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January 28, 2022

Temps d’Afrique hosts three-day Twerkshop

By NATHAN BICK | October 24, 2013

Last weekend, the Hopkins African dance group, Temps d’Afrique, hosted Twerkshop, a three day, three session event in the Mattin Center on campus.

Temps d’Afrique works to provide a platform for students to watch and participate in African dance forms.

Twerking is the popular name for a current dance craze. The Oxford English Dictionary defines it as a verb meaning “to dance to popular music in a sexually provocative manner involving thrusting hip movements and a low, squatting stance.”

Initially brought to public awareness by various hip-hop songs and the dancing of members of the Twerk Team on YouTube, twerking became a topic of national discussion after Miley Cyrus “twerked” on Robin Thicke at the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards on Aug. 25.

According to Temps d’Afrique’s Publicity Chair Kimberly Iboy, Temps d’Afrique is the only African dance group on the Homewood Campus. Iboy also noted that, for the most part, only minority students are aware of the group’s activities.

“We are trying to grow and spread knowledge and awareness, gain attention and address twerking’s historical roots,” Iboy said.

In regards to the effectiveness of Twerkshop, Iboy felt the event was a success. Through using word of mouth to gain recognition on campus, Temps d’Afrique hopes to receive more invitations to performances. Iboy allowed that the weekend of choice may not have been optimum, as other organizations and fraternities held events coinciding with twerkshop that may have drawn the potential audience away.

Twerkshop was held from 7:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Friday and Saturday evenings and 4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday afternoon. The cost of admission to the sessions was $5, with the revenue going to fund the dance organization.

In Saturday’s session, Co-Captain and Dance Instructor Mani Keita guided a practice for a routine inspired by the movements of twerking. During the practice, Keita exposed many common misconceptions in regards to the dance form.

“Twerking is not glutes, it’s lower back,” Keita said. “It’s not about having your butt wobble and jiggle. That involves no dance skill — we’re here to teach dance skills.”

As part of the practice, several members taught the entire group certain African dances that served as the ancestors of twerking. Coming mainly from West and Central Africa, dances such as Soukous and Makossa, both of which include heavy hip and pelvic movement, were and still are popular dance forms in Africa for both men and women.

Keita stressed that the technique for these dances rely on the shoulders, back and feet more than — as commonly believed — one’s buttocks.

“Anyone can [twerk], just get over that mental block,” Keita said.

Keita made clear that one of the goals of organizing Twerkshop was to demonstrate twerking in its proper artform and, in particular, contrast it with performances such as those performed by Miley Cyrus.

Some Hopkins students, nevertheless, hold the dance form in a negative light.

“It’s just another fad. Sooner or later something else will replace it — kind of like grinding,” freshman Andrés Hernandez said. “I think it’s demeaning, maybe, to women, to some extent. It makes you think of them in a sexual manner; that’s not the way to approach things.”

When asked about the negative perception of twerking, Temps d’Afrique group members took an opposite opinion.

“Twerking is not a negative thing, it has cultural roots,” Keni Oguntona said.”It’s been sexualized, attained a negative perception. It’s actually a beautiful thing.”

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