University City

Their last dance

Pavani Gingrich refused to miss her first performance of classical Indian dance, even though she wasn’t well.

The 7-year-old rubbed her fingers across her face so many times during the show that the ink decorating her hands smeared and gave her a bright red mustache.

She would have done almost anything, she recalled, to be in the show produced by her mother nine years ago.

Maha Gingrich produces, choreographs and leads a team of about 40 performers in “Dances of India,” an annual production at Central Piedmont Community College for the past 10 years.

This year’s performance, April 28, will be 16-year-old Pavani’s ninth and likely her last.

In October, she is scheduled to become the 53rd graduate of Maha’s Dances of India dance classes.

She expects to graduate from Mallard Creek High School several months later, in 2013, and then leave for college. The show will be on hiatus next year as the family prepares for the graduation.

This time, the teacher will find it harder to let go of her student because she also will be saying goodbye to the little girl with the sloppy red mustache.

“I’m used to seeing her like a little baby,” she said, her daughter standing slightly taller as Gingrich drew red markings on her hands yet again, this time for pictures for her graduation announcements.

“Three years ago she started wearing my costumes,” Gingrich added. “It was one of the first realizations that she was becoming a young lady.”

Maha Gingrich came to the United States in 1986.

Today she is assistant public information officer at CPCC. “Dances of India” is a community outreach presented by the college.

Two mayors have appointed her to chair the Charlotte International Cabinet. She also serves on other boards.

All the while, she has been teaching the 2,000- to 3,000-year-old classical and folk dances of her homeland and producing sell-out shows featuring her students.

Pavani has turned down chances to swim competitively and run track because those activities would have conflicted with Saturday morning dance classes.

She also stopped playing defense for her volleyball team, even though it was a key position.

Now she is making a list of colleges that might suit her, and she has notes on the merits of each school’s Indian dance team.

She’s decided she’ll start a team if the school she chooses doesn’t already have one.

“I can’t imagine my life without dance,” she said.

Lately, Gingrich has been seeing a reflection of herself as her daughter speaks with such reverence for the art.

In that reflection, the teacher has seen her success at creating appreciation for Indian culture doubled.

“There is a sense of satisfaction that she is carrying on the traditions,” Gingrich said.