When Lia Fallah moved from Iran to Canada with her mother, Zohreh, in 2011, she joined the wave of newcomers making Canada home. Over 80% of new Canadians hail from Asia and the Middle-East adding to Canada’s diversity and cultural vibrancy and making Canada the perfect place to share and experience a wide array of dance, theatre, music and other cultural arts. But Lia and Zohreh weren’t content to just bask in the light of Canada’s already vibrant arts scene, they put their hearts, minds, and energy together to create something that would help others experience Persian culture firsthand.
Lia never danced while living in Iran but she was involved in theatre and was heavily influenced and mentored by her mother in the years before Anahita was born.
“My mom has a background in theatre both for adults and children. She writes, directs, and acts in her plays herself too which has given her the ability to choreograph my dances,” Lia said. “She looks at my dances from an audience’s point of view which is a huge benefit for me.”
As her skills improved, Lia joined the Azeri Dance Group and quickly developed into a competent dancer who won the attention and admiration of friends, family, and acquaintances. After three months of dancing, Lia’s mom choreographed her first solo dance for a Cancer Awareness event and eventually, after many performances the first seeds of Anahita began to bloom.
“We decided to perform a Persian Dance for the Canadian-Iranian Foundation’s Norooz event. So I asked my friends from school and my brother to come and prepare a dance for all of us together,” Lia said. We had dances from all Iranian cultures–Gilaki, Azeri, Kurdish, Bandari, Lori, etc.”
Over a thousand people were in the audience and the performance was so impressive that the Canadian-Iranian Foundation invited Anahita to perform again.
A Thousand and One Eyes
After the group performance for Norooz, Anahita grew to five members– Matissa Hamkar, Parmida Ardeshiri, Sarina Minaei, Farnaz Heidary, and Lia Fallah with both Lia and her mother, Zohreh, serving as directors of the group. Anahita was on a mission—reach more people so that they too could experience Persian culture firsthand.
And as a result of that mission, Anahita has did a musical theatre performance in Vancouver for International Women’s Day about 1001 Night Tales (Scheherzade) and the group has collaborated with Polish, Indian, Chinese, Persian, and Afghan performing arts communities.
“It’s important to share our culture with everyone because Canada gives us this opportunity to be completely ourselves and live freely,” Lia said. “Not only do we all learn about each other’s differences but at the end we are all united.”
It’s that global sense of unity that inspires and motivates Lia as she and her mother, Zohreh, continue their mission to share Persian culture with Canada. Lia says that it is dance that allows her to connect with others so freely.
“I would say dancing chose me first and then I chose dancing,” Lia said. “It gave me confidence when I needed it the most, allowed me to connect to different people from different background, and it’s a language that doesn’t require words to talk rather we hear each other’s senses and feelings.”