Why do we dance?  To belong?  To free ourselves? And Then We Danced is a film by Swedish-born Levan Akin that has absorbed festivals from Venice to Cannes. And had a few bricks thrown at it on homeground. 

Written by Kirsty Allison, this review appears in the March edition of DJMag, alongside a feature on the brilliant and highly recommended new book, Threshold (Bloomsbury) by Rob Doyle.

With dance and the spirit of freedom at its core, AND THEN WE DANCED explores LGBTQ2+  rites of passage, under the paragon of rigid homophobia and tradition, where Orthodox Christian post-Soviet religion is still an unavoidable moral compass within the National Georgian Ensemble.  Centring around a young dancer Merab, Levan Gelbakhiani, who was cast via Instagram, the indie film is in the vein of Call Me By Your Name with a bit of Black Swan thrown in, but shot gently in a country where homosexuality is so closeted, despite being legal, bodyguards were employed on set.  The director says:  

“Western values are considered a threat to the old Georgian ways. And for a country that has been conquered over and over again throughout the centuries, keeping their cultural identity becomes a matter of survival. The Georgian language, their ancient alphabet, wine culture and food culture etc. are extremely important for them. With this film I am trying to show that even though you open up and move into a different direction you can still own and keep your traditions.”

Levan Akin, director

Tbilisi is the hottest rebel city for clubbing currently, with decriminalised cannabis, but harsh reactions to other drugs. Last year’s super-polarised clashes at Pride followed a major police raid at Tbilisi’s version of Berghain, Bassiani (whose upstairs room is called Horoom, after the traditional dance) which led to the right-wing attacking Georgian ravers, and mass protests. Identity struggles and cultural frictions continued in January, with three people being injured in a shooting at the club. 

This is not a film about the commercialisation of the global clubbing scene, it’s a beautifully soft, Stand By Me-esque exploration of gender, whilst adding human rights into the mix.  You’ll be transported to a folk-culture which is hard to let go of.

AND THEN WE DANCED is in cinemas this Friday.

Also in Kirsty’s arts pages this month in DJMag (available in national newsagents now), cultural historian, Matt Anniss‘s new book Join The Future is reviewed. It redefines acid-house history, via the unexpected illuminati pyramid of Leeds, Sheffield and Bradford. There are also suggestions to visit The Bargehouse for Lady Pat’s felt expo, and drop by the Fashion Space Gallery in London, plus more books, art and music from the electronic community.

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