By Brooklyn Reader

April 11, 2014, 4:21 pm

 

Sudha Seetharam, co-founder of Trilok School

Sudha Seetharam, co-founder of Trilok School

When your first walk into Sudha Seetharaman’s sunny office space in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, the first thing you notice is color!

And it’s not just because her office is decorated with expressive paintings made by elementary-aged hands. Nor is it due solely to the colorful shalwar Sudha wears.

It is because of the air she exudes—one of someone whose light reflects a wide spectrum of colorful experiences.

Sudha, along with her husband Anand Kamalakar, are the founders of Trilok School, a private arts and science school located at 143 Waverly Avenue (on the corner of Myrtle) in Fort Greene.

“We both are artists. And we both are crazy, awesome people,” said Sudha of her husband and business partner.

A classically trained bharatanatyam dancer, Sudha immigrated from India to Oregon in 1992, at age 22. In 1994, she moved to New York City to work on her Ph.D in dance and education at New York University.

But she soon became antsy and decided she would rather “start participating in life.”

“I’ll get back to working on that Ph.D maybe when I turn 60,” laughs Sudha, “but for now, I just want to do real work and give back as much as possible.”

In 1995, Sudha founded Trilok Fusion Arts, a non-profit organization that teaches cross-cultural music, dance, theater and social studies. Trilok, a Sanskrit word that means “three worlds,” steadily grew in popularity, and soon Sudha and her fusion arts program were being requested at elementary schools all across Brooklyn.

No long afterward, Sudha hooked up with a local jazz band to create an entirely new form of dance performance that she calls “Jazz Natyam,” where classical Indian dance is performed to jazz music.

“The authentic aspect is the technique that comes from the book called Natya Shashtra,” Sudha says. “As this ancient form of dance traveled to the different parts of India, they used the local classical music, so the dance took on a slightly different form across the 20 different states.

“So I thought, if that is possible, and if I am now in Brooklyn and the local classical music here is jazz, I decided to merge jazz music with the local Indian classical dance to tell stories.”

In 2005, Sudha, along with her husband, her jazz band and group of young dancers, choreographed, produced and performed at the Lincoln Center the great Indian epic known as The Ramayana, one of the most important stories to influence Hindu life and culture.

(To watch some videos from that performance, go here).

She counts the performance at Lincoln Center as one of her greatest achievements and proudest moments to date.

Another proud moment came in 2007, when she and her husband went on to found Trilok School, an independent private school on St. Felix Street with just two students (one of whom was her own child).

In 2010, the school  had grown to 24 students and moved to 410 Adelphi St. And in 2011, it expanded once more into its current space on Myrtle and Waverly, where it now houses 70 students, grades pre-K through 4th grade.

Trilok school is quite unconventional: The children and the teachers meditate, take many field trips, learn about science and dance and music and food and “saving the earth.”

“My school is close to 75 percent green,” says Sudha. “Recycling is hugely important; there are very few things we actually go and buy first-hand.”

Even their library is recycled, with 100 percent of the books donated.

“We put forth a lot of energy here to make the children understand that we’re actually one, and so we should try to share and to live with basic things.

“The change might be just a drop in the ocean. But I think we need to add those drops to the ocean,” Sudha says.

“And so, yes, I believe this will be our greatest contribution to the planet and the world.”

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2 Responses

  1. Concerned BKLYN parent

    It’s really sad that sociopaths like this woman can deceive so many good and hard-working families in the neighborhood. Her “school” is a farce. She has no background in education and really has no business running a school business that is anything but a daycare. That “Ph.D.” she said she came to work on in NY is actually a Masters in dance (would be her second), which she never completed. Her “philosophy” for her school is nothing but a complete show that she does not fulfill upon (don’t make me laugh about that whole Ghandian philosophy because this woman couldn’t be further from it). There is zero transparency and she has no interest in addressing any concerns any parent might have. Sudha claims she has an “open door” policy for parents, but when you go to meet her, she’s just there to bamboozle you with verbal vomit and get you completely side-tracked so you have no idea why you walked in there to begin with. There are security issues in the school (with all kinds of other businesses and organizations housed in the same building and sometimes same floor that are not related to the school. A number of young children have actually made it to the front door (actually about to leave unaccompanied by an adult) of the building unbeknownst to the teachers! And when confronted about this, she has done NOTHING to rectify that situation. Instead, she tried to deny and cover up these incidents. She claims the students learn yoga, but what she doesn’t tell you is that they learn from watching a video on YouTube. The school will occasionally attract talented teachers who quickly leave after a few months or a year or two after they discover what a lying manipulator they are working for (they’re also severely underpaid). The staff in the administrative office (those that have to work directly with her daily) has an even higher turnover rate and all of them will tell you about the horrible experience they had working with her and the lies they had to tell parents. Personally, she is extremely disorganized and all over the place. She will cancel dance classes last minute with little to no notification at times. She also visits India for month-long trips in the middle of the school year (remember she is the director of the school)! She will also apply for grants and will use the money but refuse to pay workers what they are due. She’s treated a number of teachers reprehensibly. She wouldn’t allow one teacher to retrieve a greenhouse that belonged to the teacher and withheld her last paycheck! The teacher eventually had to get onto the premises with help from friends to retrieve the greenhouse when Sudha was away in India. The police were called but they sided with the teacher because they said she had to be allowed to retrieve her personal possession. Sudha went into a rage when she discovered what happened and then told the parents that the greenhouse was gone because it was too much maintenance and that they were working on getting a cheaper one (never got another one). She has burned bridges with almost everyone that has also rented space in the yard. It’s really a shame because there is a need in the neighborhood for schools and preschools. Some of the teachers are okay and I’m not saying that your child couldn’t be happy, but if you run into a problem, just be warned that it will NOT be addressed by Sudha because frankly she couldn’t care less. She says she loves the kids, but nothing could be further from the truth. She gossips about some of the students to parents. I’m sure the school and her nonprofit org are a great tax shelter/write-off. It really sounds unbelievable because in general, it’s hard to believe these people exist. I found out the hard way and had to pull out my child in the middle of the school year. A lot of parents leave their children in because they can’t find another school that fast. Then you meet other parents on the playground who’ve had similar horrible experiences.

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