Empowering women through twerking
Nicole Vicente advertised her twerking class in January as an empowering practice of the art form, and welcome to all dance levels (and bum sizes). When I walked into the hot dance studio, what I expected was a room full of experienced dancers twerking it up.
What I didn’t expect was fur coats, Prada, a small dog, and unwavering confidence in each other’s abilities to twerk. The class consisted of mainly women to make the atmosphere more comfortable—aside from the presence of Vicente’s self-proclaimed “wonderful gay hairdresser.”
Each person took part in a circle at the beginning of the class and exchanged inspirations.
“I feel like any dance move is empowering and learning something new is naturally empowering,” says Vicente.
Vicente encouraged her students to channel a character that made them feel confident while dancing. Her twerk inspirations were Cardi B and J-Lo—who starred in the 2019 film, Hustlers. The film features booty poppin’ performances from Cardi B and Lizzo, who play strippers and frequently twerk in their live concerts.
Vicente showed off her skills in front of the class a few times, and each time was uplifted by her friends’ cheers. The babes supporting babes vibe filled the room and calmed my nerves.
Each dancer’s experience varied, shaking from years of experience (easily noticed by the woman wearing knee pads) to a few that actively participated for the first time.
While most people are hesitant to try twerking, thinking that they don’t have the proper bum or their body can’t move in that way, Vicente saw the approach to twerking as one that’s similar to athletes in their early stages.
“You have to learn the movements and your body kind of goes along with it. I think any body type [can] do this dance and if not, they’re able to carry the energy of the dance which is important too.”
Twerking originated in Africa and its custom differs from the commonly sexualized moves in movies and music videos. In Africa, it’s a celebration of life and vibrancy.
Vicente has been dancing her whole life and was previously a pole and erotic dance instructor. Before that, she was a ballerina. Her transition from ballet dancer to booty shaking instructor sparked from taking a couple of classes herself and embracing its fun side.
“I hope I’m inspiring others to feel their body—to me that’s inspiring and that’s what brings [out] the artwork from it. Thinking, this is my body and I’m going to make it art because I’m moving, and this is the way I’m [doing it].”
Similar to ballet, twerking “is a discipline you have to keep doing to get the results that you want.” The rigorous practice that stems from ballet laid the foundation for Vicente’s teaching methods.
“It makes me very conscious of everyone’s movements and making sure no one is slacking. I know people will drop and think they don’t have any more to give and I’m like let’s go!” says Vicente.
As for twerking being described as an art form?
The empowerment that comes from learning a new skill fuelled Vicente’s classroom. First-timers Melvina Wegrzynowski and Alyn Gulerian were looking forward to getting out with some girlfriends and having fun on a Sunday but didn’t realize it would be an intense workout in a room as warm as a hot yoga studio.
“I understand it. A women’s body is an art in itself and these movements kind of just really show different aspects of a women’s body and I think it’s beautiful. It’s loving the skin you’re in,” says Gulerian.
“It’s being creative with your own body, being sexy and feeling confident,” adds Wegrzynowski.
While supporting the people in the dance studio, Vicente is donating ten dollars from each ticket sale to the Vancouver Women’s Shelter. She wanted to give other women the chance to have something they might not usually have.
Although her philanthropic approach may seem unconventional, there’s no denying every person was carrying unwavering confidence about their bodies by end of the class. Moves that started on the floor, progressed onto the bar and by the halfway mark, women were enthusiastically dancing standing up—skills that could give J-Lo a run for her money.