“Build your dreams as they are not just fantasies; DREAM TO DANCE”
Originally from Mumbai, India, Jainil Mehta began his dance journey at the age of five, performing in his living room. Building short phrases with the house help at such an early age ignited a passion in him for dance composition, direction and performance. He trained at Shiamak Davar International in Mumbai, India for thirteen years, after which he moved to Los Angeles for college. Jainil graduated Summa Cum Laude and received his Bachelor of Fine Arts in Dance from the USC Glorya Kaufman School of Dance with a Discovery Scholars Distinction.
Jainil’s inner movement quality, expressions and love for storytelling come from his Indian roots and culture. He tries to bring his leadership, business and artistic capabilities together and has self-produced, choreographed and directed three productions in Mumbai. He has learned and performed works by esteemed choreographers like William Forsythe, Jiří Kylián, Jodie Gates, Barak Marshall, Alejandro Cerrudo, Dwight Rhoden and Matthew Neenan.
Jainil wants to create the first-ever accredited higher education dance program in India through global exchange, interdisciplinary learning and partnerships. His goal is to give dancers, dance-makers and creators a chance to develop their own artistic choices and artmaking process, thus helping them create a unique identity and career for themselves.
We spoke to Jainil on his views about dance education as well as what he has planned for the future. Read on to get his insights and learn more about his experience.
- How important do you think it is to have a formal education in dance? Where do you think having a formal education has had the most impact for you personally as a dancer?
I think it’s important to have a general education in the arts. In my opinion, it makes you creative and improves problem solving skills; it’s just so important in creativity as studying art cultivates a different part of you. It doesn’t have to be only dance, it can be any form of art. Dance is something that resonated with me – I could really speak through movement and that’s been where I’m the most comfortable. For me, while I was studying dance, I realized the huge difference between dancing as a hobby and dancing professionally and formally. I felt like I was growing through it not only as a dancer but as a person – it was making me more responsible, more balanced, it taught me how I could open up and trust someone else. I feel the way we were taught was also so sustainable because we were taught to learn through self reflection and through ourselves, which makes the process so personal and internal. Speaking through our mouths and speaking through our bodies, both are a process and that process teaches us so much about ourselves.
I’d also like to add that dance education has always been under the covers. It’s something that’s always been neglected. And even as a dancer when you’ve danced so much, it’s not really recognized and we’re not credited as much. I feel like dance is used everywhere, especially after the pandemic. I’ve seen dance being used so much more than before either as a form of fitness or just a hobby to pass time, everyone is dancing so it really shouldn’t be as neglected.
- What is the biggest learning you have had from dancing outside India?
I definitely believe that dance is taught differently across different schools and universities. For me, dancing outside of India was very intense and it was kind of a culture shock. The way I was taught dance in India was definitely very rigid but I think when I studied at USC Kaufman school, I learnt how reflective and introspective dance can be – it’s so much more than just learning steps and sequences. Once you learn this, your movement definitely becomes more articulate. I really enjoyed the whole process as it makes the training and movement so much more sustainable. It doesn’t feel like you’re learning just for a competition or learning a few sets of steps just for the sake of it. It’s not just outside India, I feel like dance is taught very differently in every institution since the purpose is different everywhere you go. I feel like the purpose at my institute was sustainability, education and training so that we, as graduates in dance, can go out to teach and articulate our feelings and stories to the world as seamlessly as possible.
- You recently graduated from a course in LA. What are the next steps? Is there anything you are working on right now?
Yes, I graduated from USC Glorya Kaufman School of Dance very recently. My plans for the future are a little uncertain due to the pandemic as no dance schools are hiring and studios and classes are not functional yet. However, the next steps mean going towards a final goal and my final goal is higher dance education in India. With this in mind, I am applying for dance positions in universities for either choreography, performance or mentorship. Alongside, I am grateful to have started teaching dance classes online as it didn’t make sense to wait for things to start after the pandemic. So, I took it upon myself and started self-branding and putting word out about my classes. Now I do have a pool of students that look up to me and learn from me, for which I’m grateful. It’s great to be able to use this time and my knowledge to teach while I figure out my next steps.
- What is something you look for in projects that you take up?
I think I’m looking for authenticity in the projects that come my way. I look at the level of commitment that is put towards making a project happen. Especially when it comes to me directly from someone, I look at their plan and how dedicated they are to making the project happen. I really look forward to projects when there is a sense of passion and motivation towards it and everyone comes together to get the best results.