Dance has served many different purposes in the world of cinema. Through the shallow waters of popular entertainment such as the Step Up series and Save this Dance to stirring indie dramas such as Pablo Larrain’s courageous Ema, rhythmic movements and steadied beats have helped craft a vivid, crucial story.
Regardless of dance’s usage in cinema. Swedish-Georgian drama film And Then We Danced may be the best of them all.
Directed by Levan Akin, And Then We Danced tells the story of Merab (played by real-life dancer Levan Gelbakhiani,) who trains in traditional dance with the National Georgian Ensemble. When Irakli arrives, Merab finds himself a new rival and a new love at the same time. However, in the conservative Georgia, Merab must hide his feelings…but could they make him freer?
And Then We Danced is a scintillating and gorgeous movie that shrouds its dancers with bright sunlight or golden street lamps. As Merab walks the cobbled, concrete streets of his small town in Georgia, it is clear that this is a country steeped in tradition yet yearning for something more. This is embellished in the dancing. Accomplished Merab is criticised for his lightness and softness in a dance made “to stamp out weakness,” according to his instructor. Yet he practises until his bones break. This is juxtaposed against the nightscapes where he dabbles in the fluidity of pop songs such as Abba and Robyn. All of this culminates in a dazzling finale sequence that sees the impact and growth Merab has.
The little nuances of Merab’s becoming heighten this drama, charging this film spiritually and sexually. Tenderness between Merab and Irakli take forefront here. A gentle hungover head on a shoulder, an intense look over the dancefloor, or a heated kiss in the shrouds of trees gift the film its electricity and pulse. Gelbakhiani’s performance is superb here. Merab is fleshed out more so than his burgeoning sexuality but with hopes and dreams beyond Georgia. A particular scene where he trembles with nervousness over getting an audition creates a palpable threads to Merab’s character, more so than his sexuality.
Merab’s journey isn’t easy, and within the calamitous homophobic world he lives in, violence and death are an almost certainty. Though Akin dabbles in familiar territories – a stoic older population, immediate slurs and beatings, furtive meets, long seductive glances – that are custom to gay cinematic stories, he also gifts Merab support and understanding in the most unlikely of places. Whilst Georgia is a ultra-conservative country, under the slabs of stone is a whole colourful wonderland willing to accept Merab and beyond his horizon, there’s a whole world.
And Then We Danced showcases Akin’s confident intimate style when giving Merab’s story-life. For example, a continuous shot during a wedding, an occasion for love, uncovers a heartache in a glorious way – making you feel every thud of pain in real-time.
In the end, Akin’s moving film may hit the familiar beats that comes with LGBT dramas, but it hits those beats with style and purpose.
And Then We Danced is out on Digital, DVD, & Blu-Ray now!