Dancing for the sake of national unity

Gurdeep Pandher has single-handedly introduced thousands of Canadians to Banghra dancing, the Yukon and an infectious urge to smile.
 | Screencap via gurdeep.ca

It’s that time again when news organizations announce who they think did the most to influence the events of the previous year.

The most well-known of these is Time magazine’s Person of the Year, and I thought this year’s choice — U.S. president-elect Joe Biden and vice-president-elect Kamala Harris — was less than inspired. What exactly did they do, other than win an election that, considering their opponent, should never have been as close as it was? I would have waited a year to see how influential they will be.

Canadian Press, which does the same thing in Canada, did a better job by naming front-line workers as its Newsmaker of the Year for their willingness to put their health on the line during the COVID-19 pandemic.

It’s hard to argue with that, and I certainly don’t want to take anything away from these folks’ well-deserved recognition, but I would like to make a suggestion for runner-up person of the year.

If it was up to me, the honour would go to Gurdeep Pandher.

This is the guy who single-handedly introduced thousands of Canadians to Banghra dancing, the Yukon and an infectious urge to smile.

Pandher is an IT specialist by training who several years ago moved to Whitehorse, where he began offering Banghra lessons.

Banghra, for those who don’t know (and I was certainly one of them until earlier this year) is a traditional folk dancing style originating in India’s Punjab region. It features enthusiastic kicks, leaps and bends, all done to songs called boliyan that feature the irresistible beat of a double-headed drum known as a dhol.

The pandemic put a stop to Pandher’s in-person dance classes, but he quickly moved online, including a daily video post on Twitter.

My wife follows him, and the day isn’t complete until I get my daily ration of the percussive sounds of the Banghra beat.

Pandher lives in a cabin in the woods outside Whitehorse, and his videos include a stunning dose of Yukon scenery. He went on the road across British Columbia this summer, and his ability to bring the country together through dance was inspiring.

I find it impossible not to smile every time I see this grinning inspiration whirling his way across the nation’s psyche.

This daily slice of national unity can be found on Twitter at @GurdeepPandher.

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