Dance is perhaps the most fluid of art forms, and the camerawork featured in Levan Akin’s latest film And Then We Danced successfully matches that same smooth movement. His camera glides, dips, and twirls with the grace of a ballerina, pulling in audiences to his spiritually uplifting coming-out story.

Merab (Levan Gelbakhiani) has been training for a career with the National Georgian Ballet for years; working night shifts as a waiter to support his family. His dance partner, Mary (Ana Javakishvili), is arguably his closest friend, though there’s clearly no passion between them. However, when new dancer and possible rival Irakli (Bachi Valishvili) joins the academy, Merab begins to fall for him, leading him on an emotional roller-coaster regarding his own identity that may culminate in Merab defying cultural traditions, in order to be open about who he truly is. 

And Then We Danced may hit a few familiar narrative beats, but the execution of the story is what makes it truly special. Gelbakhiani and the rest of the cast bring vitality to the screen, and every emotion soars. The dance sequences are some of the best cinematic depictions of performance art this decade, with a truly stunning finale number featuring Gelbakhiani’s wiry body going off-book and expressing himself through dance. It’s a joyous, defiant moment of a gay man coming into his own, and it’s a beautiful thing to see!

It’s a film about taking control and living in the light. Cinematographer Lisabi Fridell adds warm, glowing sunlight to most scenes, and the brightness is not unlike a hug from a friend giving you their best ally-ship. When Merab is happy, the audience is happy with him. And Then We Danced is an utter triumph, and a highly welcomed new addition to the gay film canon. 

And Then We Danced screened at the 55th Chicago International Film Festival as part of the Global Currents, In Focus: Dance, and Out-Look Competition programs. The film will screen again on October 25th at 5:30pm at AMC River East 21.

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