The Original Twerking in the USA: Dancing through the Ages


It’s happening across the nation. Miley Cyrus is doing it. Jay-Z is rapping about it, and even pregnant women are joining in on the trend too! The dance move known as ‘twerking’ has spread like wildfire across the country.

If you’re not up on your pop culture and you’re wondering what ‘twerking’ is or even looks like, you can join the rest of the people still heavily searching “how to twerk.” This gyrating, rear-end shaking dance move has actually been around since the 90s when New Orleans bounce artist DJ Jubilee first commanded his listeners to ‘twerk’, and hip hop artists started featuring the move in music videos.

Fast-forward to today and somehow this dance move has surged into the mainstream. “Twerking” isn’t the first obscure dance move to find popular appeal seemingly out of nowhere, though. Let’s take a look back at the most popular dance moves of the decades and how they took the nation by storm. (Videos provided for those planning to hit the dance floor any day now.)



The Charleston

A black folk dance originating in and named after the harbor city of Charleston, South Carolina. The movements of this dance have strong parallels with certain dances of Trinidad, Ghana and Nigeria. This dance became popular after appearing in the Broadway musical Runnin’ Wild in 1923.

The Black Bottom

A dance that originated in New Orleans as a stamping and swaying African-American dance that imitated a cow stuck in the mud. This dance style spread from the south to other parts of the nation and eventually replaced the Charleston after its appearance in a 1926 Broadway musical.



1930’s- 1940’s

The Jitterbug

This dance, also known as the Lindy, was popularized by the African-American community in Harlem’s Savoy Ballroom. This dance required incredible strength and agility as it included airborne acrobatics. It spread during World War II.


The Big Apple

A square dance, version of the jitterbug that originated from the African-American community in a Columbia, South Carolina club named “The Big Apple” and eventually spread. It was a circle group dance with a leader calling out early swing steps for everyone to follow.



The Stroll

A line dance that was popularized by the hit show “American Bandstand”. It consisted of two gender formed lines that faced one another and couples that met at the beginning of each line and promenaded past everyone.



The Twist

A worldwide dance craze that became extremely popular after Chubby Checker performed it on The Dick Clark Show. The song and dance was first created by Hank Ballard, but didn’t hit number one on the charts until Chubby Checker recorded a new version of the song.


The Madison

A line dance first created in Columbus, Ohio. It became a national fad after it debuted on The Buddy Dean Show in 1960.



The Hustle

A dance move with Latin origins that became popular after the movie, Saturday Night Fever, was released. It is a dance said to originate from the New York dance clubs.There are different variations of the dance, and it can be done in line formation or with a partner.


The Moonwalk

A dance move made internationally popular after Michael Jackson introduced it to the world in 1983 while performing “Billie Jean.” Other performers had been using this dance move, known as “the backslide”, for years. Bill Bailey is known to have first coined the move, but Micheal Jackson brought the move international fame.


The Running Man

A dance move created by Paula Abdul and first performed by Janet Jackson. The move would go on to be performed by many other musical artists including, MC Hammer and Vanilla Ice.



The Funky Charleston

This dance move is also known as the Kid’n Play, made popular from the movie House Party. It is a modern re-make of the 1920’s move.



A line dance that accompanies the popular Spanish song by Los del Rio.



The Harlem Shake

A dance move originating in 1981 from “Al B” in Harlem, New York.  It was originally known as the “albee.” The move became mainstream in 2001 when G. Dep featured the dance in his music video “Let’s Get It”. This move is different from the Harlem Shake meme that is currently popular.


The Dougie

A dance move that originated in Dallas, Texas from moves performed by 1980s rapper Doug E. Fresh. In 2007, Dallas rapper Lil’ Wil first triggered the move with his hit song, “My Dougie.” Cali Swag District later recorded a song in 2009 that allowed the move to go viral.


Gangnam Style

Today’s hit song by musical group, PSY. Termed the 2000’s version of the “Macarena”.

By: Marissa Hogan

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *