FKA Twigs Training

Courtesy of FKA Twigs

Train Like Twigs

Shape up with the sport-astic singer’s ballet, movement and pole dancing instructors.

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. 

POLE DANCING

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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. 

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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. 

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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? 

MOVEMENT

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@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. 

Impres­sive, right? 

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. 

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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.

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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

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. 

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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.


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