Twerking is nothing new in the black community. This style of dance has existed for centuries and its roots can be traced back to West African traditions such as the mapouka dance. In 1993, the term “twerking” came to the forefront when New Orleans bounce artist DJ Jubilee made the record “Do The Jubilee All” where he calls out “Twerk baby, twerk baby, twerk, twerk, twerk.” From then on, black community has continued to creatively build on top of this style of dance internationally.

However, as most know, when black culture takes the creative agency to develop a product of it’s own, black people rarely are able to retain ownership. Although there were groups like Twerk Team in the early 2010s that garnered a following, twerking often and mistakenly been attributed to non-black women like Miley Cyrus and viral star Lexy Panterra who capitalized with her “twerkout” videos and classes.

But what happens when black women seek to claim a space in their own culture that was co-opted by the mainstream?

Enter Kelechi Okafor a personal trainer and instructor of twerk workshops around the United Kingdom.

kelechi twerk class
Credit: Jason Grant

We asked Kelechi for her thoughts on the matter:

I’ve always danced. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t. People told me I was good but I just thought everyone could move in a similar way. When I discovered that people couldn’t,
I set about wanting to help them to connect with that inner space where I believe all my movements come from. I’ve been teaching dance for around three years.
I’ve been a Personal Trainer for longer and it made sense to bring the two together to empower women but most especially WoC.
For me, twerking is an act of resistance. I teach twerk because I refuse to have this art form whitewashed.

Here’s how it all went down.

Kelechi reached out to a local UK pole studio in efforts to expand her twerk workshops.

Their response.

In case you needed to see what the studio was working with before in their advanced twerk class…

 

The studio then tried to confront Okafor and accuse her of inciting a “gang of haters”

The studio owner went even further by messaging Okafor’s co-worker on facebook as well.

Then the owner went off to claim she was being targeted by racist bullies. Spoiler alert: That’s not how racism works, girl.

The Taylor Swift song choice…. *insert eyeroll*

A full re-cap of the first message exchange

Kelechi’s final thoughts:

The way this woman behaved when I contacted her about collaborating just goes to further prove how much the mainstream love to commodity blackness whilst simultaneously despising black people.

Here’s a video of Kelechi’s twerk and dance classes

If you’re in the UK, Sign up for one of these classes! Follow @kelechnekoff on instagram for updates!

How do you feel about the move to discredit black women?

Rinny

Texan by birth, Los Angeleno by situation. Lover of Tame Impala and Shoegaze music. Comedian by trade. Macaroni and Cheese connoisseur by appetite.

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139 Comments on "White-Owned Twerk Dance Studio Blocks Black Instructor and Calls Her Style “Basic”"

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Marsha Mais
Interesting. As a professional, the way she handled her rejection is beyond UNprofessional. She could have brushed it off and walked on as “their loss”. Instead, she decided to Tweet about them and post videos to garner self pity. Both videos are pretty bare bones basic to be honest. I’m not impressed by how either she or the studio handled this. And why the hell does race have to be thrown into every gods damned thing? Please someone explain that to me? Why not discuss the lack of professionalism on both parts and leave it at that?
Ivie9ja

Apparently the studio owner is confused about the definition of Basic or maybe we blacks define the word differently. So because we don’t need knee pads to twerk we’re the basic ones? *sigh* ok

Tonya

The studio owner apparently is intimidated. She could’ve politely declined your services but to play the victim after her comments revealed her true character is confirmation that she is threatened by you. Sad…Keep teaching real TWERK classes K. That is all.

nvrd

Mmmh, reversed racism. Nice.

Staci Elle

lol there’s no such thing … now GTFO with your #whitetears

trackback

[…] Blackgirllonghair.com reached out to Kelechi about the back and forth, she said […]

Degustibus non

Dear K, your dance style is awesome, ignore these white basic bitches, I watched their random video ridiculous. I hope you get backing and open your own thing. You deserve it. <3

Mka

Ok, I’m just going to go ahead and ask, did Kelechi got that body from just twerking? Like, I can twerk my way to a six pack?

Degustibus non

I grew up around Nigerians and they are blessed with amazing genese, it’s genetic, they are tall, lean and muscular. Blessed.

