It was a win for Syria in the latest season of Arabs Got Talent. The 20-piece dance group Sima beat out 11 other finalists by receiving the largest number of television votes.
The ensemble walked away with a new Chrysler 300C, a cash prize of 500,000 Saudi riyals (Dh490,000) and instant regional fame.
For the act that propelled them to victory, the collective, all dressed in a white shirt and black tie ensemble, produced a frenetic dance piece that involved battling for chairs over hard techno beats.
With dark, brooding lights and an aggressive soundtrack, it resembled a dystopian version of musical chairs.
The judging panel – consisting of the Lebanese pop diva Najwa Karam, the Egyptian actor Ahmed Helmy, the Saudi comic Nasser Al Qasabi and MBC Group’s TV director Ali Jaber – had nothing but praise for the collective.
“That was thrilling,” said Al Qasabi. “There was a clear storyline and concentration in executing. Bravo.”
Karam followed with similar sentiments. “You have been impressive throughout the competition,” she remarked. “This was another great performance, full of technique and drama.”
Jennifer Grout may have not completed her wonder-run with a victory, but the American’s final performance once again dazzled the panel.
Dressed in a white dress, the 23-year-old from Massachusetts performed the classic track Wahashtani by the Egyptian song bird Suad Mohammed.
“That was amazing,” said Jaber. “What you do, Jennifer, is show that not everything goes one way. It is not just us copying what is happening in the West – when it comes to art. You prove that it can also go back the other way and that real cultural exchange can occur between East and West.”
One of the crowd favourites, the Palestinian artist Mohamed Al Dairi, continued his impressive wave of creating powerful portraits through different media. With a soundtrack playing nationalistic poetry, the 26-year-old Gaza resident used two blowtorches to create an image of the former Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.
Not every finalist pulled off their performance successfully.
The acrobatic troupe Cherifian opened the final and nerves were clearly an issue for the Moroccans; one member of the near dozen collective landed roughly on the ground after a shoddy dance dismount.
In a sharp turn from the gushing praises dispensed by the judging panel throughout the evening (they have no voting rights in the final), Al Qasabi criticised the performance of the Egyptian pop group Shawarai’na. “To be honest with you, it wasn’t one of your best performances for me,” he said. “For me it lacked some focus.”
For Sima, the group’s concentration is set on building on their success.
“We now feel like we have a responsibility to fulfil,” said Fadi Shahin, one of the members, after the victory. “Our plan is to keep going, keep working and show people what we can do.”
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