Mayyas will use 'Arabs Got Talent' cash prize to set up its own dance studio

Dance group leader Nadim Cherfan says the group will begin looking for a permanent home in Beirut

Lebanese dance company Mayyas has won season six of 'Arabs Got Talent'. Picture courtesy of MBC
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The Arabs Got Talent crown is not so much a victory for Mayyas but a statement of intent.

Speaking to the press not long after the Lebanese dance company, which numbers over two dozen, was voted as the winner of the sixth season of the television talent show, group leader and choreographer Nadim Cherfan said he wanted the victory to be a rallying cry for the Lebanese artistic scene.

The fact that they are the first Lebanese act to win the competition is not lost on him.

“This is definitely something, of-course, that we are all very proud about. With Lebanon being a small country and with a small population comparing to others, this proves to us that many people from all over the Arab world voted for us because they liked what we presented,” he says. “This shows that it is our art that made us win and nothing more. We are very proud of that.”

But it is the critics closer to home that Cherfan hopes Mayyas’s victory can inspire. While he is happy at the support provided from the Lebanese authorities, which included the setting up of a special hotline that allows local television voters to cast their vote, he said more help is needed in changing the attitudes towards dance within the country.

“What is lacking here is the support of families and the people that are close to you,” he said. “Some parents still think that dancing is not a career and that it cannot take you big places. They can’t see the fact that dancing is really beyond all these things. Dancing is life and it is something that is really beautiful.”

Originally formed as series of dancing classes seven years ago and held in various spots in Beirut, Cherfan says his school grew steadily over the years to include a number of age groups spanning male and women.

The decision to take part in Arabs Got Talent with an all-female team was not just due to the excellence available to him, but to prove a point to the wider region.

“I mean, to be honest, I still think that many people in the region are not comfortable or used to seeing women perform dance on stage or in television,” he says.

“We wanted to do that but in an artistic and refined way. I wanted to show people how much effort, hard work and sacrifice it takes to achieve such a performance. And I want to thank each and every one of the girls individually for their hard working and putting up with me.”

Not that Christelle Fakhri minds. Speaking to The National, The 24-year-old Beiruti and Mayyas dancer said all the hard work was worth it.

“We were preparing for five months just to get ready for the audition phase,” she said. “We had a couple of classes a week, mostly on Fridays. Yes, it was hard but it was a lot of fun at the same time.”

With the group boasting a large number of dancers and with ages ranging from 13 to 25 years of age, Fakhri describes Mayyas as a family with Cherfan as leader. She describes his management style as flexible.

“He is a teacher first and foremost,” he says. “We learn a lot for him. He is very knowledgeable and he is also precise. He treats us we are his sisters and this where the family atmosphere of Mayyas comes from.”

Cherfan said he now plans to cement that group spirit, literally. He plans to use to the winner’s cash prize of SAR 200,000 (Dh196, 174) to set up a permanent Beirut dance studio for Mayyas.

He says the group will not rest on their laurels. After a few days break, classes will swiftly resume.

"I only view Arabs Got Talent as the beginning. And this doesn't apply just to us as winners but to everyone who took part in the show" Cherfan said. "The programme opened the door to all of us who took part and it's now time for all of us to work hard and continue on our path."