Who is Mayyas founder Nadim Cherfan and how did he set up the Lebanese dance troupe?

The choreographer helped the group land the ultimate prize on 'America's Got Talent'

The Lebanese community is buzzing after Mayyas won America's Got Talent season 17.

The dance troupe wowed judges and millions of viewers over the course of three stunning performances, taking home the $1 million prize and the chance to headline a Las Vegas show.

They're the first act from the Middle East to win the US title, and only the third non-American act to win.

It all started in 2012, when choreographer and dancer Nadim Cherfan launched his own dance classes and studios around Beirut.

Although Cherfan started dancing aged 14, going on to attend workshops in the UK, the US and India, his love for the art began when he was only 9.

He created Mayyas, which consists of more than 30 professional dancers, after deciding to apply for season six of Arab's Got Talent, which the group won in 2019. They became the first Lebanese act to do so and received a new car and a 200,000 Saudi riyal ($53,333) cash prize.

Lebanese singer Najwa Karam, who gave them her golden buzzer, which puts an act on fast track to the live shows, saw then what it took the world another three years to realise: she was in the company of stars.

“You can tell just how much work they put into it,” she said at the time.

Fast-forward to 2022 and America's Got Talent judge Sofia Vergara said something similar, giving them another golden buzzer.

Their audition on 'America's Got Talent' can be watched below

"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."

Sandwiched between these two triumphs is a less successful turn on Britain's Got Talent: The Champions, an international spin-off of the talent show on UK TV, where they were eliminated before the final round.

It took three years for them to apply for America's Got Talent as Cherfan "put my dreams aside" owing to the pandemic, Lebanon struggling with one of the world’s worst economic crises, as described by the World Bank, and the deadly port blast that killed more than 200 people.

"Like everyone else in Lebanon, I was thinking about my family and their well-being,” Cherfan previously told The National in the middle of their run on America's Got Talent. “Then I watched Nightbirde’s audition in 2021 and I was really moved."

Jane “Nightbirde” Marczewski was an 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, aged 31.

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

Cherfan and the ladies worked extra hard after that. “Every day we’re in the studio from afternoon 'til after midnight,” Cherfan said. "We only leave when the power goes off."

That hard work has paid off and now Cherfan's crew are looking at headlining a massive America's Got Talent show at Luxor Hotel in Las Vegas.

They're also proud to be role models for Arab women on an international stage.

After that dazzling audition, from the wings, one member said: "This is to represent what Arab women, Lebanese women, can do."

Mohamad Ajouz, 21, a friend of the dancers, agreed with this sentiment ahead of the finals.

“Seeing a Lebanese group on the biggest stage in the world means everything to me and all the Lebanese people," he said. "They represent what the Lebanese woman can do and what the Lebanese citizens have to offer.”

Even the name, Mayyas, "is a word in Arabic that means the proud walk of a lioness", one member told Vergara during the audition.

Ultimately, however, dancing will always remain an "escape". “Dancing is our cure," said Cherfan. “Once we’re inside the studio, nothing else matters.”

Updated: September 15, 2022, 8:09 AM