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Meet Meenal Chakradeo of Meenal’s Academy of Performing Arts

Today we’d like to introduce you to Meenal Chakradeo.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I started learning Indian classical dance form Kathak at the age of 6 in India with Guru Shri Suresh Dharmadhikari.(Kathak is one of the 8 classical Indian dance styles).

I continued my Kathak education along with my Academic education with full sincerity. I completed Visharad (Bachelors of Music in Kathak) and graduated at the top of my class, securing a gold medal. After that my Kathak education stopped and I went to complete my University education. I hold a degree in Software engineering and two Master degrees- one in Business Economics and the other in Business Administration. All along Kathak/dance was an art form that I was passionate about. But I never thought of it as a career option. Belonging to a typical Middle-class Indian family my dream was always to succeed academically and secure a well-paying job in the corporate world.

I got married and moved to San Diego in 2001. In 2002 I took up a job in the software industry. I was busy working and taking care of my family, but something was not satisfying the dancer in me. So I started performing at local events and eventually I started teaching a few students. But then came a point at the end of 2010 that I knew I couldn’t continue both. I had to pick one option, and with support from my husband, I picked Dance. I quit my full-time job and decided to make dance my career. I opened a studio (initially in a partnership) but soon I moved on to have a studio and Academy of my own and hence Meenal’s Academy was born and here we are today!

The decision to quit my software job is the second best decision I made… marrying my husband was clearly the best ;).

Another turning point came into my life when I met my Guru who I am learning with currently. I met Guru Shambhavi Dandekar in 2014. It was pure luck that I met the Guru I had dreamt of learning from all my life. It so happened that she moved to San Jose (she was earlier in Pune, India) and she agreed to take me as her student. I have been learning from her since then and it has helped me evolve as a dancer, teacher and a person.

I owe all my success and achievements to my Gurus – Shri Suresh Dharmadhikari and Guru Shambhavi Dandekar. It is because of them that I am who I am today.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
It’s never a smooth road, but then again, I didn’t hit too many roadblocks either. There were struggles because I was the first person in my family to start a business of my own. There were a lot of unknowns. There were risks involved.

Many of my friends and family had challenged my decision to quit a high paying job to start a dance studio, so I had an inner urge to prove my self. But it all worked out, and I am happy that I get to follow my passion and have created a career out of it. I consider myself fortunate to be able to do that.

So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the Meenal’s Academy of Performing Arts story. Tell us more about the business.
Meenal’s Academy of Performing Arts (MAPA) is a Premier Performing Arts school in San Diego Offering classes in classical art forms Kathak, Bharatanatyam and the Indian percussion instrument Tabla. Affiliated with Bharati Vidyapeeth School of Performing Arts, Pune, India, MAPA offers certificate and Diploma course certifications in Kathak, Bharatanatyam, Tabla, and Hindustani Vocal.

I have been teaching Kathak in San Diego for 9+ years now. I am a professional performer myself. I strongly believe that to be a good teacher, one has to continue to perform. I am known for my pure dance style, my grace and clarity in movements and my energy on stage.

I am extremely proud of my students and their dedication towards the art form. I have students who have been learning with me for last 8+ years. I organize a full-length student recital every year with live music accompaniment. That is very rare these days and it sets us apart from most dance schools. Another distinguishing factor is our affiliation with an esteemed University in India. We offer a structured curriculum and offer certificate and Diploma courses and I think students and the parents value that a lot.

Most importantly I am extremely passionate about dancing and teaching. I connect very well with students of all age groups. My classes involve serious learning and a whole lot of fun. Every week, my students leave with a smile wanting for more, and I think that as a teacher, that is my success right there.

Has luck played a meaningful role in your life and business?
Luck (good or bad) is always there but what really matters is what you do with it. Of course, I have faced both favorable and unfavorable situations. But by the grace of God and the blessings of elders, I have made the best of every situation. I do believe that everything happens for a reason, and I think more than luck, this mantra has helped me deal with all kinds of situations.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Anand Sangam

Getting in touch: SDVoyager is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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