Written by: Levan Akin
Starring: Levan Gelbakhiani, Bachi Valishvili, Anano Makharadze, Bachi Valishvili, Giorgi Tsereteli
Dance like all forms of art serves as a means of expression. Every body movement and technique contributes to an overall combination of movements trying to say something either through celebration, pride, and a whole host of mindsets. And Then We Danced takes the audience to the country of Georgia and the life of one young man as he must battle with the expectations dance has on a national and personal level.
In an attempt to support his family, Merab (Levan Gelbakhiani) works as both a waiter and a dancer for the National Georgian Ensemble. With plenty of experience with the art form, he struggles when his coach continually mentions how he does not match the physicality necessary for the routines. This moment in life coincides with the introduction of a new dancer named Irakli (Bachi Valishvili), who initially appears to be a rival but then transforms into so much more.
The art of dance has served as a stronghold for Merab and his family, as the film indicates he has been dancing from a very young age and has even had a pair in Mary (Ana Javakishvili) since the age of ten. His parents both danced at different levels and his brother works in the same ensemble. This has been a passion through his family, but unfortunately, it has not set them up for success, as they live day to day trying to put food on the table. A specific discussion Merab has with his father explicitly states this struggle where he raises the concern of dancing only existing for them to break their bodies for the opportunity to perform in one of the great halls only once. An aspiration of Merab but it becomes a struggle for him because he does not quite fit the exact structure the National Ensemble wants.
As the film progresses more gets divulged about the identity the ensemble wants to put off, which means strong masculinity. This ensemble travels all over the world and should represent Georgia as full of strength and the men need to resemble this sentiment. It makes sense for a country as small as this one that they would want to make their mark. Most Americans certainly do not know the country exists and instead refer to the state within this nation. These instructors and the government want to make an impression and their dance form allows for it. A national identity gets born through it and Merab’s struggle with conforming to it eventually comes through in that he does not fit this standard in more than one way.
The introduction of Irakli completely shifts the narrative because he presents a completely different force. He enters as a replacement and dons an earring to which the instructor requests he take it off. The dance sequences Irakli participates in show him already fitting the profile of what the instructor wants but he also begins to build a bond with Merab that goes beyond them practicing routines together. It begins with looks and slight touches and then all culminates in a series of special nights together for Merab to connect with someone in a way he never thought he could. Them being in a very conservative country like Georgia certainly does not help the prospects of a future together, but it further explains why Merab does not quite fit the narrative the National Georgian Ensemble wants to put out into the world.
As the title indicates, dance becomes an integral part of the movie, and plenty of it gets displayed from the rigid dancing of the ensemble, and when these young adults let loose. And Then We Danced truly shows the power of movement and freedom dancing can provide to anyone. Form does not necessarily matter because it serves as a manner of expression and as Merab begins to let his feelings flow, he begins to show dance in a manner he hasn’t for quite a long time.
The film also has its beautifully tender moments as Merab enters this sensitive time in his life, he must reevaluate the relationships he holds close to him. With the relization of his homosexuality becoming more apparent, certian individuals he used to break bread with now become an enemy looking to do him harm. Mary makes it pretty clear early in the film what happened to someone she knew who was outed as gay and Merab being forced into that lifestyle makes the prospects of his sexuality becoming public knowledge firghtening. Even with those fears, Merab has some beautifully touching moments with different characters in the feature and those scenes occur with unexpected individuals as well.
And Then We Danced captures a beautiful segment in the life of a young man where he decides what he wants to be and whether or not his current configurement will work out long term. It utilizes dance not only as a form of accomplishment but also as a way for these characters to express themselves where their words cannot. All of this comes in service to a wonderful protagonist whose heart and soul get put through the wringer and he comes out for the better by the end.