Cassy

No, she is also a personal trainer

fanceeist

I know right! I want her legs!! I watched the so-called twerking video from the studio, and it is complete garbage. If exposing your cooch, popping like a dog humping, and grinding on the floor is dancing, then ive been deceived all of my life. K- keep doing your thing, that was sheer jealousy and hate on her end.

ValentineAvoh
This issue is ridiculous!!! The girl cannot just accept a refusal and uses her race as a defense. Maybe what the dance studio meant is that her dancing was too traditional compare to the fact that they were looking for a more “stripper style” type of twerking (This is what I am guessing while looking at both videos). It’s so annoying when black people try to owns thing that used to belong to them, like ok she might be a good twerk teacher but it’s not because she is black that she cannot be refused and that she has to… Read more »
sanjidude

I laughed out loud watching what Bodybarre’s idea of twerking is. I don’t know what they were doing, but I’m guessing they’re just trying to be funny. They are joking, aren’t they?

JustSayin
KELZ can clearly twerk really well, BUT doesn’t look like she can teach well (based on the girls in th class- doesn’t seem like she is breaking the moves down for them how a teacher should – but fair enough it’s just a snippet video to prove Kelz herself can dance- maybe she has other videos where she is teaching people who can’t already twerk how to do it- which is the whole point of a class). I don’t really like how either women approached this to be honest. The lady shouldn’t have called Kelz style basic- it was blunt… Read more »
Myllee

“Fair enough twerking comes from black culture but Kelz going on like we should assume all black girls can twerk and aint no such thing as a black girl with a basic style (especially in the UK) … Coming from someone who grew up in the Caribbean/America” I am confused by this bit West African women have been doing what you called twerking for centuries and there are many West Africans in the UK

maralondon

My parents are from the Caribbean but unfortunately many of us are not conscious to the fact our make up is because of our direct connection we have with our African ancestry.

Elmiza

You summed up my exact feelings!!

Cassie

Why doesn’t she just open up her own studio? You see all these white people opening up shop doing things they never started, tattoo shops, dance studios for hip hop, etc Black people don’t own anything.

Kristen White

Maybe, the question is why don’t blk ppl own more businesses??

EbonyLolita

Fadda God….. That Barre class is a JOKE and let them teach that mess b/c the white girls can continue to look basic in their approach and understanding of p…. poppin’ aka TWERKING.
But once again this calls into how WE, Black people, conduct business. Put Barre on blast and then go to a BLACK owned dance studio to teach twerk classes. Let them white ppl patronize BLACKNESS on all levels. Come to the BLACK hood, the BLACK studio to learn BLACK dance from a BLACK teacher.

NaturallyMe
we all know by now that white appropriation is about as much of an actual copy as folks trying to imitate the impossibly amazing and so called DIY projects on pinterest lol so I’m not even terribly offended. Most Copycats are laughably unoriginal and inept, and completely incapable of resembling the real product while wearing their desperation on their sleeve for all to see. I’d love to see blacks empower themselves and instead of raging out (which they want us to do, they love seeing us sulk over the robbery) we should show our awesome culture and creativity and hash… Read more »
Lorraine Lomax

OMG!!!!! What the hell are they doing…..LOL…..this is so funny and embarrassing to call it twerking…..okay they can have this dance, because this is not the twerk that the Original Women created….lololololol…funny….they’re hooked on sex – because that’s what it looks like they’re doing….sexing out on the floor….oh lord, teach these white people how to dance, because they are so embarrassing themselves…..lololololol……..I’m crying…..

Guest
I’m sorry but that studio lady is delusional. That is NOT twerking she teaches! They looked like they were having sex with yeast infections. Weird! But go on girls, shake that itch! Calling it a “style” of twerking doesn’t make it so though. I could lunge down the street and say it’s my own style of twerking but deep down I know it isn’t. She knows hers isn’t either. She’s just bitter because she knows she can’t twerk and is hating on people who can. Just another case of loving something black but not the blacks themselves. Oh well…. what’s… Read more »
clever_moniker

Comments below are on point, but now we need people signing up for Kelechi’s classes. She’s the real deal. Keep your money from fakers.

