Introducing YOU dance Teaching Artist Manpreet Singh Virdi
by Caroline Dickie
April 21, 2023

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Manpreet Singh Virdi with YOU dance participants. Photo by Bruce Zinger.

The National Ballet of Canada has resumed its popular YOU dance residency and national livestream for the first time since the pandemic began, hosting an extended partnership at York University to introduce students in grades four through six to the joy and expressive possibilities of dance. Students from local schools have been participating in artist-led workshops since March and, from April 17-21, will enjoy a weeklong residency with community performances and live shows by the dancers of the RBC Apprentice Programme.

This will be the first residency for YOU dance’s newest Teaching Artist, Manpreet Singh Virdi, a Toronto-based dancer, choreographer, teacher and member of the North Side Crew, the official dance team of the Toronto Raptors. We asked Manpreet for his perspective on YOU dance, community engagement and his recent move to Canada.

Why does the YOU dance programme appeal to you?

As a dance artist, I have always been inclined towards teaching and mentoring young dancers. I feel strongly that little moments or experiences can have the biggest impact on anyone’s life. YOU dance felt like a programme I wanted to be associated with because of the immense reach it has and the number of students we get to inspire. Knowing that YOU dance could help me play a small role in planting the seeds of dance and movement in young minds was an instant draw.

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Manpreet Singh Virdi with YOU dance participants. Photo by Bruce Zinger.

You are participating in the YOU dance residency at York University. What are the benefits of an extended community partnership like this?

YOU dance is a great way to engage with young students and give them a sense of what ballet is and how dance impacts all our lives. I remember as a child, I never got to watch ballet due to the lack of access to such performances back home. I can only imagine the kind of joy and the students at the YOU dance residency must feel while watching ballet – most of them for the first time.

In India, you taught dance and movement to children in underserved communities. What inspired you to do this work?

Dance as an art form in India is rapidly changing and expanding; however, access to dance classes and shows is still minimal, especially when it comes to underserved communities. Learning, watching and observing dance as an art is revolutionary; it inspires people and can be the change we wish to see in the world, which is why it’s so important that it’s inclusive and equitable. Everyone deserves education and exposure to the arts and I aspire to be part of the change necessary for this to happen.

You moved to Toronto in 2021. Why was Canada appealing for you and what were your first impressions?

Early in my life I decided to travel and train internationally. The main reason I chose Canada is because it is home to a lot of diverse cultures. Inclusivity is very important to me and being part of an accommodating environment with a general atmosphere of respect and open-mindedness is my favourite part of living here. My first impression upon moving to Canada was very positive, as I received amazing mentorship from the faculty at Centennial College, where I completed my dance studies. Having their support really motivated me to explore the opportunities for an Indian dancer in Toronto, of which there are lots! I am so grateful I chose to move to Canada and have thoroughly enjoyed my time here thus far.

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YOU dance participants. Photo by Bruce Zinger.

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