Professional Dancer Umaara Elliot Discusses Twerking, Miley Cyrus

Umaara Elliot doesn’t look 18. And she agrees. On a Saturday afternoon she walks with staggering confidence—donning oversized Africa-shaped earrings, bright red lips, and large, curly. After all, she may as well be in her 20s anyway. In her southern twang she explained how she deferred her college acceptance and recently moved from Atlanta to New York City to pursue professional dance in the most competitive city in the world.

I feel like I have to ask about twerking.

Oh god, I could go on and on. I have conversations about this all the time. Since I was raised in Atlanta, twerking has been a part of the culture, I mean, I’ve known about twerking since I was four. Because people have been taking twerking to a more sexual manner, like Miley Cyrus. But twerking is really just about expression. Like when I’m happy about something, I’ll do a little twerking, but not just because I’m trying to be sexual or anything, but just because I’m happy.

Has Miley Cyrus done it justice?

No, she doesn’t do it justice. Because growing up, most of the girls who were really good twerkers had… big butts. They had something to work with and Miley doesn’t. I don’t want to make twerking seem like it’s super serious, because it’s not, but she kind of makes fun of it because she doesn’t really understand it.

-Alyson Penn

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