Tom Whitbread

Those girls cant twerk for shit and she knows it cos they flat pancake ass no disrespect meant but just an observation. Kelechi was the only one actually twerkin. They just scared ur too strong n gonna show them up. Its all over the same yoga classes an so on, same with musicians that aint that good they always intimidated by the real. Open your own studio, an show her how to do it

lecia p
Appropriation at its finest! the problem with a lot of the theft or cultural appropriation is that they think that it’s ok to change an original concept..what she was doing was not twerking.it is an absolute joke! its further offensive to not give credit to the originators. Miley Introduced the concept of twerking to the mainstream WHITE people.the majority of black people knew what twerking is even if we didn’t call it know what it wss. We sure as hell have seen it… and it goes far back into our culture into Afrocentric dance so for them to not be… Read more »
lis

LETS MARCH!…..rolls eyes……..’twerking is a form of resistance’….’an art form’…lmao…….her and the studio owner is doing too much…..It might have been an ‘art form’ in the past now it’s been bastardized and cheapened……They can have it!!#. …She needs her of studio instead of begging…..lol at the whole situation.

janet

sorry, this is going to come out totally horrible, but two types of dance I don’t particularly enjoy white women with no rhythm and non-luscious curvy bodies doing – is samba and twerking. They look ridiculous.

Kaybay
Thanks for the laugh, they were awful! I don’t see anything wrong with non-blacks joining in on our culture if they respect the art form and the people, but this is not usually the case! It’s not surprising that our culture is being stolen when our history and inventions have also been stolen and/or white washed! Several black inventions were patented by white people so there are some that we will never know about due to this. Chemicals have even been painted on Ancient Egyptian artefacts to lighten the images. Point being, we need to have ownership over EVERYTHING that… Read more »
Rebecca
From what I could see, I don’t think anyone’s behaviour was beyond reproach by the end. I think kelz twerk is more authentic and from the rootstock the dance, while the other is marketed towards the white girl version that miley did. They are 2 different dances. Kelz putting up a video of her class is great and it looks amazing, but I don’t think she should have put out on social media the continued content of messages and videos. Once you do put things out there and they negatively impact someone, you are responsible for starting the ball rolling… Read more »
Bitchard Pryor
She’s such a sad silly child. People calling her out on HER racism is not somehow racism itself. I’m sorry but the bottom line is that she’s culturally appropriated a dance that doesn’t belong to her and tried to shut out a black woman who does it FAR better than her by being insulting and dismissive. And yet she somehow fail to understand the backlash she’s getting? White Privilege 101. She called Kelechi’s style basic but compared to Kelechi’s hers looks stiff, robotic, and over-rehearsed. There’s nothing natural-looking about her rhythm. She’s whining and crying because SHE made people justifiably… Read more »
Afro Goddess

So, check this out:

OK, guys—it’s time to break out your copies of “Black Looks: Race and Representation” by the cultural critic bell hooks .’Cause cultural misappropriation and thievery attracts the oppositional gaze. Meanwhile, enjoy the short vid: Kelechi is in great company—

Mwatuangi

You cannot talk about Twerking in Nawlins Bounce music and not mention Cheeky Blakk, the Queen of Twerking.

Rose

I have lost faith in the existence of decency and self-awareness among whites as a collective. There are only a very small handful of them with any cultural awareness and sensitivity. I find that those people tend to be among the artistic, creative, and spiritual communities. Anywhere else, forget it. Obviously, to the white dance studio, twerk is not a culturally significant dance, it is a “trend” and thus it is a commodifiable thing that is not significant beyond its ability to be turned into wealth.

Afro Goddess
The dance world, including for ordinary women; is filled with hateful, crazy, jealous, competitive kooks who all seem to feel they have a personal stake in EXCLUDING/intimidating you. Most of the teachers are uncool with numerous weird agendas they feel they can impose on the seeker. Jealousy and sabotage is their business model. The vulgar little gals dry-humping the floor are there to learn some MORE corny-assed bedroom moves—they do not fool me because their intention is too obvious, not to mention the blubbery cellulite. C’mon—this is real low-rent stuff. These fools ALWAYS appropriate Black culture while giving credit to… Read more »
maralondon

Get even deeper into Black dance and how it’s connected to it’s originators. Only teach it to people who RESPECT that dynamic.And if they don’t qualify—send ’em over to miz boody-butt—then they can all whine together about their fake “reverse discrimination.”
Totally agree with you.

cryssi

Body Barre looked like penguins having a seizure and sex at the same d*mn time, lol.

Tom Whitbread

just penguins trying to stand up or something.. cringe up

Barry B

Bahahahahahahhahah!!! This comment had me Rollin!

