There’s a curious paradox at the heart of And Then We Danced. The traditional dancing practised at the Georgian National Ensemble in Tbilisi is built on discipline and hyper-masculinity. “There is no room for weakness in Georgian dance,” an instructor tells us early on. But truly great dancing demands passion as well – dancing, as someone once said, is just having sex while standing up. It’s this struggle that makes Levan Akin’s film so compelling, both as a coming-of-age story and an examination of ultra-conservative Georgian society.

First-time actors Levan Gelbakhiani and Bachi Valishvili are stunning as Merab and Irakli, the former a nervous ball of energy, the latter more self-confident and mysteriously aloof. The tension between them is palpable from the off, and cinematographer Lisabi Fridell bathes them in the syrupy glow of a summer romance. Not all of the tension is thrilling, however; Akin never allows us to forget how dangerous life in Tbilisi can be for LGBTQ people – a fact borne out by the fiercely negative reaction to the film from some groups in Georgia.

This perspective helps keep the film fresh when it stumbles in the second act. Many of the beats – the budding romance, the inevitable fights – are all very familiar, and a subplot involving Merab’s older brother could have used more time to breathe. Still, when the film focuses on Merab’s struggle to reconcile his two passions, it’s a riveting watch. Gelbakhiani is both a skilled actor and a gifted dancer, and the film ends with a routine that brims with enough passion and tension to rival the finale of Whiplash.

And Then We Danced is a beautiful film that – like learning to dance, or falling in love – is filled with equal parts pain and joy. Hopefully Levan Akin’s success will encourage a new wave of filmmakers in Georgia to step up and make their voices heard.



CAST: Levan Gelbakhiani, Bachi Valishvili, Ana Javakishvili, Giorgi Tsereteli

DIRECTOR: Levan Akin

WRITER: Levan Akin

SYNOPSIS: A passionate coming-of-age tale set amidst the conservative confines of modern Tbilisi, the film follows Merab, a competitive dancer who is thrown off balance by the arrival of Irakli, a fellow male dancer with a rebellious streak.