It was a win for the home team on Saturday's Arabs Got Talent grand finale.
The all-female Lebanese dance troupe Mayyas emerged out of a competitive line-up of 10 finalists to win the television talent quest, which aired live on the Dubai-based, pan-Arab broadcaster MBC.
The win, which was decided solely through television audiences SMS-ing their votes, marked the first time a Lebanese act took home the title in the competition's six-season run. In addition to instant regional stardom, Mayyas's award also comes with a new car and a SAR 200,000 (Dh196,174) cash prize.
After wowing crowds with their colourful take on Bollywood music and fashion in the semi-finals last month, Mayyas took a more traditional route for the final episode.
In a dance routine that can be best described as ‘Beirut meets Las Vegas’, the more than two dozen dancers of Mayyas were split between those wearing all green, to resemble a peacock, and those with their bodies painted in gold as they took on the roles of warrior women.
The peacocks kept it razzle dazzle, with dance moves straight out of the 1950s and 1960s, while the gilded women were front and centre with regional choreography ranging from belly dancing to hair-swaying.
The celebrity judging panel of Lebanese singer Najwa Karam, Egyptian comedian Ahmed Helmi and Dubai television executive Ali Jaber were impressed.
“I don’t mean to be in any way disrespectful to the show, but in a way you guys are bigger than this programme,” Helmi said after the performance. “By that I mean all of you are ready to take the next step and you can do great things. That was fantastic.”
Jaber concurred: "That was world class. It was very creative and it is just great to see so many wonderful talents coming from Lebanon. This shows the importance of Arabs Got Talent to the region."
It will be hard to begrudge Mayyas of their victory. Not only was their final performance entertaining, but also, more importantly, they were willing to take a risk that many of their peers had not taken.
While the other finalists were content to stick to their artistic comfort zones, Mayyas were arguably the only group to offer something different on Saturday.
Their final showing not only demonstrated the group’s wide repertoire which stretches from eastern to western dance styles, but also their keen eye for detail, from their colourful costume to the ecstatic facial expressions of the dancers.
Helmi, who as well as being a well-regarded actor is a regular host of live entertainment television programmes, said the group was ready for the small screen. "I think it will be great to have them in any of the Fawazeer Ramadan (light entertainment shows during Ramadan,)" he said. "They will be great and I would love to see them."
The two-and-a-half-hour finale featured a variety of performance styles ranging from the energetic to the emotional. When it comes to the latter, the Moroccan father-and-daughter team Duo Acrobat once again touched the crowd with a routine that heavily relied on their chemistry.
Not only was Najwa Karam moved to tears by their set, but Jaber announced before the end of the programme that MBC will support the group’s development with a cash injection of Dh150,000.
“There is an honesty to their performance that always moves,” Karam said. “It is a man and his daughter and there is total love and total trust. It is really beautiful to see.”
Other acts who took to the stage included nine-year-old Saudi dancer Layan Yaha, whose smooth mix of modern and vintage dance moves (the 1980s robot included) enchanted the crowd.
“We are really approaching the golden age of entertainment in the region,” Jaber said. “And we can see that very clearly in Saudi Arabia which is opening up. It is a place that is looking for talents like you. So I hope that you maintain your training and you keep practicing.
There were also thrills thanks to Egypt's 40-strong acrobatic crew Galhoum Gymnastics Academy and Algeria's extreme sports team Styl’ Air, who upped the ante through a mix of flamboyant flips and acrobatics that had a wary Karam burying her face in Helmi’s shoulders.
Speaking to the press after the live broadcast, MBC spokesperson Mazen Hayek confirmed that Arabs Got Talent will return for a seventh season, in addition to an optional eighth: "It will be in either the fourth quarter of 2020 or the first quarter of 2021."
For details, visit www.mbc.net