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Photo: Christian Kuntz
After Gurdeep Pandher
became a Canadian citizen in 2011, he traveled across the country, dancing bhangra with people of all faiths and finally settling in the Yukon because it reminded him most of his village in Punjab.

I liked today’s story about bringing joy through dance. I especially liked learning about research showing that differences drop away when people move in unison.

Sara Miller Llana writes at the Christian Science Monitor, “He has led firefighters and police officers to the rhythms of bhangra – a centuries-old dance that hails from the farming fields of Punjab. He has danced in front of Canada’s Parliament in Ottawa and amid crashing waves of the country’s Pacific Coast.

“But these days, Gurdeep Pandher has more fans than he ever has – by posting videos of himself dancing in the snow-covered forest behind his cabin near Whitehorse in Yukon, Canada’s northwesternmost territory.

“At this time of year, it’s not until about 11 a.m. that the sun comes out, filtering through the trees and drawing him outdoors. ‘It looks so beautiful, to me it looks just like magic,’ he says. ‘I do feel like I live in a winter wonderland.’

“On the winter solstice last month, in a bright blue sweater, an orange turban, and brown snow boots, Mr. Pandher posted a new video of himself doing what he calls a ‘happy dance’: arms raising to the sky, knees as high as they go, and the broadest of smiles. …

“Bhangra began as a farmer’s dance in Punjab to celebrate a good harvest, but it’s found its way across the globe, from trendy DJ fusions to entertainment on basketball courts of North America. Mr. Pandher has been dancing it since he was a child, and he says there’s no surprise to him that it’s caught on – for its upbeat sounds and its core value of joy.

‘If you’re dancing bhangra, and you are not happy, that is not bhangra, even if you are doing all the moves perfectly,’ he says.

“That’s why he believes his videos, one after the other, keep going viral during the pandemic, when there is so much darkness and heaviness.

“ ‘There’s a Punjabi saying that when there’s a lot of darkness, we value brightness more. And I’ve noticed that, a lot of the sort of people who never cared about watching my videos before, like lawyers, or politicians, or diplomats, are sending me messages,’ he says.

“ ‘Before maybe they didn’t feel like something light was professional, or important, but now in these difficult times they realize the importance of someone dancing to create happiness, someone who’s preaching that kindness is important, what our ancestors from centuries have been preaching.’

“He’s not the only one feeling a new buzz around bhangra. Harshjot Singh, who founded Power Bhangra with his wife in Montreal, is these days offering popular bhangra fitness classes over Zoom. It’s a physical workout, but he says it’s also the culture of bhangra that he believes keeps his students – who span Canada and even North America – signing up. ‘You have to smile, it’s just the rule of the dance. And as students learn about it, slowly and steadily, it just comes naturally.’ …

“Peter Lovatt, the author of new book The Dance Cure, says that dancing, unlike just plain fitness, has four key benefits in the realms of social, thinking, emotions, and the physical – which, fittingly, spell STEP.

“All of those areas are suffering during the pandemic, and everyone benefits from things like physical activity or disconnecting from the Internet. But there is something especially compelling about the synchrony of dance in today’s climate. ‘When people dance in synchrony, it increases how much they like each other,’ Dr. Lovatt says.”

More at the Christian Science Journal, here.

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In India, a man who saw sculptural possibilities in castaways has left behind hundreds of pieces of art in a public rock garden.

Nek Chand, an Indian artist who rose to prominence by quietly building a sprawling kingdom of folk sculptures in northern India that became one of the country’s most popular tourist destinations, died on [June 12] in Chandigarh. He was 90. …

“Mr. Chand’s life’s work, known as the Rock Garden of Chandigarh, covers several acres and is populated by rock sculptures and figures of dancing women and animals, many of them fashioned from found objects like the mudguards of motorcycles and broken bangles.

“It stands in contrast to the striking if neglected government buildings conceived by Le Corbusier, who planned Chandigarh — the capital of the states of Punjab and Haryana — in the 1950s.

“For some, the Rock Garden, which has thousands of visitors a day, is an antidote to what, with its stark Modernist buildings, is seen as something of a bureaucrat’s city. …

“Mr. Chand was born Nek Chand Saini on Dec. 15, 1924, in the village of Barian Kalan, which became part of Pakistan after partition. He was newly arrived in the city of Chandigarh just after India’s independence in 1947. He worked for the government as a road inspector, according to the Department of Chandigarh Tourism website. But, [Rupan Deol Bajaj, a retired government functionary] said, he became fascinated by found objects, including weather-beaten rocks.

“ ‘I started building this garden as a hobby’ in the 1950s, he said in an interview with Agence France-Presse in December. ‘I had many ideas, I was thinking all the time. I saw beauty and art in what people said was junk.’

“By night he slipped onto a patch of land and artfully arranged rocks and construction waste behind a barricade of empty tar drums.”

The garden was a secret for a long time. When the authorities learned about it, a debate on its future ensued. But, says the Times reporter, “a groundswell of support led to its official opening to the public in 1976.” More here.

Photo: Reuters
Nek Chand, at 76, next to one of his sculptures. He died in June at age 90.

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