Whitehorse man's bhangra dance classes go international during pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic isn’t stopping a Whitehorse man from spreading joy through dancing. Gurdeep Pandher is known for spreading his love of bhangra dance throughout the Yukon and beyond.

'It brings people together, like people from all the backgrounds,' says Gurdeep Pandher

Gurdeep Pandher at his cabin outside of Whitehorse, Yukon. (Submitted by Mark Kelly Photography)

Gurdeep Pandher is a Whitehorse man known for spreading his love of bhangra throughout the Yukon and beyond, and he isn't letting the COVID-19 pandemic stop him from doing just that.

Bhangra is a dance form that originated in Punjab, a state in the north of India. Pandher said the dance started from farmers who were looking to add some fun into their agricultural activities.

"This dance has a lot of connection with the land or with farming, and all the moves tell stories behind different farming activities."

Pandher has been dancing bhangra since he was a child, and the IT specialist by trade has been offering dance lessons in the Yukon for more than a decade.

In 2017, he even taught some of his moves to the mayor of Whitehorse, Dan Curtis, in a video that went viral.

However, all Pandher's classes stopped when when the pandemic hit — until he decided to move his passion online, offering weekly fitness classes.

In three weeks, he's taught hundreds of people from his cabin near Lake Laberge, with people logging on from small towns across Canada and even places as far away as Israel.

He said he's getting new students every week, adding that dance has a way of bringing people from all different backgrounds together, removing barriers and fears.

Watch as Gurdeep Pandher shows the CBC's Loren McGinnis how to dance bhangra:

"When people tell me, 'Oh, it made them happy, it made them positive,' that's the best I get out of it and also ...  it brings people together, like people from all the backgrounds together," said Pandher.

This positive energy, he said, is especially important now, during the pandemic. It's something he turns to, himself, in times of sadness.

"I think that being sad for a little bit is OK ... But the thing is, we need to get out of that sadness as quickly as possible for good mental health." 

Pandher is offering his classes by donation and said he is donating 25 per cent of proceeds to COVID-19-related causes, including the Yukon Hospital Foundation.

Written by Danielle d'Entremont based off an interview with Loren McGinnis produced by Kate Kyle