The Lebanese dance group known as Mayyas arrived into 2022’s “America’s Got Talent” as an absolute phenomenon. The troupe consists of 31 female dancers and their male choreographer Nadim Cherfan. Prior to the US, they had already participated in other talent shows, and were fairly well known around the world, but nowhere near as popular as their North American performance eventually made them.

As stated by Nadim himself, ‘Lebanon is not considered a place where you can build a career out of dancing. It’s hard, really hard, and harder for women.’ Hence, they’d been trying their luck in other countries and on popular stages for years at that point. This is mostly to be expected, as the country is currently going through one of the world’s worst economic crises within the last 170 years, and their religious tradition doesn’t approve of women wearing revealing costumes.

He said that he was inspired to finally muster the courage needed for taking the group to “America’s Got Talent”, thanks to one of its former golden buzzer winners – Jane Kristen Marczewski, also known as ‘Nightbirde,’ whose passage into the semi-finals was given by none other than Simon Cowell himself.

‘I grew up watching “America’s Got Talent,” and I was inspired by so many people,’ said Nadim, continuing with ‘But, what’s really got us to audition this year is Nightbirde. She said ‘We can’t wait until life isn’t hard anymore before we decide to be happy.’ Seeing the Mayyas in “America’s Got Talent” is the most beautiful feeling I’ve ever felt.’ He also started crying when talking to the girls, saying ‘Sorry guys.’

Multiple girls spoke about the group as well, saying ‘We want to show the world that we’re able to stand on our own two feet, as really strong and powerful women,’ and that the events about to unfold were their ‘childhood dreams.’ With Lebanon being a fairly small and mostly unheard-of country in the Levant, it’s understandable that the girls came to the show seeking recognition and a way to prove themselves.

As soon as the group walked out onto the stage with their identical shirts, skirts and wigs, judge Sofia Vergara blurted out a ‘Wow! Good evening! Who are you?’ The lead speaker presented the group, explaining that the very word ‘mayyas’ translates from Arabic to ‘the proud walk of a lioness’ – certainly a statement in and of itself, considering the girls’ unwavering courage to push against the confines of their culture.

After they explained their country of origin, Vergara asked ‘So how is life for you guys in Lebanon right now?’, to which the girl said ‘Lebanon is a very beautiful country, but we live a daily struggle.’ The other of the two group speakers interjected, stating ‘Unfortunately, being a dancer as a female Arab is not fully supported yet.’ She tried to keep talking for a moment, but lets out only a sigh of anxiety as she smiles and stops talking, the other girls petting her on the back and shoulders for support.

Physically shaking off her nervousness, the dancer smiled timidly as the audience applauded her courage. Sofia then asked ‘What is your dream?’, to which the dancer replied ‘Us being here, standing on the biggest stage of the world, is our only chance to prove to the world what Arab women can do. The art we can create. The fights we fight.’ Heidi Klum and Howie Mandel started applauding her with the audience, and Vergara stretched a big smile, saying ‘Do you know that, if you win, you get one million dollars?’ The dancer smiled and nodded with a ‘Yes.’

Almost prophetically hinting at a spectacular performance, or even a win in the finals, Sofia said ‘So, what are you going to do? I think I know, but…’ The other speaker then stated a mysterious ‘We’re going to try to hypnotize you.’, which instantly confused Vergara. She was expecting them to dance, but now the group was hinting at some sort of hypnotic ritual. The Colombian judge let out a perplexed ‘Huh?’ with a face to match the statement, but accepted whatever was about to happen soon after, saying ‘Okay, we are ready to get hypnotized!’

The girl then asked the judges to get close to each other and sit together in a tight formation, so that they could, in her words, ‘get the best experience.’ This was requested due to the group’s unique performance, which was invented by Nadim and aimed at a singular frontal perspective. This way, the long train of girls standing behind one another will seamlessly blend into one figure, with 31 pairs of arms and legs.

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The Mayyas’ unique one-body performance dazzled the crowd and the judges to the rhythm of Middle Eastern-themed music, with dazzling portrayals of mythological and real-life creatures, such as snakes, eyes, and even Shiva with his many arms – the head Hindu deity. What made them stand out the most was the unprecedented co-ordination combined with particular use of limbs in order to create living, breathing shapes that are much bigger than the girls themselves. Watching the lead dancer expand and contract dozens of limbs from the very center was indeed hypnotizing.

As the dance finished and the crowd stayed on their feet clapping and screaming in excitement, all four judges were following suit, with Heidi and Simon both uttering simply ‘Amazing.’ Sofia Vergara then excitedly proclaimed ‘There are no words to explain to you what we were feeling over here. It was the most beautiful creative dancing I’ve ever seen.’

Howie’s comment followed Sofia’s as he stated ‘You know, you said you’re going to hypnotize us, and when we sat here, and we watched the movement, and the perfection, and the amount of time and effort that went into that, we were hypnotized by what you did.’

Impressed Heidi agreed with Howie, saying ‘I wanna thank you for giving us a little glimpse of your culture, which is so beautiful. It was just stunning, and I love all of you. I really do.’ Of course, as is customary, Simon’s comments meant the most to the participants. Their faces lit up as the speaking order got to him.

Simon said ‘This really, really will make a difference. Full stop. In so many positive ways. That’s one part. And then, it was, arguably, the best dance that we’re likely to have ever seen, and we are honored to have you here. Thank you so much.’

