Helton Vilar

Dancer Justin McCarthy was born in Michigan, USA, but it is in India where he found a home when it comes to his art. He masters the Bharatanatyam, an ancient Indian style that basically mixes myth and spirituality, but also explores notions of sensuality, adorned by the legendary Carnatic music. According to McCarthy, it provides a “glimpse into cultural and sexual mores prevalent in South India for many centuries”. Below the artist explains us a bit more about this beautiful choreography, describing the special piece that will be a world premeire during the GFEST – Gaywise FESTival 2014 on 20 November.

Mohini by Justin McCarthy, image by Briana Blasko
Mohini by Justin McCarthy, image by Briana Blasko

“Mohini, the Enchantress is a solo piece in Bharatanatyam. It illustrates three mythological incidents in which the god Vishnu transforms himself into an enchanting woman, Mohini. In the first instance, he does so to trick and kill a demon, in the second to trick a host of demons and thereby aid a host of gods, and in the third to please the god Shiva. Apart from the usual Bharatanatyam music, i.e., Carnatic voice, flute and mridangam (drum), another duo of musicians is used, a nadasvaram (a reed instrument) player and a thavil (a drum) player. Visually, the piece is enhanced with images and masks created by a Kalamkari (a painting-on-cloth style of southern Andhra Pradesh) artist.

The choreography deals with the male gaze in various forms and the return gaze of the male-now-become-female Vishnu/Mohini. The ambiguities of the rapports thus created are explored by means of a series of racy erotic songs called javalis written in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries for ‘dancing girls’ in South India. The myths connected with Vishnu/Mohini have always fascinated me because of their sexual ambiguity. The protagonists, both Mohini and the hosts of divine and demonic males, all hover somewhere between archetypes and stereotypes. The tensions and unabashed commerce set up between them also offer intriguing entry points into the stories”.

The spectacle will count with the following cast:

Dancer and choreographer- Justin McCarthy
Vocalist- Sudha Raghuraman
Flutist- G. Raghuraman
Mridangist- MV Chandrasekhar
Nadaswaram- Raja
Thavil- Viramani

Kalamkari images- P. Ramachandraiah
Lighting- Deepa Dharmadhikari
The Mythical Dance is part of the GFEST – Gaywise FESTival 2014 . It happens on Thursday the 20 November at RADA Studio, 6 Chenies Street, London, WC1E 7EX:  box office: +44 (0)20 7307 5060 Booking email: studiosboxoffice@rada.ac.uk