‘Men In Skirts’ movement takes the Internet by storm
If you are a fan of seeing dance on social media, you surely have seen New York based Internet dance sensation Jainil Mehta, 23, who took the world by storm with his ‘Men in Skirts’ movement. This movement #Meninskirts inspired millions emotionally as well as physically. Jainil who has roots in Mumbai, spoke with me about his most-talked-about ‘Men in Skirts’ movement and his dance background. Excerpts:
How did your dancing journey start?
My journey began at the age of five, with performances in my living room. Building short phrases with my house help at such an early age ignited my passion in dance composition, direction and performance. Before moving to Los Angeles for my college, I trained for 13 years at Shiamak Davar International in Mumbai. I was a company dancer with Nai-Ni Chen Dance Company, and graduated from Summa Cum Laude receiving my Bachelor of Fine Arts in Dance from the USC Glorya Kaufman School of Dance with a Discovery Scholars Distinction. Education gave me a variety of skills, including budgeting, accounting, entrepreneurship, stage lighting, tools for digital design, sound editing, motion picture cinematography and video editing, among others. I performed works by esteemed choreographers like William Forsythe, Jiří Kylián, Jodie Gates, Barak Marshall, Alejandro Cerrudo, Dwight Rhoden and Matthew Neenan.
Currently I am a freelance teacher, creating and performing across the United States, predominantly New York City.
How did the concept of ‘Men in Skirts’ come up?
Men in skirts stemmed from my sheer love for skirts and flair. Since childhood I have admired how skirts made movements look dreamy. I used to steal my mother’s skirts and dupattas, lock myself in my room and just twirl to the song Maiyya Yashoda from the film Hum Saath Saath Hai. During Navratri, I used to see women wearing ghagras and I always thought how lucky they were in those skirts. But I realised that I could be lucky too. That’s how “Men in Skirts’ came up.
In 2021, I posted a video during Navratri with another male identifying dancer where both of us wore skirts and depicted the love of Radha Krishna as ‘one.’ People definitely had different interpretations but the sole purpose of this contemporary Garba piece was to show that love has no distinction. It was difficult for people to identify Radha and Krishna in the choreography and that’s exactly what I wanted to portray. Since then, I’d say “Men in Skirts” has been on a roll. In March 2022, this journey became a movement with a trending hashtag #meinskirts after my video on song Jhume Re Gori from film Gangubai Kathiawadi blew up as I danced my way on the streets of New York. I currently have a 250k followers on Instagram, trending on #Meninskirts which breaks the barriers of gender categorisations.
Looking back how do you feel?
I never realised when this personal story became a public movement. So many people have connected with me over this – they are inspired by my choices. I’d say #meninskirts is not just about men wearing skirts but a movement that inspires people to make bold choices in their life. I feel since the beginning I have made confident choices and this definitely was a life changing one.
When I wear skirts, I feel ‘alive’. My legs extend beyond my body and the skirt adds elegance to my grace. One of my followers mentioned that “the wind’s speed is slower than my dance” and I take that as a huge compliment. Skirts act as my wings!
I never planned to be an Internet sensation. Few think that this is some sort of a strategy. Yes, it probably is! It’s my strategy to “move” more people – physically as well as emotionally. I want them to get out of their classroom and office seats and just dance. This is taking me closer to my final goal and I am hoping that educational institutions and corporate jobs understand how essential dance and movement is.
The movement has kept you up on your feet for sure, Right!
Indeed. I recently performed at the New York Fashion Week for designer Archana Kochhar’s Jharokha collection. I am happy that many national and international newspapers, magazines and television shows have featured me increasing my confidence and courage to break gender stereotypes, especially within the Indian community.
I have self-produced, choreographed and directed three productions in Mumbai. I have choreographed for Big Wild’s music video “6’s to 9’s” and Falguni Pathak’s Jode Rahejo Raaj.
Sandip Soparrkar holds a doctorate in world mythology folklore from Pacifica University USA, an honorary
doctorate in performing arts from the National American University, He is a World Book Record holder,
a well-known Ballroom dancer and a Bollywood choreographer who has been honored with three
National Excellence awards, one National Achievement Award and Dada Saheb Phalke award by
the Government of India. He can be contacted on [email protected]