Gurdeep Pandher teaches dance, but his real specialty is joy and happiness — and this week, he’s spreading it across Vancouver Island.
An IT specialist by trade, the 42-year-old Yukon resident also teaches classes to people interested in bhangra, a traditional form of dance from the Punjab region of India.
When the pandemic hit, Pandher’s contract work with the Yukon government dried up, and he started offering his classes online. He’s up to 24 sessions per month, delivered to about 2,000 students from across Canada from his modest cabin near Lake Leberge, north of Whitehorse.
He has plenty of fans — 18,000 followers on Twitter and another 21,000 on Facebook.
Pandher is taking two months off for the summer to travel to British Columbia to visit his parents, who live in Abbotsford. His side-trip to Vancouver Island included a stop in Victoria and a visit to Long Beach.
“Interest just exploded,” said Pandher, who was born in India and moved to Canada in 2006. “COVID-19 had people feeling stressed and confused. I feel that they use dance as a great avenue to express themselves.”
Sending happiness and positivity from Long Beach, near Tofino, of Pacific Rim National Park Reserve on Vancouver Island. pic.twitter.com/UIyjbm4n6A— Gurdeep Pandher of Yukon (@GurdeepPandher) August 10, 2020
He has a pay-what-you-can policy for the classes, and sets aside 25 per cent of the proceeds for charities offering COVID-19 relief and mental health initiatives.
But he stresses that he isn’t just offering a weekly dance class.
“It’s about human connections — people across the country looking to find joy, happiness and seeking peace during these uncertain times,” Pandher said.
“I am humbled to be able to connect them with the art.”
Pandher took formal lessons in bhangra as a child. The style is lively, the moves inspired by farming. A dance he did on the lawn of the legislature on Friday had him figuratively harvesting crops and plowing the fields.
“The dance style is not only joyful, it is also a good total-body workout,” he said.
Online videos of him dancing in the snow in front of his cabin as a neighbour plays the bagpipes, and teaching sailors the dance moves at CFB Esquimalt have resulted in millions of views.
When Pandher returns home, he plans to continue connecting with the many people from across the country who have thanked him for bringing joy and hope back into their lives.
“After reading those messages, I feel that it may be the universe’s mandate for me to continue to spread joy and happiness through my dance.”