Philly Jawn

They can have twerking its not a badge of honor

Kaybay

I would say that they have nothing that they didn’t invent! Whether it’s seen as small or insignificant, it all adds up. ‘Our ting’ should remain that way otherwise we’ll have nothing left! Our history, civilisations, inventions were stolen/whitewashed, now it’s happening to our culture.

Camille

I’m glad she shared that because that video was hilarious. That they called HER basic made whatever “moves” they thought they were doing that much more awkward and hilarious. Cultural appropriation is annoying, but I don’t really consider it a threat because they can NEVER really hit the mark. Just because other white people think something is great doesn’t make it so. We all know an unauthorized imitation when we see one.

clever_moniker

20% of it was hair flipping, but they are still the ones with the studio making money off Kelechi’s craft. When twerking it out, they’ll be on to the next “crazy style.” It’s a formulaic script.

FedUp

Her twerking is anything but basic, in fact it might be too much for them! Hell it’s too much for me! 🙂 re THEIR advanced classes, I dunno what that was… I hope Kelechi is able to get new clients and do well for herself.

MyFluffyPuffs

For real though this Body Barre studio is low key racist and intimidated by Kelechis. First they credit Hanna Montana for the “dance” and call Kelechis style basic ?. Twerking been around down south way before 1993 or mainstream picked it up.

La Bella Bre'

Yep, I grew up and still live in the South and Black women have been twerking in juke (jook) joints since slave days and right around Reformation…that’s where the jook joints come from. Even a scene in “The Color Purple” details that life. 🙂

brownstocking

Not even low key. Straight out racist and basic as hell, to boot.

shimarella

wooooooowwww

Nicole

I wonder if this has helped her get more business since. Miley Cyrus did not invent this, but brought it to light. Kelechi, pretty name that does not need a question mark upon reference, was great to point out that woman’s rudeness. There was a lesson to learn and that woman’s anger is only her being defiant while people are trying to educate her on the reality of misappropriation of black culture.

Elle P.

Smh….
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Camille

A metaphor for pop music lol. White America loves their blonde Italian girls doing black music.

Lolalao

It puzzles me why their Ethnic Group always follows us and not other groups.

Camille

Lady Gaga, Madonna, Gwen Stefani. I think they pull it off a little better than ones from puritan cultures.

Lolalao

Yep

Yurilyte

Things like THIS are why cultural appropriation is problematic. Dismiss it ‘appreciation’ all you want until you’re being blocked from claiming something that originated in your culture. What’s next? A white woman is going to open up a braiding salon and only hire white braiders while calling a black braider’s styles basic. Watch…

Camille

I am SURE that is happening somewhere as we speak.

Claudette UK

It is in the UK

Sonya Spencer

Already happened. Remember: Marc Jacobs invented the Bantu knot.

Elle P.

Yep, he called them ‘mini buns!’ Smh…

Lolalao

Bo Derek invented cornrows…smh.

KekeBee

Besides my personal opinions over twerking, that video of the white owned “twerking” studio was hilarious. Just because you’re doing the most does not mean that whatever you are doing is good and that Kelechi’s twerking is “basic”.

Talia
Wow. White people can be, quite literally, the absolute worst. My girl friends and I were laughing about this foolishness when the whole Miley thing was happening, reminiscing on twerking at 7th/8th grade dances back in the late 90s to DJ Jubilee. I wouldn’t mind white people getting in on OUR fun if they would just recognize where it came from and stop acting like they invented shit. But, let’s be real, they’ve been doing that for centuries so why should we even think it’s going to stop… But WTF at them calling her style basic when their twerking video… Read more »
DilemmaBlack

These white girls done lost they damn mind and I blame black men!!!

Degustibus non

Me too, self hating bro’s who think that by sleeping with white women means they are “someone” I dance an African dance Kizomba and we have all these nasty white women who can’t move their hips, can’t keep a beat teaching Kizomba TEACHING. I can’t bring mysef to look at them. At the legit workshops all these self hating brothers grinding and being nasty with white women, instead of just dancing. I’ve stopped going it’s gross.

wrist wrist

why blame us as whole? i have nothing to do with it and im a black man

yuck

hahaha

KnowbodyXXX

You’re right. We did gas up these basic white chicks with our self hate but i’m going to help fix this.

lis

………………..dead…………# the truth..

Ennui

LOL

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