Mayyas founder on 'America's Got Talent' triumph: Everything happened in slow motion

Nadim Cherfan says the female Lebanese dance troupe are 'fighters'

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Days after captivating the judges on America’s Got Talent and securing a golden ticket to the competition’s live shows, Lebanese dance crew Mayyas are back in Beirut to put in the hours before another breathtaking performance.

“Every day we’re in the studio from afternoon 'til after midnight,” says founder and choreographer Nadim Cherfan. "We only leave when the power goes off."

The dance company caused a stir last week after "hypnotising" judges Simon Cowell, Heidi Klum, Howie Mandel and Sofia Vergara with their audition.

Although the performance was not the group’s first talent show appearance, it was the realisation of a dream that first started two years ago.

“We were supposed to audition for AGT in 2020,” Cherfan tells The National. “But then Covid happened and we were at home for the longest time, so I backed down.”

While the pandemic struck the world, Lebanon also struggled with one of the world’s worst economic crises, as described by the World Bank, and a deadly port blast that killed more than 200 people.

Quote
When it’s about art, nothing stands in your way
Nadim Cherfan, choreographer

“During that period, I put my dreams aside. Like everyone else in Lebanon, I was thinking about my family and their well-being,” he says. “Then I watched Nightbirde’s audition in 2021 and I was really moved."

Jane “Nightbirde” Marczewski is a 2021 America's Got Talent contestant who wowed judges and received Cowell's golden buzzer. The American singer had cancer when she auditioned and ultimately withdrew from the competition owing to her deteriorating health. She died in February 2022, aged 31.

“She was fighting for her life and still took to the stage to share her talent with the world,” says Cherfan. “She inspired me to take the chance to represent my country and audition, so we went for it.”

Tired and jet-lagged, the crew made it to Los Angeles after a 20-hour flight, and had to immediately get stuck into practising ahead of the show.

“When it’s about art, nothing stands in your way,” says Cherfan. “It was challenging for the girls, but they pulled through.”

The crew’s hard work and determination paid off when they received a golden buzzer from Modern Family actress Vergara, sending them straight to the live shows in August. The judges can use the golden buzzer once each during the auditions.

"There are no words to explain to you what we were feeling over here," said Vergara. "It was the most beautiful, creative dancing I have ever seen.”

Watch the full audition here:

Despite working hard for the buzzer, Cherfan describes the moment the golden confetti hit the stage as “surreal”.

“It was a dream, everything happened in slow motion,” he says.

The group’s audition went viral on social media, amassing support from all over the world. This kind of recognition gives the team “drive to keep pushing”, says Cherfan, but also makes the next phase all the more challenging.

“All eyes are on us,” he says. “Everything we’re working on now has to top everything we’ve done before. Even in my choreography, every move has to be better than the last one.”

With plenty at stake, how do the crew keep focused amid Lebanon’s deteriorating living situation?

“Dancing is our cure, our escape,” says Cherfan. “Once we’re inside the studio, nothing else matters.”

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Updated: September 07, 2022, 9:06 AM
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