SUNDANCE 2020 FILM FESTIVAL REVIEW! Films can be a powerful force at chipping away the societal and cultural oppression of our time. Arguably, in the United States, the progress we’ve made in LGBTQIA+ rights has not necessarily translated across the world. In Levan Akin’s And Then We Danced, the struggle continues in the country of Georgia. In 2000, Georgia was the first country from the former Soviet states that prohibited discrimination based on sexual orientation, but this victory had very little teeth behind it.
Merab (Levan Gelbakhiani) is a dancer in the National Georgian Ensemble. He comes from a long line of traditional Georgian dancers, but he finds himself just on the other side of greatness in his craft. Dance plays a vital role in Georgian art and culture, and there is an opening for a male dancer in the prestigious national troupe…plus they get paid. This is Merab’s chance to prove himself finally.
“Soon that rivalry turns to love during a dancers’ retreat.”
Up until this point, life has not been easy for Merab. His father could not make it as a dancer and now lives a life of shame as an average blue-collar worker. Also in the ensemble, his brother is a foot out the door as a disgrace and hangs with the wrong people. Merab is the family’s only real chance for making it to the big show.
Training in the ensemble is brutal and physically exhausting, but Merab has support in his long-time partner, Mary (Ana Javakishvili), who has a crush on him. Merab’s “weakness” is his style of dance is viewed as “soft” by his demanding coach, and he demands Merab moves be more potent and forceful in his movements.
Merab’s chances of the national troupe just got harder with the arrival of a new dancer, Irakli (Bachi Valishvili). He’s fresh and energetic, and replaces Merab in the routine they’re practicing. As you would imagine, a rivalry forms between Irakli and himself…mostly in Merab’s mind. Soon that rivalry turns to love during a dancers’ retreat. Unable to sleep, Merab and Irakli find a secluded location and get shall-we-say intimate with one another. As in film, though, secrets are never easy to hide.