Finding a twerk-life balance

Twerk-style fitness classes have gathered support in the Twin Cities, working to empower women and foster body positivity.

Women all over the Twin Cities come together for the Minneapolis Twerkshop at A-Mill Artist Loft on Saturday, April 13.

Jasmin Kemp

Women all over the Twin Cities come together for the Minneapolis Twerkshop at A-Mill Artist Loft on Saturday, April 13.

Becca Most

After navigating their way through the winding hallways of the A-Mill Artist Lofts on Saturday, around 60 women stuffed their coats in cubbies and found their spots on the dance studio floor, making small talk before their twerk class began.

Yes, you read that right.

Donning a tank top with the slogan “Twerkout and Chill,” Simone Sobers, leader of Saturday’s twerking class, is not your average fitness instructor.

Creator of “The Boss Chick Dance Workout,” the Miami native has created what can only be described as a twerking empire, organizing classes in places from Seattle to Istanbul.

Centered around body positivity, Sobers’ fitness classes (affectionately called “Twerkshops”) offer training to twerking beginners while also providing a vigorous workout.

“I know I wanted [the class] to be an empowering space for women to come together [and] do an alternative form of cardio that wasn’t the treadmill or anything normal that you’d find in a gym,” Sobers said. “A space where they’d feel safe regardless of what they did for a living, where they were from, what their body type [was and] where all women can have fun in a new sexy, but also challenging, way.”

Blasting music by Cardi B and Beyoncé, Sobers taught the class moves like “the earthquake,” the “dirty dog” and the “booty bounce.” (“Think basketball,” she said.)

Although many of the dancers admitted this was their first time doing a twerk-style fitness class, the room was filled with supportive hoots and whistles as women busted out their new moves across the studio floor.

“It doesn’t feel like a workout,” said participant Cherrelle Green-Rivers. “I want to up my twerk game while I’m getting older and [this is] the best kind of working out — the accidental kind.”

Sarah Justad, a fitness instructor at Open Minds Fusion Studio in Minneapolis, invited Sobers to come teach two classes this weekend; she thinks Minneapolis can benefit from this kind of fitness routine. Justad started teaching her own twerking class, “Make it Clap,” last summer.

“With most fitness classes, you see a bunch of toned, fit women doing step and pilates and wearing yoga pants — you don’t see any cellulite,” Justad said. “With twerk though, especially with the videos that The Boss Chick will post on Instagram, you’ve got women of all different shapes and that’s great.”

Justad believes embracing your flaws can make you feel more confident and sexy.

“You leave with this sense of self-confidence [and] more of an appreciation of the body and how it can move or what it’s capable of,” Sobers said. “We do a lot of twerking but there’s a lot of power behind the in-between steps that we do [too].”

Sobers’ twerk classes are all-female. She believes this atmosphere allows women to embrace their body without feeling intimidated by the male gaze.

“We don’t see men as evil or perverted, but in a class where we are doing movement in an area that is so sensitive to us and moving our bodies in a way that is very vulnerable, [it’s] very personal,” she said.

Although reactions to her twerkout have been overwhelmingly positive, Sobers said she gets comments about the class being sexually provocative and not empowering for women.

“I think that’s tied to a lack of understanding of what we’re doing,” she said. “Something a lot of people don’t know is that twerking is literally pulled right out of African dance and has nothing to do with sex — it’s something [Americans] appropriated from African culture and … gave that sexual connotation.”

Justad is planning to become certified by Sobers so she can bring The Boss Chick Dance Workout to the Twin Cities.

“I’m so excited for the booty brigade,” she said. “I want twerk to be the next yoga.”