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Twerking their way to a sweaty nirvana

By Courtney Rubin
New York Times
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/03/14/10/03/GwJeb.Em.138.jpeg|215
    BARBARA P. FERNANDEZ - NEW YORK TIMES
    Sneaker wedges on a participant in the Vixen Workout.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/03/14/10/03/19hPVp.Em.138.jpeg|213
    BARBARA P. FERNANDEZ - NEW YORK TIMES
    Janet Jones teaches her Vixen Workout, or the twerking workout, class at Body & Soul in the Coconut Grove neighborhood of Miami.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/03/14/10/03/5q3K0.Em.138.jpeg|210
    BARBARA P. FERNANDEZ - NEW YORK TIMES
    The Vixen Workout class at Body & Soul in Miami.

NEW YORK As green and red strobes flashed around a darkened 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. 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 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 Jones has given equally suggestive titles, like “booty call,” “milkshake” and “ridin’ round and gettin’ it.”

The Vixen workout, which began in Miami in October 2012, has attracted a following of thousands of women, mostly under 35 and many of them mothers of young children, like Jones. Few go, or have ever gone, to traditional gyms. They are drawn to Vixen’s slightly naughty, pretend-you’re-Beyoncés-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.

“You get to sing and dance and feel sexy,” said Carla Acosta-Medina, 30. “You feel like you’re onstage performing with Beyoncé. When does a mom get to feel like that?”

If it seemed it was only a matter of time before someone turned twerking into a workout, Jones was regularly selling out classes of 125 people before Miley Cyrus’ performance at the Video Music Awards in August. The Vixen workout already had spread throughout South Florida almost entirely thanks to Instagram – sweaty selfies, often in kitten pose, practically are a part of the cool down, and have been since the first class, attended only by Jones’ cousin and her best friend.

For a class photo, Jones surveyed her students and yelled: “I want to see every sex bomb!” before taking her place in front. After a couple of takes, the group splintered into twos and threes, the women throwing their hair back as they snapped photos and posted them on Instagram. This army is always recruiting.

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