Indian classical dancer Laiya Maria Pavlov, 15, shows a variety of expressions during her Arangetram performance at the Middlesex School in Concord, Sunday August 20, 2023. Laiya is a rising sophomore at Concord-Carlisle High School. Ken McGagh for The Concord Bridge

Classical Indian dance signals a milestone for CCHS student 

By Betsy Levinson
August 23, 2023

Wearing a bright silk outfit adorned with sparkling jewelry and bells on her ankles, the young dancer began the Bharatanatyam. 

Every movement of the classical Indian dance ceremony showcased the artistry and physical stamina of 15-year-old Laiya Pavlov at her Arangetram, or debut performance, where she “ascended the stage,” graduating from student to performer.    

Laiya Maria Pavlov, 15, a student of Indian classical dance, performs during her Arangetram, a solo debut performance marking her transition from student to performing artist, at the Middlesex School in Concord, Sunday August 20, 2023. Ken McGagh for The Concord Bridge

Classical Indian musicians, singing and playing a violin, veena and drum, provided accompaniment while Pavlov’s teacher and mentor, Sunanda Narayanan, introduced each of the nine dances that made up the program.

The Bharatanatyam, a South Indian dance form that originated over 2,000 years ago, was dedicated to Pavlov’s grandfather, Felix Mathew, who died in 2018 and was responsible for instilling a love of the arts in the teen, now a rising sophomore at Concord-Carlisle High School.

The performance “showcased the ways in which this art form now transcends cultural, religious and geographical boundaries,” the program stated. 

Narayanan noted the “milestone event” and the prodigious work that Laiya put in for seven years that ultimately brought her to the Middlesex School stage.

“It’s intense work,” said Sunanda. “Bharatanatyam is a spiritual form as well as physical, combining body, mind and spirit.”

The pieces in the Arangetram featured storytelling in motion, as Laiya spun, stepped and twirled over the stage for roughly three hours. From her eyes to her toes, she wove tales of ancient Indian culture as a singer and musicians accompanied her.

Near the end of the performance, home movies rolled on a big screen in the auditorium, featuring Felix as he played with a young Laiya, his children and other grandchildren.

Laiya concluded with a fusion piece featuring Indian dance and ballet.

Rose Cratsley, Laiya’s mother, thanked the Concord community as well as several generations of the family for contributing to Laiya’s growth as a dancer.

“Here, her worlds come together,” she said.