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‘The Aftermath’: Twerk ’til you drop!

The Twerk ‘N Burn trio with our Instructor and Choreographer, Lily!

Last night, Dance Austin Studio put on its annual “spooky” showcase, The Aftermath!

Per usual, spending an entire day with my dance family and getting the opportunity to put it all on The North Door stage brought up all sorts of feelings about my life, and memories of the past.

After a super tough year and choosing more difficult pieces to perform in for showcases in the past, I decided to choose one that would be more FUN to perform, and possibly easier to learn.

So, I signed up for Twerk ‘N Burn – and our large group quickly dwindled to just three of us, but I think it ended up being the cream of the twerking crop. It was really neat to get to know the other two ladies – Kim and Michaela – and finally dance on stage with them after many years.

Our performance combined many popular twerking songs and costumes to fit the bill: short, red yoga shorts and cropped white hoodies. It wasn’t quite the smallest costume I’ve worn on stage, but it comes in at a close second.

During our final practice, Kim said it looked like we were trying out to be NBA cheerleaders – and she was right.

It made me recall a dream I’ve had for many years and since buried – to dance for a professional sports team.

In high school, I wanted to grow up and be a famous choreographer. So, when we had to do senior projects, I choreographed a piece for a local dance team, which they performed on stage and I recorded it for my senior presentation.

A panel of teachers “judged” all of our senior presentations and followed it up with questions. I will never forget that one of the questions they asked me was if I really was going to study dance/choreography in school.

I told them no, because in my research, I discovered it was very rare to be able to make a decent living off of it, and it took such a difficult toll on the body. The panel was disappointed in my answer, but I graduated!

I went on to Louisiana State University – a college I chose based on their basketball dance squad, the Tiger Girls – but I never even auditioned. Despite having years of dance experience, I wasn’t as technically trained as those dancers.

But I have always admired them, and many other dance teams from afar. Sure, I love the moves, but ultimately, I love the performance: the outfits, the hair and makeup, the attitude, the swagger.

That is what I hoped to capture from my Twerk ‘N Burn performance.

A few of my coworkers came to watch me perform, and they were shocked – “Oh you CAN dance! You’re finally coming out of your shell!”

But… I’m still the same person I’ve always been. I’m introverted, and although it takes a lot for me to get on stage and dance in front of hundreds of people, there’s an art to putting it all together and that’s what I’ve been working on the hardest over the years – the facial expressions, adding style to the moves, connecting with the audience.

Many of my extroverted friends and coworkers dance in their everyday lives – in the office, at the bar on the weekends, or even when a song comes on the radio, no matter where they are. I dance at home sometimes – you know, with Blanche, ha! – but that’s just not me to want to be the center of attention.

I dance for different reasons.

Last night, I danced to prove something to myself. I proved that at 33 years old, I can still, most-definitely, get on stage in a crop top and not feel judged. I got to show an audience that twerking isn’t about Miley Cyrus or skin color or even sex – it’s about having fun and embracing your body as is.

I also got to put my nasty side-eye to great use – finally!

It was the perfect way to end a really rough month at the office. It reminded me that my energy can be put in much more productive things – and I don’t mean making spreadsheets or replying to emails – I mean LIVING.

I am still very much on my journey to actively live – to having a schedule full of adventures and things i love doing. I refuse to let the days, months, and years pass me by without having handfuls of experiences to remember.

Last night was another one I won’t forget.

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All hail, the Queen of Bounce.

Bow down to the Queen Diva, Big Freedia.

Bow down to the Queen Diva, Big Freedia.

I spent a decent portion of last weekend in bed watching back-to-back episodes of “Big Freedia: Queen of Bounce” on FUSE.

As if I don’t already have enough shows on TV I like to watch, I find great joy in seeing what else is on that I can possibly latch onto. About a month ago, I saw this series was on and starting recording all of the episodes.

I let them pile up and then started from the beginning on Saturday – it was the perfect excuse to turn my head away from the protests and political craziness for a bit.

The thing is, I’d heard of Big Freedia, and have done some dancing to her songs at the studio, but really didn’t know much else. That changed, and I’m hooked. Here’s the trailer for season 1:

There’s at least five seasons, if not six, so there’s a good binge-session waiting for you. Anyway, who the heck is Big Freedia, the Queen Diva, YOU already know!!!! Okay, I’m sorry, I really do just love her positive energy!

Big Freedia is from New Orleans, where Bounce music originated, and has been popular since the 90s. Although many other artists have dabbled in Bounce before moving on, Freedia has been credited with taking it out of NOLA, and throughout the world.

Bounce music is difficult to describe – you’d know it if you heard it – but it’s music to twerk to, clap to, shake ya rump to – that’s the best part about it, it’s a genre of music that’s meant to be positive, meant for everyone to just cut loose without judgment.

Freedia started performing Bounce with drag queen and Bounce legend Katy Red in the late 90s. Hurricane Katrina sent Freedia to Texas, but when the city recovered from the storm, Freedia was performing several times a week, and became very well-known.

The television show catches Freedia just as things are really kicking up in her career. She’s about to embark on her first international tour, and is trying to figure out how to affordably become mainstream and go global.

Of course, the focus is on Freedia, but Katy Red is also in the show a lot, along with Freedia’s managers, dancers, producers, and family.

What I really love about the show is how it really shows this homegrown artist – a person who was born and raised in New Orleans, performing music known mainly in New Orleans; a person who has designed her own outfits and hair and styling for performances… and watch as they attempt to make it big.

The managers have one opinion, Freedia has another. But which decision will be the best for the career? For the tour? For the music?

It’s bittersweet to see because Freedia is just so awesome and humble and has this unique view of the world; but it hasn’t gotten her global (until now, of course).

Freedia started appearing nationally – in the New York Times and on HBO, in 2009, and is very well known for her performances at SXSW and her collaborations with RuPaul. She has set the Guiness World Record for twerking, and serves as the opening voice for Beyonce’s “Formation” Tour.

I’m only two seasons in, but I’m excited I still have plenty to watch, and plenty to learn. I don’t think I can quite convey how awesome the energy is – whether it’s in the music, the dance, or just the way Freedia talks (you’ve got to love a deep New Orleans accent, okey beh-beh) – it is just what I needed in these dark times.

So… if you need me, I’ll be twerking. YOU ALREADY KNOOOOOW.