With the judges’ opinions concluded, Vergara proclaimed ‘It’s time for us to vote, but I wanna say something first. I would be so honored to empower you even more in this journey, because you deserve it.’ The girls smiled at Sofia’s words of support, taking them as another kind comment. They apparently had no idea what was going to happen next.

With the sentence ‘And I wanna be part of this!’, Vergara raised her right hand and slammed it down onto the golden buzzer, honoring the troupe with their second achievement of this type, and propelling them straight into the semifinals.

The girls were ecstatic, hopping with joy and hugging one another, some of them crouching to pick up a few of the massive golden confetti that came out of the ceiling, and probably take home as a memento. Sofia went onto the stage to give them the customary golden buzzer hug, saying ‘Thank you! That was so amazing!’

They were interviewed in the pocket next to the stage about the achievement, to which one girl said ‘This is to represent what Arab women, Lebanese women are capable to do. This is a life-changing experience for us.’ Finally, Nadim opened the door and the whole group rushed outside the building to celebrate. The entire video of their audition was, of course, sprinkled with random segments of Nightbirde’s original song “It’s Okay,” which she performed in the audition that inspired Cherfan to pursue his dreams on the big stage.

The Mayyas in the semifinals

As is customary for all participants entering the semifinals, especially golden buzzer winners, the Mayyas had to step up their game and outdo their previous performance, which seemed like a very difficult task to most viewers. Of course, with years of experience as a choreographer, Cherfan was sure not to disappoint.

Their act started in a shape considered impossible for 31 girls to blend into – a golden tree in a teal forest. The tree then begins breathing slowly, eventually disintegrating into the pieces that come back together to form a giant snake, and then multiple snakes, before reverting to the original shape, with the tree then having blossomed.

This was evidently a new level of performance by the group, and the crowd couldn’t have been more pleased. All four judges also stood up to show their respect for the talent, while the actual broadcast of their act was never interrupted by shots of the judges’ faces or the crowd, which is almost unprecedented in the entire history of the show, and yet it was absolutely necessary so as to display the entirety of the mesmerizing performance as it’s meant to be viewed.

Mayyas dazzled the jury of America's Got talent with its outstanding performance!Watch the rerun of the full episode of the semi-final with Arabic subtitles at 8:45 pm on LBCI, our website and app and Apple TV

Posted by LBCI Lebanon on Wednesday, September 7, 2022

The final spectacle

The Mayyas went all out for their final performance, transforming the entire dancing crew into a single woman with a massive dress. Due to the lights being projected onto the individual gigantic rows of feathers held by the girls, the shadows were invisible, giving the impression that all of the feathers are actually fused.

The feathers eventually opened up and the girls switched to holding shining balls of light that perfectly reflected their coordination, eventually ending the dance with a group pose that resembles a lit-up Christmas tree. The crowd again went wild – this performance won them “America’s Got Talent.”

The Mayyas in Lebanon

Following their prestigious $1 million win, as well as the contract to headline the “America’s Got Talent” shows in Las Vegas, Nevada, the group and Cherfan were honored by the very leader of their country as well. Lebanese president general Michel Aun expressed his joy and respect for the group, awarding every member the coveted Lebanese Order of Merit.

The general said that ‘Mayyas victory in the most important international talent program is a source of pride for the Lebanese people. Congratulations to the young women of Mayyas, their coach, and all of the officials of this troupe. Thank you for your efforts and creativity because you planted hope and light in all our hearts.’

Many other celebrities also spoke up about the troupe’s victory, such as the prime minister of Lebanon Najib Mikati saying that ‘Lebanese creativity shines.’ Well-known Lebanese pop singer Elissa stated ‘Congratulations Mayyas, proud, proud, proud.’ Even the Lebanese military stressed in a statement that ‘the army command congratulates the Mayyas group, its trainers and members, on winning “America’s Got Talent.”

Nadim’s origins

It’s pretty clear that everything the Mayyas do on stage has to be thoroughly practiced first, but before that, also thought up by Nadim. It’s no surprise, then, to find out that he’s been dedicated to dancing since the age of 14, but not to the pleasure of his parents. When he abandoned school to study dancing, his mother and father withdrew all of their financial support, hoping to make his life unlivable and get him to give up art.

However, Nadim stayed strong and followed his dream. He was already a dance teacher by the age of 20, and as 2019 rolled around, he found himself teaching more than 200 pupils. He picked the cream of the crop out of his flock of students, and called that group Mayyas, hoping to take his vision to the world, and also help Lebanese women really shine on the world stage.

Thanks to his ingenious dance ideas, the group won a golden buzzer in its first ever competition, during the sixth season of “Arabs Got Talent,” thanks to the Lebanese ultra-famous vocal artist Najwa Karam, who was one of the judges at the time. The group breezed through the semi-finals, and won the entire show. This was their first and only full win before “America’s Got Talent.” They also participated in “Braitan’s Got Talent,” but didn’t achieve a complete breakthrough there.

When asked about his choice for the dancers, Nadim said ‘I chose a female crew because I wanted to deliver a message about female empowerment, as we all know that, even today, Arab women are still called names for being dancers. I wanted to prove how elegant refined and beautiful dancing is,’ ending with the question ‘and who’s better than these gorgeous ladies to do so?’

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