Interview with Jainil Mehta: How an Indian Choreographer Is Breaking Gender Norms with His Dance

Jainil Mehta is an Indian dancer who is seen dancing in skirts and breaking gender stereotypes on the streets of New York City. In a candid interview with Youth Time Magazine, Mehta talks about his journey and how art helps overcome societal tropes.

Jainil Mehta is a choreographer at Nai-Ni Chen Dance Company who has graduated and pursued his Bachelors of Fine Arts in Dance at the prestigious University of Southern California — Kaufman school of dance and was also a student at Shiamak Davar Dance Academy. He is trained in such dance forms as jazz, ballet, hip-hop, and Indian classical, to name a few. Mehta believes that art and clothes cannot be segregated on the lines of gender, and thus, he started the famous Instagram movement #MeninSkirts. Mehta believes that art is the key to making the world a better place. 

 

Mehta’s Journey Is a Soulful Dance in Itself

Mehta recalls that while growing up, he watched many movies that involved Lord Krishna and his Leelas or acts of magic, including dance. This was his weekend routine with his grandfather that led Mehta to recognize his love for the art form. He shares that he used to dance a lot to one of the famous Indian dance numbers Maiyya Yoshoda (Mother Yashoda), and his mother used to watch him. It was his mother who saw the spark in him and got him enrolled in dance classes, and since then, it has been no looking back.

The dancer always knew that he wanted to make a career in dance, and accordingly, Mehta’s family supported him. He said that a little bit of stubbornness and a tremendous amount of love and dedication towards the art form made it possible for him to gain his parents’ trust and win their support. 

 

Dance Is Versatile

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Photo courtesy of Jainil Mehta

When asked about the nuances of dance styles in India and the United States, Mehta exclaimed, “Dance is versatile.” He shared that he used to do a lot of folk, classical, and Bollywood dances in India. Mehta said that there is a stark difference when the dance forms like hip-hop, jazz, ballet, etc. are performed in India. The dance forms are Indianized to cater to the Indian audience. Even the dance training in India is relatively steady and slow-paced, focusing more on grace, audience engagement, and commercialization. 

He further shares that in the US, the western dance forms are pretty raw and in their original form. Even the training is more technical, quick, and interactive. However, one thing that he finds familiar is alike India — in the US, the Indian dance forms like Bollywood have to be Americanized to cater to the population. 

Mehta finds this mix of cultures fascinating, and since he has the taste of both the communities, he appreciates the uniqueness and flavor that make them stand out. 

 

The Reason Behind the #MenInSkirts Movement 

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Photo courtesy of Jainil Mehta

Mehta believes that it has been mounted over time that clothes and art forms are gendered. He says that Men In Skirts movement is very personal to him as, since childhood, he used to love the grace and flare of skirts, and therefore he used to wear them in his performances. 

When he posted dance videos in skirts, a lot of people supported him, and the Instagram hashtagMen In Skirts’ started evolving into a movement, and it was the audience that gave it an angle to breaking gender stereotypes. Mehta feels bold and more confident about the same. He could do something to stir the regurgitated air of gender tropes associated with clothing, art forms, and working roles. Some trollers and haters did try to put him down, but he grew stronger and continued to lead the movement. It is a movement that has to go on, and he feels the internet is the right place to talk about gender-fluid clothing smashing age-old norms. 

Mehta also brings in the exciting factor of how not just dance but any art form just catalyzes any such revolutionary ideas and movements because the art can reach out to the hearts and minds of millions. It not only entertains them but also educates them simultaneously, and that is how any cause spoken or described through art escalates more. Especially with dance, he finds it more effective because it is less spoken and can be felt through the artists’ moves. It has the power to unite everyone with expressions of sorrow, joy, and much more. 

 

Mehta Talks About J-Flow and Content Creation 

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Photo courtesy of Jainil Mehta

J-Flow is a dance style that Mehta has come up with. He shares that it is a movement, technique, and expression-rich dance form that draws inspiration from his aspirations, interactions, and predilections for food, travel, art, and relationships. He says that J-Flow defines him. J-Flow encourages individuals to go beyond moving bodies and discover their passion. Therefore, it is not a simple dance style. Instead, it is an amalgamation of what he has learned and the culture that he has experienced. He plans to start a long-term dance program in India for college students and include J-Flow in the curriculum. 

Mehta is also a content creator, and he shares that content creation has opened up new avenues for him. He draws a comparison that before content creation, it was just him and his on-stage performances. But now, it is much more as it includes content planning, costume design, cinematography, and choreography. It has made him comfortable in front of the camera and made him realize that he can be a dancer, model, actor, and entertainer- all at the same time. Mehta loves being in front of the camera and believes this has made him more confident while performing on stage. He understands the importance of content creation as it caters to the audience’s entertainment needs and helps him interact with people across the globe.  

 

Mehta’s Message to the Readers 

He wants people to dream and aspire. Mehta says just like his tagline is ‘Dream to dance’, he wants it to be ‘Dream to … be anything that people love and resonate with’. It is one’s dream that makes one keep trying and achieving. 

Like Men In Skirts, which aims to make people comfortable in whatever they are wearing, he wants the Gen-Z to become bolder and more outspoken. He wants everyone to enjoy their uniqueness and be comfortable in their skin. He believes that every dream is important, and achieving it is the ultimate key to happiness and satisfaction. 

 

 

Photos courtesy of Jainil Mehta

 


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