlington and Plano has a class called Power Buns Twerk offered at all locations throughout the week.