When the movie Frances Ha came out, named for its choreographer protagonist, I had hoped for a renewed interest in modern dance—perhaps a small, young fandom would emerge over Martha Graham’s Appalachian Spring, or maybe Twyla Tharp’s The Catherine Wheel, which has the added cool cred of a score by David Byrne. Tragically, most folks are still pretty put off by dance, and I can never find a date to anything at The Joyce. However, the perspicacious readers of Dangerous Minds are always willing to try new things, right, especially when they’re as bold as Der Untermensch (German for “under man”, “sub-man”, or “sub-human”), a short dance film from Quebecois dancer and choreographer Simon Vermeulen. The concept is as daring as they come:
Staged against minimalist backdrops and accompanied by a hypnotic original score, this highly cinematic contemporary dance film abstractly depicts the persecution of homosexuals at the hands of the Third Reich.
That’s right; not only is it modern dance, it’s gay, French-Canadian political modern dance. If you’re intimidated by the medium, allow me to give you my simple dance appreciation advice for the unsure: it’s art made with the body. You have a body, too. Don’t overthink it. There’s no “plot,” and the performance isn’t literal, so Der Untermensch is pretty accessible, and whether you’re a fan or not, the visceral performance and abstraction of theme is absolutely captivating.