Yukon Bhangra dancer Gurdeep Pandher delights Canada's capital

Yukon Bhangra dancer Gurdeep Pandher spent time in Ottawa to spread “joy, hope, and positivity” with his Punjabi folk-dance moves, and encourage people to get vaccinated. 

Pandher spreads 'joy, hope, and positivity', encourages vaccinations on his tour

Gurdeep Pandher usually dances in the Yukon but this past week, Pandher brought his moves to Ottawa. (CBC Arts)

He's brought light and a lift to a COVID-19 weary Canada with his viral dance videos, and this week Bhangra dancer Gurdeep Pandher brought his ebullience to the country's capital.

Pandher, a dancer and teacher based in Dawson City, Yukon, has gained a massive social media following thanks to his YouTube videos and social media posts.

This week, he danced through Ottawa from Parliament Hill to the banks of the Ottawa River, the Rideau Canal, the Rideau Canoe Club and the Canadian Geographic Society.

Pandher even headed outside the Greenbelt to dance with horses on a farm in Ashton, Ont., though only some of the herd seemed to pay attention.

Pandher had better luck teaching Bhangra moves to staff at the children's hospital and the Ottawa Redblacks on the football field at Lansdowne Park.

"Some people are able to pick it up so quickly. For some people, it takes time," Pandher said in an interview with CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning.

He says his goal is twofold: spread "joy, hope, and positivity" with his Punjabi dance moves, and encourage people to get vaccinated. The feedback he gets from fans fuels his dancing.

"It's not only digital messages. They write me so many handwritten beautiful letters all the way to my cabin in the Yukon. I've received sketches and drawings. Someone from Newfoundland and Labrador sent me a rug hooked by hand. People send … crochet work. It touched me a lot," he said. 

Gurdeep Pandher dancing on Kathleen Lake in Yukon's Kluane National Park and Reserve. (CBC Arts)

Pandher learned Bhangra dancing by watching his parents and relatives dancing the folk dances of Punjab. As a teenager, he started taking lessons from a professional teacher.

Now, he uses the power of the Internet to teach others. His joyful dancing has also been an emotional antidote to the stresses of COVID-19. 

"It's not just social media. People are reaching out personally and telling me this joy and hope and positivity that I'm spreading is helping them a lot," said Pandher, who immigrated to Canada in 2006.

"When we are very thirsty and then drink, or when there is a long, dark night and we see the sunrise, we appreciate it. When there's been sadness, gloominess and stress going on and [then] there's something which is joyful and positive? I think people connect with that."

Montreal will be Pandher's next stop on this tour.

With files from CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning