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And Then We Danced (A Movie Review)


Starring Levan Gelbakhiani, Bachi Valishvili, Ana Javakishvili, Giorgi Tsereteli, Kakha Gogidze, Tamar Bukhnikashvili, Ana Makharadze, Levan Gabrava, Marika Gogichaishvili, Aleko Begalishvili and Ninutsa Gabisonia.

Screenplay by Levan Akin.

Directed by Levan Akin.

Distributed by Music Box Films. 113 minutes. Not Rated.

Call Me by Your Name meets Whiplash in And Then We Danced, the dramatic, engrossing film about the rigors of Georgian dance and the challenge of finding your place when you don’t fit the mold.

Merab, played by the lithe Levan Gelbakhiani, works hard to transform into a hardened, clinical, precision driven performer of Georgian dance. Paired with Mary since the age of 10, the pair has the skill, but lack in chemistry and passion in their performance, in spite of the assumption that they are an item.

When outsider Irakli (played by the extremely handsome and charismatic Bachi Valishvili) transfers to their company with hopes for a lucrative main ensemble position in the National Company, Merab quickly sees that his position in the company is at risk, both technically and socially. He falls for Irakli, which in homophobic Georgia, can mean physical harm and removal from the company.

Gelbakhaiani’s performance is stellar – from early dance scenes where he appears to be coming short of his instructor’s standards to his final breathtaking dance piece that infuriates the director but finally grabs his instructor’s attention.

In between, Merab’s character is well developed beyond his dancing. He is a devoted son making up for his deadbeat, always-drunk brother, who has all of the brawn to make it in Georgian dance but none of the discipline. He is one of the boys and a dear friend to his dance mates, as long as he continues to fit the model of the hetero-male.

As his attraction to Irakli grows, we are shown his burgeoning curiosity of the LGBTQ+ scene in Georgia that seems mixed with exoticism and danger. Unlike Call Me by Your Name, Merab feels less underage and more confident in what could be his next steps after his much briefer relationship with Irakli, so the audience feels a bit more hopeful by the ending.

Under Levan Akin’s direction, And Then We Danced is also a fascinating glimpse into life in Georgia – the food, the music, the living conditions and social structure of the characters. Being a very nearly Northeast Philly girl, I have been amazed by the Georgian restaurants on Bustleton Avenue with their steamy dumplings, cheese filled bread, and their salads, usually with pomegranates. After watching this film, I am even more excited by what appears to be the authenticity of my local restaurants and look forward to my next dinner out!

Finally, And Then We Danced was able to hold my attention on a night that I had a particularly late start, was particularly sleepy, and yet couldn’t hit stop on the 1 hour 53-minute film because of FOMO. I had to see how Merab pulled through! I hope that you are able to make the time to see this film while it is still in theaters (and then go to one of the Georgian restaurants on Bustleton Avenue to round out your night – most are open until 10pm).

Bonnie Paul

Copyright ©2020 All rights reserved. Posted: February 28, 2020.

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