I went to Big Freedia’s twerking lesson at Fun Fun Fun Fest, and here’s what I learned

As she’s quick to say, she’s that queen that’ll make ya bounce. And Big Freedia — the queen diva of New Orleans bounce music — wielded her royal authority benevolently at Fun Fun Fun Fest on Sunday.

Freedia booked two jam-packed slots on the FFF schedule: twerking lessons on the Yellow Stage (starting with an obligatory Miley dig) and a performance on the Blue Stage shortly after. If the latter was a marathon, the former was the warmup. The twerking lesson was so well-attended that there was no room on the floor to actually follow Freedia’s demonstrations, so she brought a lucky group of volunteers to the stage for intimate tutorials. But both timeslots were gleeful celebrations of that most quivering of dance implements, that wellspring from which all bounce blessings flow, the human butt.

(Photo by Reagan Hackleman, Instagram: @charles_reagan)

(Photo by Reagan Hackleman, Instagram: @charles_reagan)

I am not shy to unleash vigorous, uncoordinated motion when presented with a beat, so I thought this was a great opportunity to study up along with an Auditorium Shores full of my closest friends. Here’s what I learned from the “Booty-Wop” rapper.

• Terminology. Seen a Big Freedia show and not known what to call the various locomotive expressions? Increase your vocabulary with just a few terms:

  • Exercise: the fluid, side-to-side rocking of the rump, accompanied by a light gyration
  • Shoulder hustle: when one raises one’s shoulder’s, pivots the torso to one side, releases the shoulder, returns the torso to a front-facing position, and then does that in rapid-fire succession that seems impossible without CGI
  • Peter Pan: a flurry of the knees in and out that also serves to create fantastic butt-pulsing effect — think Thighmaster (Big Freedia: “It’s like you’re doing the funky chicken but just with more rhythm”)
  • Kick-out: “Like stomping a cockroach”

• Be brave. Twerking is no time for reticence. Big Freedia was not shy about guiding her pupils with hands to the shoulders and straightforward instructions: “Turn around.” “I don’t wanna see no faces.” And so on.

During her show, Freedia loosened her belt for “Gin In My System” to fully liberate the pelvic area for flight. You should not be afraid to do the same.

• Teamwork makes the dream work. Any time one of the queen’s four dancers were on stage during the twerking lesson, it was hard not to feel like an amateur (which, to be so very clear, all of the FFF attendees were). But on the Blue Stage, they were wiggling trains to Freedia’s conductor, all running on time. For “Dangerous,” the two women in the crew dueled with their cheeks; on “Explode,” their unfettered derrières engaged in a well-choreographed ballet, including one moment of shuffling across the stage from opposite directions and passing each other while in full twerk.

(Photo by Reagan Hackleman, Instagram: @charles_reagan)

(Photo by Reagan Hackleman, Instagram: @charles_reagan)

• Have fun. Nowhere was this more clear than on the volunteer-assisted dance party of “Azz Everywhere.” The Blue Stage became a garden of glutes, a percolation of posteriors, a rolling sea of rumps. Freedia herself, astride the speakers, released a mighty twerk for all to see.

Big Freedia — before closing out the set with a little “Peanut Butter,” a little sample of “2 On,” a little “Hotline Bling” covering, because that’s what we do in 2015 — thanked Fun Fun Fun for having her and her crew back after they first played the fest five years ago.  With people-moving skills like hers, there’s no doubt she’ll be back eventually.

Now: hands on the floor.

Watch a 2012 video of Big Freedia’s booty bounce class below.


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