If you happen to be walking past Herald Square around noon today, and you see hundreds of people doubled over, butts jutting: Stay calm. It’s just Big Freedia and her army of twerkers. As a promotion for her upcoming reality show on Fuse TV, the New Orleans Bounce musician Big Freedia is holding a twerk-a-thon by Madison Square Garden. The Guinness Book of World Records will be there too. This is real.
The self-styled Queen of Bounce will gather at least 250 dancers of all skill levels to set the world record for largest number of twerkers twerking simultaneously. The event is set to take place from noon to 12:20, while Freedia plays music off her new EP The Queen of Bounce, due out October 2 via Queen Diva Music/Beat Exchange. Her new show on Fuse premieres the same day.
Come as you are, says Big Freedia. She’ll lead a twerking lesson a few minutes ahead of the main event.
“We’re trying to reach everybody,” Freedia says. “But a lot of my people who are definitely going to be there are qualified twerkers.”
And what is twerking exactly? There are tutorials of varying quality all over YouTube, but by way of description, it’s when a dancer pops their thighs precisely enough that their butt cheeks bounce up, down, and together of their own momentum. A seasoned twerker can get each cheek to move independently, though the point of today’s event is quantity, not quality.
Other artists have had designs on breaking the world record for gathered twerkers, but have fallen short. Diplo attempted to set the record at the Electric Zoo music festival earlier this month. When two concertgoers died from MDMA overdose, organizers cancelled the final day of the festival, the day of Diplo’s planned “Twerk-Wall.”
So Freedia’s Herald Square Twerk-A-Thon will be the first. According to Guinness World Records, there’s a procedure for handling an event that would be the first ever in its category. First, naturally, they must decide if the event is worthy of its own entry in the World Records books. Then they must apply a basic standard.
“We didn’t have a category for it previously, and typically when we open up a new category in mass participation, we set 250 as the benchmark,” Guinness World Records spokesperson Jamie Panas explains. “And it’s trending right now, so our records management team was open to recognize a new category.”
Trending, of course, because of Miley Cyrus’s trainwreck performance at the VMAs earlier this month, when twerking–what most news media called Cyrus smearing her ass on any surface she could find–became a household term.
There was no denying that Cyrus had wholesale appropriated the style, which has decades-old roots in New Orleans bounce music. Feminists, decency standard advocates, scholars of critical race theory, and everyone in between slapped a bullseye on Cyrus’s back, spawning a country-wide conversation about twerking that’s unbelievably not yet reached its apex.
Freedia’s a little raw about Miley’s VMA performance, given she’s spent the last three years recording and touring virtually nonstop to bring bounce music and twerking to a broader audience.
“That was the kind of aggravating part, how it broke out into the mainstream,” sighs Big Freedia. “For somebody who is not a true twerker, it aggravates you that you have [been] doing so much groundwork and there is someone [who] comes up there and tries and snatch it.”
Should Miley show up at Freedia’s World Record attempt, “I’d say, ‘Hey Miley what’s going on, why don’t you come over here and let me show you how to twerk,” says Freedia, not missing a beat.
And that, more than anything else, is the theme of today’s event: an equal opportunity four-on-the-floor dance party.
“A Big Freedia party has all walks of life. I’ve been teaching all colors. Fat black, skinny white. It’s very exciting that I’m going to be teaching people how to shake and twerk all around the world.”
If you want to get your twerk on, arrive at Herald Square–corner of 6th Avenue and 34th Street–just before noon.