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Twerking Their Way to a Sweaty Workout Nirvana


The Vixen Workout (a.k.a. the twerking workout) during a Monday night class at Body & Soul, in Coconut Grove, Fla. CreditBarbara P. Fernandez for The New York Times

As green and red strobes flashed around a darkened Midtown studio, some 75 women, many in animal-print Lycra capri pants and wedge-heeled sneakers, scrambled for lipstick touch-ups, then took their places for their exercise class warm-up.

“Now you’re going to give me a hair flip,” yelled Janet Jones, a classically trained ballerina and former Miami Heat dancer. “And ooh, hair flip. Ooh, hair flip.”

The women obeyed, repeating the words like an incantation while tossing their hair as (there is no other word for it) aerobically as possible. Ms. Jones, 32, segued to a “kitten pose” (rear end out, one leg bent), followed by a hip-swiveling, backside-shaking maneuver she called “ay papi, el papi.” Then she led the group in affirmations: “Damn, I look sexy for a Monday night,” four times, crescendo. Members of the Vixen Army, as Ms. Jones calls disciples of her Vixen workout, were ready to twerk.

To a soundtrack that was about two-thirds Beyoncé, one-third unprintable except for indefinite articles and conjunctions (and to which nearly everyone knew the words), the group performed suggestive dance moves that Ms. Jones has given equally suggestive titles, like “booty call,” “milkshake” and “ridin’ round and gettin’ it.”

Ms. Jones refers to this as “me taking urban hip-hop and Justin Biebering it,” but it’s also practical because the names make the moves easier to teach. There is some giggling when Ms. Jones or her instructors say things like “give me eight ‘ridin’ round and gettin’ its’ into 10 ‘milkshakes’ into five ‘booty calls,’ ” but mostly, there is just sweating. Hair flipping may not spike the heart rate much, but dropping it low certainly does.

The Vixen workout, which began in Miami in October 2012, has attracted a following of thousands of women, mostly under age 35 and many of them mothers of young children, like Ms. Jones. Few go, or have ever gone, to traditional gyms. They are drawn to Vixen’s slightly naughty, pretend-you’re-Beyoncé’s-backup-dancer approach (every woman interviewed brought up Beyoncé) and enjoy the emphasis on makeup, blown-out hair and heels as just part of the costume.