"Can we get more fans?"
FKA twigs, the experimental R&B singer from England, asked the question to her publicist Tuesday evening inside Lithuanian Hall. Like her, the 200 or so aspiring dancers from the area had worked up a sweat while learning choreography set to twigs’ music. The publicist left to figure out how to cool the stuffy room down.
This quickly thrown-together event was the artist’s idea. On Monday, twigs — born Tahliah Barnett — announced on Twitter she would hold a free dance workshop tonight in Baltimore for dancers of intermediate and advanced levels. The 28-year-old singer is in town for her concert Wednesday night at Pier Six Pavilion with rapper Travis Scott.
In her announcement, twigs — who declined an interview request through another publicist — added an extra incentive to attend.
“I’ll be inviting dancers to perform at my Pier 6 show” on Wednesday, twigs wrote on Twitter.
Local dancers of all backgrounds answered the callout. (The lone stipulation: Participants had to be 18 or older.) Some were in work boots, others in sneakers and a few were most comfortable picking up the steps in their socks. They filled the large open floor of the hall, and those who couldn’t comfortably fit found space on the elevated stage.
Despite the heat and the crowd, the mood was gregarious. After completing the steps in succession, dancers cheered and high-fived one another.
While twigs — dressed in baggy patchwork pants and a gray sleeveless hooded top — practiced the moves and walked around the room to take the scene in, her choreographers (Ramon Baynes, Kash Powell and Dominic Lawrence) acted as directors. They focused on choreography set to “Figure 8,” a single from twigs’ EP from last year, “M3LL155X.”
The steps were mostly slow, sensual movements — until jarring drums came in on downbeats, which gave way to sharp, sudden contortions aligned with the beat. The choreography had a looseness to it, and the instructors encouraged dancers to add their own spin at certain moments. As the dancers grew more comfortable, their enthusiasm swelled. Before a quick water break, more cheers came.
Also notable was the event’s sense of ease. Twigs is a critically acclaimed artist, and also a celebrity who makes headlines for simply showing up. (Recent example: She and her reported fiance, actor Robert Pattinson, arriving at May’s Met Gala.) But there was no pomp felt inside Lithuanian Hall, where twigs danced next to strangers, hung out with her team and offered support for the dancers.
Before it was over, she was posting pictures and video from the workshop on Twitter with exclamation points. The platform had helped her create the night, and now twigs was using it to celebrate it.
Tickets for Wednesday night’s show at Pier Six Pavilion are still available here. It begins at 7:30.