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North Van artist helps spread the joy with portrait of Bhangra-dancing sensation

Artist Emily Rubin, who was inspired by a Bhangra-dancing Yukoner’s message of joy, has been getting some of those good vibes returned after thousands of people responded to her artwork posted on social media.
Gurdeep of Yukon Bhangra dancer
Artist Emily Rubin created this portait of Bhangra-dancing Gurdeep Pandher in response to the word "joy."

A North Vancouver artist who was inspired by a Bhangra-dancing Yukoner’s message of joy has been getting some of those good vibes returned after thousands of people responded to her artwork posted on social media.

Like many other people, Emily Rubin of North Vancouver first noticed the Bhangra-dancing videos posted by Yukoner Gurdeep Pandher during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I immediately thought, what an amazing person,” she said. “In the middle of COVID, people were sort of sort of down in the dumps. And he was trying to cheer people up with some happy dances. And then he just suddenly blew up. Everybody loved him.”

Pandher is happy to hear that kind of reaction. The former school teacher and government worker has been creating inspirational and instructional videos daily from his Yukon cabin since the beginning of the pandemic.


Prior to COVID, his Bhangra dancing was more of a hobby, said Pandher.

But these days, sending messages of joy and positivity to soothe a stressed-out world has become a full-time occupation.

His dancing videos are intended to offer some happiness and positivity, he said.

Rubin said that’s definitely something she’s appreciated.

Videos 'make me smile' says artist

“Every time I see one of his videos, that makes me smile,” she said.

Rubin, who grew up in Lynn Valley, has recently been on her own artistic journey.

“I’ve been drawing since I could hold a pencil,” she said and her dream while growing up was to be an artist.

After studying art at Capilano University, she illustrated children’s books as well as producing art for a TV show and food packaging illustrations.

But when her kids were born, Rubin said she put her art on hold to be a full-time mom.

Rediscovering passion for art

Now her kids are older, Rubin said she’s working on getting back to her passion for art.

“I decided I needed to inspire myself by getting some smaller quicker pieces done by doing some digital illustrations on my iPad,” she said, ­ using word prompts to inspire a daily creation.

When the word “joy” came up, “The first thing that popped into my mind was Gurdeep and his dancing.”

Rubin said she searched through Pandher’s videos until she found a pose she thought would work, and got busy drawing on her iPad.

When she was finished, Rubin emailed Pandher the picture, which he posted on his social media channels.


15,000 people have 'liked' portrait

About 15,000 people have so far responded to the digital painting, said Pandher, who frequently receives handwritten letters and artwork from people in response to his videos.

So far, he’s been keeping those in his wilderness cabin, but “In the long run, maybe I’ll create a book or an exhibition of everything I’ve received,” he said.

Getting and sharing response to his Bhangra videos helps create further joyful connections, said Pandher.

Pandher said while he’s never met Rubin, he’s visited North Vancouver and loves the North Shore. “I’ve been to Lynn Canyon bridge,” he said. “This is a beautiful corner of our country. So I'm sending my good vibes and my best wishes from the North to North Vancouver.”

Rubin said she’s also got a kick out of the responses to her painting, and keeping the happy vibes flowing. “Everybody has just said how joyous it is. And that was really cool, because nobody knew when he posted it, that the word ‘joy’ was what I used to base this on,” she said. “So the fact that so many people said how much joy it conveyed means that I did a good job with that word that day.”