I first met Amar Dhillon in 2017. She came to me after finalizing a divorce from a verbally abusive relationship. Her confidence in herself was shattered because of what she had gone through, but she had always wanted to know how to dance.
Ballroom dancing was a difficult thing for her to take on. Not only because of the confidence issue, in which constantly being told for years that she couldn’t do anything right made her doubt everything she did. It was also hard for cultural reasons. She told me that in the culture she had grown up in, the concept of dancing in close contact with someone you weren’t married to was very controversial. So not only was she fighting her brain that was telling her everything that was wrong, but also the constant questions in her head about whether this activity was “right” to even be doing!
Over time, she was not only able to gain confidence in herself, but she boldly embraced dance, attending classes and dances across the region and even beyond. Amar became an excellent dancer, able to take on and learn complex figures easily. She went out social dancing constantly, preferring to dance with men who knew what they were doing so that she could be free to perform to the full extent of her abilities.
Sadly, Amar Dhillon died suddenly and unexpectedly during a social dance event on Saturday, February 10, 2024. We don’t have a cause of death at this time, but it seems likely that she suffered an aneurysm.
There was a huge height difference between us, but I’ve danced with other ladies much shorter than me so that wasn’t an issue. She was intelligent, gracious, and able to pick up many technical aspects of dance very quickly. Others, not so much. We spent many weeks on heel turns and the Double Reverse Spin! She had a highly analytical mind that was always trying to break every action down to minute details, attempting to understand every little thing. Some figures can only be understood by letting the body be free to move through them, adding to her challenge. But she persevered and eventually mastered even difficult figures.
We were in our lessons to talk about dance, so I didn’t know a whole lot about her life. I learned that she had spent time in Dubai and a number of years in Whitehorse, Yukon, where she had worked in a high-level administrative capacity. That setting gave her an appreciation of nature.
Mostly, she shared her passion for dance by talking to me about things she had seen or heard and wanted more clarity. She would constantly send over articles and video clips, with intelligent questions about them or wanting clarification on concepts expressed.
The pandemic lockdowns didn’t stop her from studying the craft. In the summer of 2020 she wanted insights on a video interview with Derek Hough of Dancing With the Stars, in which he talked about picking different instruments or beats in the music to decide what he would dance to. She said in a text message, “I would like very much if you could please demonstrate for me how that would work. It intrigues and fascinates me.”
She told me in May 2021 that she was catching up on Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire movies, referring to them as “simple stories with amazing dancing.” A little while later she told me that she had just read “The Dance Cure” by Dr. Peter Lovatt and shared some of her thoughts. Even when dance was shut down, she would not let that barrier shut down her passion for it.
In April 2023 she had the opportunity to attend the Viennese Waltz festival in Austria. She had looked forward to this for months. She said it was “a dream of mine to witness that live in Vienna.” She loved to travel and spent the past couple of years getting in as many trips as she could. Wendy told me that when she would ask Amar how she’s doing, the answer would be, “I’m living my best life.”
Amar exuded integrity, warmth and positive energy, and was exceptionally gracious. Every time we met, she would ask me how I was and it wasn’t just something she said. She really listened to my response, alert to how I answered. If something seemed to be on my mind, she would pick up on it right away and ask me if I wanted to expand on it.
The morning of her death, I partnered with her for a Viennese Waltz class and we talked about the blog post I had written about how dance tends to carry humanity through challenging times. After class she texted, “Thought provoking blog! Human resilience, I believe, is unfathomable but how one emerges out of a calamity and deals with the aftermath depends on one’s intrinsic personality. That’s not to say there aren’t any lasting side effects.” She concluded by adding, “Learning to dance certainly sustained me during a difficult period.”
Amar, you will be missed.
Update: A Celebration of Life will take place on Saturday, February 24 starting at 6:00PM at McKee House, 5155 47 Ave, Delta, BC V4K 0A2. McKee House has asked that you RSVP by Tuesday Feb 20 if you plan to attend. You can phone 604-946-1411.