Nobahar Dadui describes joining the Cirque du Soleil family as “a little rainbow after a big storm.”
That’s because after 20 years of skating, half of that in ice shows, she was ready to give up something that had been her world since the age of three, when she first started out on roller blades in her native Iran.
“I was thinking about retiring. I mean, the skating world is great and all that, but after that length of time there’s really nothing else they can offer you, so you just kind of go ‘OK. What’s my next chapter? what’s my next move?’ Maybe doing the nine-to-five thing and see where that goes,” said Dadui, who performs the title role in Cirque’s first ice skating and acrobatic show, Crystal, playing April 18 to 22 at the South Okanagan Events Centre in Penticton.
It was in 2016, while performing at the Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, Va., that she got a message from a choreographer she worked with earlier who was casting for Crystal, asking her if she would like to audition for a part.
“I said ‘Simone, I’m 28 years old and I can’t do my triples like I used to,’ but she said ‘just send them a video of who you are,’” recalled Dadui during a telephone interview from a San Jose show stop. “And a few days later they called and said we would like you to come and do a workshop.”
She still remembers that first session.
“It was such an amazing experience, so unique, so many random things happening that I’d never seen before. Never,” said Dadui. “To be part of it, well, it made me speechless. That’s the only way to describe it. It was kind of like ‘am I actually doing this? Is this actually happening?’”
But it was true and she has been on the road playing to sold-out audiences ever since.
Working with acrobats and skaters was a steep learning curve for Dadui, requiring a different level of trust.
“I’m working with different types of guys here. I think for one thing you can’t have any fear,” she said. “You have to know every single one of these artists are professionals, they know what’s up, they know the moment they have to catch you.”
She recalled one rehearsal with straps artist specialist Jerome Sordillon that especially solidified that trust.
“It was like the third week in creation, I didn’t wear chalk on my wrist and my hand slipped and Jerome caught me by my blade and my blade scratched his face and we came down and he asked me if I was alright,” said Dadui.
The pair perform a moving courtship scene in the second act, which is one of her favourite parts of the show.
“A lot of people think that Jerome and I are together but we’re not, we’re just two really good friends that can appreciate each other and have that respect for each other and are able to show genuine love for the audience,” said Dadui, adding: “But we fall in love every time we do it.”
Her character is described by Cirque as a misfit, a girl with her head in the clouds, a dreamer looking for something more in her life a journey that one day takes her through the ice of a pond into an underwater world of self discovery.
According to Dadui, her own personality is very much similar to that of Crystal’s.
“Coming from Iran to Canada and not speaking English, being a frizzy-haired, unibrow girl that had no friends and nobody really understood my personality, same as Crystal,” she said. “I tried to fit in and it never worked. I was always like the weird one I just couldn’t be myself. It’s a beautiful reminder at the end of every show when we finish that, at the end of the day, you don’t need to search for something when you search for yourself, if you can just love yourself and put yourself first.”
That is the message she hopes the people who see the show will take home with them.
“For us, just taking in all that applause and all of the energy from the crowd, I mean, what else could you ask for? Just having that happiness and everyone is so at peace with themselves,” said Dadui. “You can tell, OK, we know what we did we came out here and gave the audience what they needed.
“Some people just need two hours away because their life may be really difficult and seeing this will maybe give them a different perspective or a different way or even a different path or journey.”
Tickets for the Penticton show are available in person at the Valley First Box Office (at the SOEC), over the phone at 1-877-763-2849 or online.