Photos by Oliver Morrison
By Oliver Morrison
Over 350 people broke the world record for most twerkers today in Herald Square.
The event, organized by the rapper Freedia to promote his new TV show, was the latest attempt to capitalize on the dance move’s notoriety, after Miley Cyrus’ performance at the VMA Music Awards brought the move so much attention.
Matt Petion, 30, from Brooklyn came to promote the launch of his new app called “Twerk It”, which gives users points for the amount of twerking they do while their phones are in their pockets. Now Petion said friends can keep twerking together even when they’re apart.
Other participants were more concerned about promoting good form. “Everybody get it right, this is what we’re trying to accomplish,” said Michelle Brown, 26, one of the twerkers. She said the key is to keep most of your body straight.
“Your whole body doesn’t need to shake. You’ve got to push your butt out, any butt you got, and just shake,” said Brown.
The judge from Guinness Book of World Records—dressed in a dinner-jacket and known to the crowd only as Charlie—announced that to qualify the twerkers had to have their backs upright, while their hips moved in an “upward and downward motion” for the full two minutes. The crowd booed when Charlie said that they could not put their hands on the floor or improvise.
Some of the participants prepared ahead of time. Christopher Mazyck looked at Youtube videos before the event. “I didn’t know twerking was an art form,” said Mazyck. “You have to get your mind ready to get your body ready. That gets your hips ready. Then it’s showtime.”
Mazyck said that as a black man he’s happy that so many different types of people are now using the move. Even men.
“I think men can be even better because we have a front body part that can be moved in all directions too. For a female it’s all about the back,” said Mazyck.
Danae Hannah, 29, said that, in addition to it just being fun, the event was an opportunity to debunk the myth about twerking just being for particular kinds of people.
“I’m not opposed to anyone twerking,” said Hannah. “When it’s equated with being a stripper, or sexually promiscuous, or a lower class art form, then that’s where I take issue.”
A minute into the twerking, many of the participants had pained expressions on their faces. Even Hannah, a professional dancer, found it difficult.
“Oh my god we’re still going,” Hannah said she was thinking after just one minute. “You’re very rarely holding the twerk for so long. But that was like straight, non-stop.”
There was some debate about whether the record was really broken. Although Charlie declared it broken to great whoops of applause, not everyone in the audience was so sure.
“There were some people that needed to study up a bit,” said Hannah. “There were a lot of bouncing full bodies. But you really have to focus on the booty.”
Hannah also said that while the official record may have fallen, she had been to parties in college where there were more twerkers. Back then they called it “booty shaking”.
“At the time everyone was just dancing,” said Hannah. “It wasn’t like, he’s twerking, she’s twerking. It wasn’t necessarily separated out in the way it is now.”