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Gurdeep Pandher: Teaching and Uplifting from the North

During the pandemic, videos of the bhangra dancer have gone viral By Saad Rajper
  • Pandher / Photo by Christian Kuntz Photography

Gurdeep Pandher’s videos, featuring him dancing from the snowy roads of Yukon to the beaches of British Columbia, demonstrate how dance can uplift in times of distress. Pandher, a bhangra dancer living in Yukon, had been creating videos of himself dancing in various locations across Canada long before the pandemic began as a way to promote a message of diversity and inclusion. The videos have now gone viral. 

What began as a way to keep in touch with friends and family, his videos have now reached more than 90,000 views, and he has been featured on CBC, CTV, BuzzFeed and the Huffington Post. Pandher is using this opportunity to build cross-cultural connections through his videos, whether that be by teaching the mayor of Whitehorse how to do bhangra or choreographing a piece with the RCMP. 

“Dance and music are a universal language.… I love that people connect with my work through that basic part of human nature,” says Pandher. His videos have successfully created connections across borders; they’ve been seen across the world and were shared by the Canadian Embassy in Italy. During the pandemic, the videos have served as a form of much needed joy for many viewers. 

Pandher sees these videos as a type of social service. “Uplifting people mentally is very important because modern life, even before COVID, was all about Google, Google, busy, busy, run, run,” he says. He hopes his videos can act as a type of assurance and support to anyone who is experiencing challenges. 

Pandher / Photo by Ana Rita Garcia Photography

 

Bhangra, a high-energy dance form originating from the Indian province of Punjab, has always been a part of Pandher’s life. Born in the village of Siahar in Punjab, Pandher was immersed in bhangra at an early age at cultural festivals and gatherings. He later decided to train professionally and, during college, competed in bhangra competitions. 

Pandher settled in Whitehorse in 2012 (he originally moved to Squamish, British Columbia in 2006) and began teaching bhangra lessons. Earlier this year, the challenges presented by the pandemic that so many teachers faced turned out to be an opportunity in disguise. After moving his classes online, Pandher found that he was able to reach a much wider audience and offer his classes to people from all across the country. In his very first online class, more than seventy people attended from across Canada. “That type of response was really wonderful,” he says.“I didn’t expect that so many people would react and take classes.” In the first couple of months, Pandher had around 2000 students. 

The comments he received inspired him to continue with the online classes. “It’s really touching to know that if someone is having a bad day and they can find something good through the class, it can make their day or week,” Pandher says. After four months of online classes, he has learned to adapt to the unique challenges that come with teaching remotely.

 

This article was originally published in our November/December 2020 issue. 

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