1 of 3
2 of 3
Issue: 2016-09-08, PHOTO: Christian Kuntz Photography
Gurdeep Pandher uses Bhangra dancing to share the beauty of Yukon with the world
3 of 3
Issue: 2016-09-08, PHOTO: Gurdeep Pandher
Pandher teaches fellow Yukoners his dance moves
On the first of August, Gurdeep Pandher celebrated 10 years in Canada.
“It’s been such a wonderful journey,” he says. His voice is light and full of joy and laughter.
In the past decade, Pandher has lived in British Columbia, Saskatchewan, the Northwest Territories, and even briefly in Toronto. Living in different cities has allowed him to experience much of Canada, as have road trips throughout the country.
He came to Yukon in 2011 and from that first day, he knew it would become his home.
“The first day, I met so many people and they took me to Robert Service Campground, and we had a party!”
The warm welcome and Yukon hospitality had him returning the next year with his bags and belongings to stay awhile.
Pandher has an undeniable happiness about him and an enthusiastic smile and laugh that is contagious to those around him. It is no surprise that he finds people are friendly wherever he goes. He explains that it is easy to see the the good in people when you “choose what you see.”
Beyond the people, Pandher has a great appreciation for the “nature, mountains, rivers, lakes, animals, parks, (and) farms” of the Yukon. He comes from a family and culture of farmers and finds “close emotional ties with farming.” Wherever he goes, he visits and connects with the local farms. In Saskatchewan, the wheat farms reminded him of home and would draw him to rural communities.
The farming culture of Punjab connects him to Bhangra dancing. The dance is meant to celebrate a hard day’s work and “take all your stress away,” says Pandher. “It’s considered a happy dance.”
For Pandher living in Canada, it is also a dance that brings people together. It connects people across cultures.
“Almost all kinds of people, all communities – they participate. Dance and music are universal languages,” Pandher says. Languages, he says, that can help join people in fun and overcome “racism, countries, and colours.”
In the Yukon, Pandher has been teaching almost since he first arrived. At a Halloween party in his first home, the guests began talking about cultures, and Pandher shared his Punjabi culture along with a demonstration of Bhangra dancing. One of the guests was working for the Yukon Literacy Coalition at the time, and invited him to the Canada Games Centre to give a lesson. The lesson was well attended and when he offered another one the following week, over 20 people came to dance.
After a few months at there, Pandher moved his lessons to the Centre de la francophonie. It was an opportunity to teach dance while also building relationships with the Francophone community.
This year has been a great year for his dancing. National media and people from all over the country have been paying attention and reaching out to him. Pandher has been interviewed on CTV and even featured on Buzzfeed.com.
After a summer break, Pandher will resume teaching Bhangra in the fall. Classes are offered on a drop-in and pay what you decide basis – for Pandher, it is all about “sharing the love of dance.”
Pandher is working on his plan for classes in Whitehorse, Dawson City, and possibly in the communities. In addition, he hopes to travel and teach in cities across Canada, as well.
Beyond being a dance that will sweep you off your feet and have you smiling as you get your groove on, it is also one that is sure to shed pounds. One of his students lost 20 pounds from dancing, and Pandher himself keeps on getting leaner.
“It’s a fitness activity,” he says. “If you don’t want to run, you don’t want to go to the gym, you can come to these classes.”
Find out about upcoming dance lessons, or follow the dancing adventures of Gurdeep on his website gurdeep.ca or Facebook group: www.facebook.com/groups/YukonBhangra