Tuesday night on America's Got Talent, a troupe of Lebanese dancers called the Mayyas, which translates to "the proud walk of a lionness," wowed the judges with their creative, hypnotic Arab/alternative dance routine.
The Mayyas previously won Arab's Got Talent in 2019, and competed in Season 1 of Britain's Got Talent: The Champions. Their main inspiration, they said, was 30-year-old singer-songwriter Jane Marczewski, known as Nightbirde, a cancer patient who competed on AGT last year.
At the time, Nightbirde was given only a two percent change of survival, and in her audition, she earned a Golden Buzzer from Simon Cowell, who was moved to tears. However, Nightbirde had to drop out of the competition when the live rounds began to focus on her cancer treatment. In February, she passed away from cancer.
"I grew up watching America's Got Talent, and I was inspired by so many people, but what really got us to audition this year is Nightbirde," said choreographer Nadim Cherfan, who founded Mayyas. "When she said, 'You can't wait until life isn't hard anymore before you decide to be happy.'"
The Mayyas walked onto the stage as Nightbirde's original song, "It's OK" played in the background.
"Unfortunately, being a dancer as a female Arab is not fully supported — yet," one of the dancers said. "Us being here on the biggest stage in the world is our only chance to prove to the world what Arab women can do — the art we create, the fights we fight. … We want to show the world that we are able to stand on our feet as really strong and powerful women."
After their dance, the Mayyas received a standing ovation from all of the judges, with Howie Mandel calling it "perfection" and Heidi Klum proclaiming it "stunning."
"It was arguably the best dance act we're likely to have ever seen," added Simon Cowell, "And we are honored to have you here."
Sofia Vergara was especially impressed, though, saying, "There are no words to explain to you what we were feeling over here. It was the most beautiful, creative dancing I have ever seen! …
"I would be so honored to empower you even more in this journey, because you deserve it, and I want to be a part of this!" she continued, before slamming down on the Golden Buzzer, giving the Mayyas a one-way ticket to the live rounds.
America's Got Talent airs Tuesdays at 8:00 PM ET on NBC.
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Deena ElGenaidi's writing has been featured in Nylon, MTV News, Insider, The AV Club, and more. You can follow her on Twitter @deenaelg.