And Then We Danced (4 stars)

And Then We Danced

A professional dancer is the focus of this political and poignant romantic drama

'There is no sex in Georgian dancing,' bellows a stern instructor, determined to uphold the traditions of an art form that represents the very soul of his nation. Merab (Levan Gelbakhiani) and his brother David (Giorgi Tsereteli) have trained for years as part of the National Georgian Ensemble. Merab is willowy, full of energy and commitment but is considered too soft and playful to succeed at the highest level. 'You need to be like a nail,' barks the same instructor.

Rigid notions of masculinity and a country's sense of pride and prejudice lie at the heart of Swedish director Levan Akin's poignant, political And Then We Danced. It is a romantic tale, set in Tbilisi, firmly grounded in both individual struggles and a telling portrait of the attitudes at play in wider society.

Merab trains hard and works nights as a waiter to contribute to his family's finances. His brother tends to stagger home in the wee small hours. It is assumed that Merab is involved with dance partner and best friend Mary (Ana Javakishvili). When newcomer Irakli (Bachi Valishvili) arrives, he is a potential rival for Merab's position in the company and an object of desire. The shy, slow-burn spark between the two men gradually catches fire. Gelbakhiani makes his character glow with happiness as Merab realises that he is not alone in the way he feels. It is short-lived, as the reality of planning any future together in such an aggressively homophobic country starts to hit home.

Throughout the film, Akin makes an astute use of dance as an expression of pure emotion – from the joy of carefree moves made in the seductive sunlight of a waking dawn, to the rousing defiance unleashed in Merab's big audition. It adds an extra dimension to this carefully observed tale of love and liberation in the shadows of oppression.

Selected release from Fri 13 Mar.

And Then We Danced

  • 4 stars
  • 2019
  • Sweden / Georgia / France
  • 1h 45min
  • 15
  • Directed by: Levan Akin
  • Cast: Levan Gelbakhiani, Bachi Valishvili, Ana Javakishvili

Merab (Gelbakhiani) is a dancer, part of the National Georgian Ensemble, who finds himself falling for newcomer Irakli (Valishvili). Carefully observed romantic tale, grounded in individual struggles and showing the aggressively homophobic attitudes of the wider society.