“We were refugees when I was five…Neither of my parents got to pursue their dreams after the revolution got worse.”
Nobahar Dadui’s father envisioned her passion for the performing arts before she was even born. “When my mom was pregnant with me, my father had an inkling. He said, ‘Her name is going to be Nobahar. She’s going to be a figure skater/dancer/actor. She’s going to perform and go to the Olympics!’” Nobahar’s family lived in Tehran, Iran until conflict in the region prompted them to relocate to Canada: “We were refugees when I was five,” Nobahar explains. “My family had always been into theatre and dance performance. Neither of my parents got to pursue their dreams after the revolution got worse. We came to Canada. It was a way for my father to put me in skating.”
While she did not venture down the Olympic path, Nobahar has been living out her father’s prediction with an exciting performance career that blends her skating, dancing, and acting skills. The graduate of GBD’s Dance Preparation Program recently concluded a two-year performance tour in the title role of Cirque du Soleil’s acrobatic ice show, Crystal. Due to injury, Nobahar unexpectedly gave her final performance before the tour’s end. “I had two weeks left, but I couldn’t perform,” Nobahar explains.
While she won’t be back on the ice for another six to eight months, Nobahar refuses to let her injury define her story. In this interview, she shares her journey to Cirque du Soleil and how the lessons she learned along the way are shaping her response to her recent injury.
“The atmosphere was so welcoming…The teachers want you to excel.”
Before joining George Brown Dance, Nobahar danced and skated competitively and spent nine months touring across Europe with Holiday on Ice. “It was beautiful and great but you’re by yourself. You have to learn life away from your parents.” This proved to be a difficult period for Nobahar. Upon her return to Canada, she did not skate for another eight months. “We all know when you stop something it becomes very hard to get back. I got back on the ice and I could feel all the negativity in my life. I was really in a vulnerable state.”
Some encouragement from her sister, and independent film maker, inspired Nobahar to continue pursuing her passion for the performing arts. She recorded Nobahar in a one-minute performance and instructed her to let go of her expectations and judgments on the ice. “That’s what got me back into following my dreams,” Nobahar reflects.
Nobahar auditioned for several performing arts programs and decided to attend George Brown Dance. “The atmosphere was so welcoming,” she explains. “The teachers want you to excel. I had never really done well in school, and I had a fear of asking questions. I didn’t feel that at George Brown. I felt like every time I had a question, it was an opportunity to gain more knowledge.”
George Brown College further connected Nobahar to a meaningful opportunity to use her passions for dance and theatre. “I became a foster care drama teacher,” says Nobahar. “My goal was to find an outlet for the kids. I utilized everything I learned in college, and I worked with these kids and developed a program for each of them individually. It was successful for a high percentage of the kids.”
“They wanted to see character. They wanted to see artistry…I brought in everything that I learned from George Brown.”
Following her graduation from GBD, Nobahar performed for four years on the Royal Caribbean Cruise Line. Upon her return, she received a call to audition for Cirque du Soleil’s, Crystal.
“They wanted to see character. They wanted to see artistry,” Nobahar shares. “I brought in everything that I learned from George Brown: how to develop a character, how to develop a story, how to perform with intention. It became such a beautiful process.”
Performing the role of Crystal has been a special experience for Nobahar, who drew upon her own struggles to develop the character. “Crystal is lost in a world of conformity. She doesn’t know where she belongs, or who she is. She creates her own journey. It was a very parallel moment for me.”
Touring with Cirque du Soleil was a demanding and rewarding journey. Reflecting on her touring experience, Nobahar expresses: “We did six to ten shows a week, sometimes three shows a day. The show is two hours long. I love performing, but there were days that I didn’t want to go on stage because I was exhausted. Then I got messages from people who saw the show — messages that are so personal to people. They said, ‘My child is starting to skate,’ or ‘My husband passed away last year, and you helped me work through things.’ That’s what gave me the drive to give more to the audience.”
“It’s interesting how life works with different obstacles…It’s how we react that matters.”
Shortly before her final scheduled performance as Crystal in February 2019, Nobahar sustained an injury that prevented her completion of the tour. “I’ve surrounded myself with uplifting people,” Nobahar shares. “That’s been very important.”
Over the past few months, Nobahar has been drawing on the lessons she has learned about herself across her performance career to not just cope with her injury, but also thrive. Reading, journaling, traveling, and talking with a therapist have been some of the most helpful tools that Nobahar has found in her healing process. “The injury is a sign that I should start the next chapter of my life,” she says. “Not everything is a happy ending. You have to create that happy ending for yourself.”
Nobahar is moving forward with exciting coaching and mentoring opportunities. “I am working as an artistic coach with the Olympian Paul Parkinson, who is coaching upcoming junior and senior level skaters for Canada,” she shares. In addition, Nobahar is reconnecting with her passion for working with youth as she establishes a community support organization through the high school she attended in Etobicoke, Ontario.
“It’s interesting how life works with different obstacles,” reflects Nobahar. “It’s how we react that matters. I have a feeling that if I continue what I’m doing, big things will come.”
For information on GBD programs and audition dates, check our website.
Written by Victoria Campbell Windle, CBJ Communications Contributor.
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