LOS ANGELES: Lebanese dance crew Mayyas may have only assembled four years ago but they have taken the world by storm — one dance step at a time. Having garnered high praise on the “America’s Got Talent” stage, the all-female group founded by Lebanese choreographer Nadim Cherfan are once again grabbing headlines for their show-stopping ethereal performances which have catapulted them to the finals.
“I felt proud. I felt scared. I felt a huge responsibility. All of these mixed feelings came at once. It was absolutely beautiful for me,” Cherfan told Arab News after the episode aired.
Where it began
Cherfan was 14 when he fell in love with the world of dance and took off to attend workshops in the UK, the US and India to perfect his craft. He was 20 when he began to teach others; his first class consisted of three girls. By 2019, he was teaching 200 students. And from those 200, Mayyas was born.
Cherfan formed the group in order to compete in the sixth season of “Arabs Got Talent.” And despite being newcomers, the group dazzled, wowing judge and Lebanese singing superstar Najwa Karam who awarded them entry to the final with her ‘golden buzzer’ and they were ultimately crowned champions.
“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,” Cherfan said in an Arab News interview at the time. “And who’s better than these gorgeous ladies to do so?”
But winning one of the most prestigious talent awards in the Middle East wasn’t enough. With success came self-inflicted pressure to do even better. “The golden buzzer, the standing ovation, the beautiful comments of the judges, and winning the title itself are challenges, because they are stress and responsibility — in those moments (all I am thinking is) ‘What’s next? How can I do better?’”
That same year, Mayyas competed in “Britain’s Got Talent: The Champions,” a spin-off of “Britain’s Got Talent,” in which the group were the only act from the Middle East to participate.
The response from the judges and audience was overwhelming. “Absolutely genius — brilliant, inventive… (I’ve) never seen a dance like this ever on one of these shows,” said judge Simon Cowell at the time.
Where it’s going
This year, Mayyas are making their mark on the international scene once again after they were awarded the golden buzzer by “America’s Got Talent” judge Sofia Vergara in June. Now, having wowed the judges (Vergara, Cowell, Heidi Klum and Howie Mandel) again this week, the dancers are on their way to the finals, set to be broadcast on Sept. 13 and 14.
They are receiving strong backing from their Lebanese fans. The Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation International launched an advertising campaign in the US with the slogan “Kermalak Ya Lebnen” — which translates to ‘For You Lebanon’ — to promote and support them.
LBCI backed Mayyas with adverts on its TV and social-media channels, and also worked with local and Arab media outlets in the US to support the campaign.
“The Lebanese people around the world have showed us huge support,” Cherfan said. “We’ve been getting tons of messages. Everybody is backing up Mayyas. Everybody is rooting for Mayyas. So I’m really thankful for the Lebanese diaspora that is being really supportive for Mayyas,” he added.
Not that Mayyas necessarily need the help, considering the acclaim they’ve garnered so far.
“Thirty-six women dancing as one,” said judge Vergara of their semi-final performance. “It’s magic.”
And the often-cynical Cowell was even more blown away, saying: “Every single one of us in this room, I promise you, is going to remember this moment. This is not just going to change your lives, and this is going to sound very dramatic, this is a performance that changes the world. It was as good as it gets. Respect.”
During his interview with Arab News, the choreographer, who estimates that he has worked with 300 Lebanese girls and women in his 17 years as a dance teacher, took his time to thank his team for their hard work.
“To all the Mayyas, all the girls, all my sisters. I would like to say for them, thank you for trusting me,” he said. “The responsibility got bigger. I hope we will be able to be up to the standard of the finale because the talents are really big this year. But the Mayyas are ready.”
- Shyama Krishna Kumar contributed to this report