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Regarding some fake teachers
- A concerned parent

August 25, 2011

I had a bad experience with one of the dance teachers in USA. I don't want to name anyone at this point. But I want to share my experience and find out if there is a way to stop such people.

My daughter took Bharatanatyam lessons from this teacher. She claimed to have learned dance from someone in Kerala. The classes went ok. But when my daughter started performing we got comments like the style, poses and the mudras were all wrong. This went on for some time, because we couldn't or didn't know what to do. We are not from the dance background.

On our trip to India we consulted with a well known Bharatanatyam artiste in Tamil Nadu. She saw the old videos and tested my daughter and was very disappointed with her performance. Please note that my daughter was considered one of the best dancers in that USA teacher's group I say this with utmost humbleness, so please don't get me wrong. We came back and asked the teacher here what style of Bharatanatyam she was teaching and she said it is Kalamandalam style. Is there even a Kalamandalam style of Bharatanatyam? Later, we asked around and knew that the teacher was teaching from video Cds and that she just has a few of years of training from Kerala. So now we realize that we have wasted four years of my daughter's training and not to mention the money we paid. I stopped my daughter from those classes and recently found another better teacher for her - we now are blessed to find a real guru here in Carmel, IN.

But I still see parents falling prey to that fake teacher's charm and sweet talk. Currently she has around 90 students. I also see the confused and frustrated parents after they eventually realize they have been cheated. I feel so bad for the tiny kids who work so hard to learn something wrong.


This can happen in any field of studies, whether academics, music, sports, martial arts etc..
Parents, if they are to enroll their kids in any such programs should do their research properly. There are hundreds of charlatan teaching bad Indian classical dance all over the world, and that includes India itself.

Even after you expose such teachers, people will still flock to them. When you are sincere and genuine, somehow the right teachers come to you. Happy that you have now found a good teacher.
- Jai Govinda (Aug 30, 2011)

Yes, Mr. Jai Govinda is right. I will only blame the parents for not doing their homework properly. I can quote any number of teachers in USA particularly in Kuchipudi style who had either basic training or no training but claim to be student of Dr. Vempati and start Kuchipudi classes because his name sells. Added to this, some teachers from India sell their videos (for dollars) to them.

Our academy in Chennai had students from USA with the same problem what the lady had in US. One thing every parent in this type of situation should know is if the teacher had real training from the respective gurus. In our institute, every qualified student will get a certificate. Likewise every guru or institution from any other dance style should give a certificate of their training.

To tackle these kind of problems, we at Kuchipudi Art Academy, Chennai are planning to issue an authentic certificate to all our qualified students and their institutions and request them to project it in their schools so that the students/parents will know the authenticity of the teacher/institution.
- Venkat Vempati
Director Kuchipudi Art Academy, Chennai (Sept 1, 2011)

My daughter is also a victim. She learned Bharatanatyam for six years and paid up to 16000$ and in the end the teacher said she is not fit for arangetram whereas her juniors are getting it done. For arangetram she collects 25000$. Now my daughter hates Indian classic dance because of lot of cheating. We even went for 2nd opinion with a famous Indian dancer (about my daughter's performance).
- Anonymous (Sept 8, 2011)

I thank our responders for their valuable inputs. I read the responses and I do agree that parents are responsible. As a parent, I wish I knew the right questions to ask before enrolling. We can only hope that the other parents are not as naive and actually know what they are doing. I also wish there would be some basic qualification restrictions to become a Guru in the traditional dance field.

I thank Kuchipudi Dance Academy, Chennai, for providing certificates to qualified students. That is definitely a very good start in my opinion.
- Concerned parent (Sept 11, 2011)

As a Malayalee dancer, and being raised a Christian, I can understand how parents can be misled by 'fake teachers.' I can imagine that my parents would not even know where to begin 'researching' since they know very little about the art. However, one skill that most everyone has is the ability to recognize bad dancing. If you are a parent and are looking for a teacher for your son or daughter, one of the best things to do (aside from the obvious - researching online and by word of mouth) is to attend at least 2 arangetrams from a particular teacher. You will see for yourself, very quickly, how a student dances after 10 or so years in a particular school.
Good luck! (Oct 6, 2011)

This is not the parents' fault. Obviously 'Concerned Parent' had no idea what constitutes a good dance teacher, or good dancing. They went by whichever teacher was most popular, and as we can see now, popularity doesn't always determine authenticity. And that's not their fault. The fault lies with that 'fake teacher.'

Jai Govinda is incorrect when he compares Bharatanatyam to any other field. Academic schools are certified and accredited to teach certain materials. Sports have associations and rankings. Bharatanatyam doesn't have that organization.

One solution would be to have an independent, non profit organization to regularly review and rank schools and gurus of a particular area.

Another solution would be for these 'concerned parents' to give their own opinions on gurus and schools on websites like Narthaki or I'm quite disappointed that this 'concerned parent' refused to name names. How will potential students know to avoid that guru? They are really doing a disservice to Bharatanatyam by not publicly pointing out these 'fake teachers.'
- Anonymous (Dec 31, 2011)

I agree, not only parents, even the knowledgeable dancers are also misled/cheated by visiting Indian artists/so called artists. Especially should not trust those who say they have learnt all types of classical dances. They take the resources from youtube videos, and conduct workshops abroad. I personally experienced that & learnt a lesson. I also see some of the so called Kuchipudi danceteachers, who teach neither Kuchipudi nor Bharatanatyam to kids. The parents who don't know the difference enroll their kids to these classes. They teach Bharatanatyam, Kuchipudi, Bollywood, fusion & so on, make the kids perform in different associations. I feel it's all for the sake of money..... There is no respect for the Art.
- Anon (April 17, 2014)

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