Anton Lachky & Eulalia Ayguade - Twice Read
Anna Vnuk - Anna Vnuk Stages Cats!
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 begin in shadows, crouched like tigers, slowly lifting and curling a paw. Breathing in sync, their bodies have lost all human traits. It's hypnotic just watching these simplest of movements but it's 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.
They circle warily and launch themselves at pinpoint targets, flying across the stage in flurried arcs. They spring into action or flee in fear. There's plenty of invention, especially when they drop to the floor rolling and coiling their bodies. Ayguade in particular completely inhabits her animalistic physique. Every movement is instinctive to her, 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 still create many exhilarating moments.
While Lachky and Ayguade count on their superior dancing to make an impact, they share their show with a dancer/choreographer whose strength is all in the concept. Anna Vnak Stages Cats! opens 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 their 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 dances with her three backing boys. But while she talks about messy distress, her movements are slick and controlled. This may be pastiche, sending up how our friends in musical theatre 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.