On November 3rd, Scandinavia House New York hosted the all too real, gripping tale of a young man embracing his sexuality and personhood in today’s conservative Georgian society.
Directed by Swedish- raised Georgian director Levan Akin, “And Then We Danced” follows the story of a young dancer in the Georgian National Ensemble, Merab (Levan Gelbakhiani) who falls in love with his fellow dancer and rival, Irakli (Bachi Valishvili). Centuries of tradition within Georgian dance and beyond do not allow straying from one’s masculinity. Through the piercing glance and stoic seriousness of Aleko (Kakha Gogidze) the ensemble’s choreography instructor, Merab is constantly warned that “There is no sexuality in Georgian dance” and with that, no tolerance for personal sovereignty.
Levan Akin uses physical intimacy and movement as a language capable of mesmerizing any audience member, while simultaneously intensifying the suspense of forbidden desire. While sexuality is the guiding force that develops Merab’s character from a timid youth, to a determined individual, it is not an isolated theme. The film portrays the beauty of community, but also how it can go astray, the power of familial love in overcoming changing mentalities, and the social realities of modern day Georgia. In a majestic final scene, Merab, now fully transformed, removes his traditional chokha coat, shedding off the skin of custom, and opens a new door, literally.
To create the film, being the first of its kind, was to overcome boundaries that few in Georgia had crossed before. The Georgian dance choreographer remained anonymous with the risk of losing his job, while the crew received death threats and last minute location cancellations.
Undefeated, “And Then We Danced” was selected as the Swedish Entry for the Oscars, International Features. The film premiered in Georgia on November 8th where the entrance to cinemas erupted in protests. “And Then We Danced” will be released in theatres on February 7th, 2020, and is certain to make Google searches on Georgia blow up. Check out the trailer.