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Anton Lachky & Eulalia Ayguade - 'Twice Read'

Anna Vnuk - 'Anna Vnuk Stages Cats'

by Lyndsey Winship

June 29, 2005 -- Purcell Room, London

Anton Lachky and Eulalia Ayguade are two superb dancers. As you might expect from two members of the Akram Khan Company, their bodies are finely tuned and capable of both a startling attack and physical finesse that is quite exceptional. It is this that drives the piece “Twice Read,” their first choreographic venture, which explores animal movements and instincts. This sounds like it could be twee – in fact, it's anything but.

The two dancers began in shadows, crouched like tigers, slowly lifting and curling a paw. Breathing in sync, their bodies lose all human traits. It is hypnotic just watching these simplest of movements, but it is explosive when these big cats finally pounce. More than just imitation, Lachky and Ayguade have taken on the reflexes of the hunter – the razor-sharp reactions, the heightened senses – and they are ready to attack.

Circling warily and launching themselves at pinpoint targets, they flew across the stage in flurried arcs as they sprang into action or fled in fear. There was plenty of invention in the rolling and coiling drops to the floor . Ayguade, in particular, completely inhabited her animalistic physique, and every movement was instinctive, her body a mass of nerve-endings. Structurally, “Twice Read” could be seen as lacking direction or progression, but the movement itself -- and the dancers performing it -- created many exhilarating moments.

While Lachky and Ayguade count on their superior dancing to make an impact, they shared their show with a dancer/choreographer whose strength is all in the concept. “Anna Vnak Stages Cats!” opened with petite Vnak and three strapping male dancers grinning their way through a jazzy number that might be just what you'd expect from someone with stints on “Hair” and “Godspell” on her CV. But at the end of the number she stops. "Um, that's as far as we got," she says. "Because then my boyfriend left me, and so the rest of the show is going to be about that." Vnak from the off shows a talent for dark, deadpan comedy, and indeed, the rest of the show is a lament over a bitter break-up.

She's taken it hard. She can't sleep, she frets, she sweats, she can't see much reason to go on – he was the one after all. It's affecting and instantly familiar.

Between the stories and the outpourings of grief, Vnak danced with her three backing boys. But even while she talked about messy distress, her movements were slick and controlled.

This may be pastiche, a send-up of musical theatre characters, who might talk of extreme emotions but never have trouble regaining composure to launch into a slick high-kicking routine. But I’m not completely sure that is what she's saying. In which case, Vnak should possibly leave the dance out of it and do a stand-up tour instead.

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