Trained to cook but destined to dance
Although she studied to become a chef, Farah Dawood's passion for dance never faltered.
Many people take up dance as a side hobby. But for Farah Dawood, 33, dance is her life. It was even something she was willing to sacrifice a place in university to pursue.
“My parents were mad, but they kind of understood. They said if you are going to do this, you make sure you can succeed. Show us this is your career choice and that you are going to stick to it,” she said, recounting her parents’ reaction when she pulled out of National University of Singapore (NUS) to pursue dance commercially.
Farah grew up in a musically inclined family. Her mother, who is a piano teacher, exposed her to music and dance from a young age.
“One day, she took me to see a ballet by the Singapore Dance Theatre, and from that day, I told her I wanted to do ballet,” recalled the dancer.
Her mother was quite reluctant initially because Farah had given up on piano and violin classes before. However, after seeing her persistence, her mother signed her up for ballet lessons when she was 8.
As her love for dance grew over the years, so did her exposure to different genres. After pulling out of a confirmed place in NUS, Farah trained with a group called The Crazy Children under dance veteran Ryan Tan. He later helped her get her first teaching job conducting jazz classes at a fitness centre, which began her journey as a dance instructor.
However, her parents were still concerned about her future. Following her mother’s advice, Farah made a difficult decision: she took two years off dance to study the culinary arts at At-Sunrice GlobalChef Academy.
“There was an inner struggle with the question: ‘Am I doing the right thing to divert my attention away from my first love, and could I still go back to dance at the same proficiency that I was at previously?'” she recalled.
While pursuing her two-year culinary arts course, Farah’s passion and love for dance never faulted. She continued performing and teaching dance, despite having little sleep each night.
“I was basically doing two careers at one shot. It kind of backfired, but it made me realise how much I loved dance. After I graduated, I went back straight into dance and made this my priority,” she said.
Convinced that dance was her future, Farah took a leap of faith in 2012 and started a dance and entertainment company, Ishtar Bee, with her best friend, Nor Dee Dee. The opening of the studio was the turning point for her parents.
“They realised we were putting our roots down and not jumping from job to job. We were planning a future,” she said. Convinced of her determination to dance, her parents even offered to cover the renovation costs of the studio.
Four years since the opening of her dance studio, Farah is now juggling three companies. Ishtar Bee, Bantus Capoeira Singapore and Singapore School of Samba. She currently teaches Jazz, Samba and fitness classes at her dance studio, which she runs with her best friend and also her husband.
“Besides furthering the growth of my companies and improving my dance, I want to be able to host an international Samba competition here in Singapore within the next few years,” she said.