No one moves like FKA Twigs. Just look at the visuals for the musician’s latest track Holy Terrain. Or check out her mesmerising pole dancing in the striking video for Cellophane. Lucky enough to catch one of her live shows? Then you’ve definitely seen her jaw-dropping choreography… When it comes to shaking a leg, the girl’s got style.
While dancing has always been an integral part of her performance – after all, she first started out as a backing dancer when she was just 17-years-old – the teasers for her new album Magdalene have zoomed in on this output.
It’s pretty mind-boggling when you take into consideration the fact that just over a year ago Twigs underwent laparoscopic surgery. Despite having six fibroid tumours removed from her uterus at the end of 2017, she continued to religiously practiced methods of movement – even learning pole dancing for the Cellophane visuals (yeah, she really did that in a year).
So how exactly did she get her body and mind album-ready? We got the inside scoop from Twigs’ trusted team of work-out buds — from her pole dancing instructor, to her movement coach, as well as her ballet teacher. Learn the tricks to help you train like Twigs.
When Twigs posted the video for her new track Cellophane on Instagram, she captioned the post: “When I wrote cellophane over a year ago a visual narrative came to me immediately, I knew I had to learn pole-dance to bring it to life, and so that’s what I did.”
The ensuing visuals proved exactly that. Bending, twisting and contorting her body around a metal pillar in the middle of a glitzy mirrored stage, it was a triumphant physical feat.
Cheryl Teagann @cteagz was the woman who trained Twigs on the pole. A professional yoga and pole instructor, she’s also a pretty badass performer herself. Nevertheless, all this didn’t stop Cheryl initially hating the sport…
What didn’t you like about pole dancing when you first started out?
It was so hard. So hard. I literally couldn’t hold myself up. Going through like lifting weights and competing, fitness and stuff – going from doing that to lifting your own body weight is next level.
What skills do you need to be a good pole dancer?
You’ve got to know your body. If you’re a dancer or something it’ll make it a little bit easier, because they know their bodies. But you just have to keep going with it.
What do you do outside of pole dancing to supplement your fitness?
Movement is really important. Flexibility as well, that’s really important – just maintaining your body. Pole is such a physical thing. You go through that phase of losing the love for it and getting back into it.
How would you start a beginner off?
I would start them on a static pole not spinning, to create a foundation. Lots of strength stuff at the beginning, a lot of conditioning. Then I’d throw in a few tricks to keep them content with what they’re doing and interested. It’s a lot about reassurance at the beginning, because a lot of people come to me and are like, “I can’t do it, I’m not strong enough.” You literally have to stick with it. But even if you’re not great technically it’s such a great therapy. I did find it gives you so much more confidence and just makes you feel good.
Do you have a favourite motivational quote?
I have many! I wake up grateful with what I’ve done and what I’ve got to come in the future. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like that every day – I do wanna give up half the time.
When you want to give up what helps you push forward?
It’s really hard, you just keep going. Being in London as well, you can’t stop. You just have to keep going. You just have to go through the phases to get to the other side. That’s when I step away from pole training and look after my health a little bit, get my mindset back in the right place. And it always helps when I’ve got a goal. If I’ve got nothing there for me then I’ll be like what’s the point?
@AdamRaeCreation is a movement guru. When it comes to concepting fight scenes, choreographing an ethereal dance routine or crafting a high-intensity martial arts performance, he should be at the top of your speed dial.
He’s definitely at the top of Twigs’ call list. Friends from Brit school, the duo have worked through a variety of moves together. From the aerial cartwheel to sword fights, peep the two of them in action above.
Here are Adam’s top tips for holy movement matrimony…
Firstly, why is movement so important?
Movement is life. It’s our first language. It’s our most empowering act of autonomy that we can express. For a lot of people we interact more through the digital space – through our phones so for me, movement is something that can be diagnostic, it can be a cause for treatment – a cure.
The fact that it’s something that seems whimsical has been preserved in almost every culture around the world, so there’s got to be some sort of value for it to be understood and explored.
What advice do you have for people feeling awkward when they’re trying to move?
Sometimes the people who appear to be the best movers have the biggest complexes around it because through the process of being taught they lose the sense that it really belongs to them.
If I was going to give any advice to anyone who had hang ups around moving, dancing or expressing oneself, I would say it’s important to find an environment where you feel psychologically comfortable and where it’s engaging enough for your particular work and personality. One in which you’re not thinking about what it looks like, but you’re fully engaged.
Can you describe what a training regime looks like?
It often looks like an arduous journey of repeating movements and gradually increasing the intensity and volume until a language of movement is created. And then motifs become performances much like how you learn scales on the piano. It’s about finding the process that’s empowering to the individual.
Do you have a favourite motivational quote?
We are all just walking each other home.
What do you listen to while moving?
The last playlist I put on was a collective of Icelandic music artists.
How do you get into the right mindset to train?
For me it’s about selecting environments that make me feel good and help me form positive social connections with people. Movement is something that is inherently social, for me. It’s not like that for everyone – some people really benefit from having their own practice away from people. I prefer to be in social contexts that bounce off people and employ healthy competition. People that we train with or bounce off each other.
What’s your personal mantra?
My personal mantra is about balancing discipline and hedonism.
What about your diet?
I eat all kinds of food, I’m not really restrictive with my eating. For people that are interested in optimising their health, a good place to start is looking at food options that are as close to their natural state as possible. That is, how they grow, how they appear in nature. I think that’s more important. It tends to be quite an individual experience, so what works for one might not work for another.
One thing that really works when I’m training is having one meal a day. But that meal has an awful lot of freedom so I can express myself and sometimes have things that are a bit more naughty.
Ballet was FKA Twigs’ go-to post-operation. Collapsing your body into itself may not sound like everyone’s idea of recovery, but the formidable Stuart Winter (@StuartJWinter) had the singer in two in no time. Just as well, a week later Spike Jonze phoned her to ask her to dance in his 2018 Apple HomePod commercial.
Flexibility, strength and resilience — ballet isn’t just a great standalone sport, it also complements Twigs’ holistic approach to fitness. Interested? Let Stuart pointe (sorry) you into the right direction…
What’s your training regime?
I try and train the dancer’s mind as well as the body because in that way you’re thinking about movement differently. Start by thinking about what we’re moving, what we’re training and then putting that into sequences and movement vocabulary.
How do you get into the right mindset for movement?
It’s about focus. I talk a lot about putting your brain into your body, so you’re not just thinking with your head, you’re thinking with your whole body. If you isolate body parts and you isolate movements and then start to think about where the movements start and where they finish, I find that that puts you into a good mindset to execute steps.
What do you like to listen to?
Music wise it depends on what we are working as an outcome. But I listen to a lot of classical music. I love James Horner, I love Michael Nyman and Max Richter. I love stuff that’s really dynamic and goes through musical phases. I adore patterns.
What tips do you have for those who have hit a wall?
When I find that I’m not hitting targets or evolving, I try and inspire myself. Whether it’s with music, art, fashion, theatre or dance. You inspire yourself and find a different channel into the movement.
What does your diet look like?
I just try to stay balanced. I drink lots of water. I try to stay hydrated. Good breakfast, good lunch, good dinner.
Do you have a favourite motivational quote?
Making the invisible feel visible. Taking the idea and turning it into something that you can see. I have an idea which is invisible and it’s my job to make it visible.
What’s your best recovery tip?
Yoga, meditation and hanging out with friends and talking about anything other than exercise.