Last year on America’s Got Talent, 30-year-old singer-songwriter Jane Marczewski, aka Nightbirde, a cancer patient who at the time had been given her only a 2 percent chance of survival, moved judge Simon Cowell to tears and earned his Golden Buzzer with her optimistic original ballad, “It’s OK.” While the Golden Buzzer had fast-tracked her straight to Season 16’s live shows, when those rounds began two months later, Nightbirde made the tough decision to drop out of the competition to focus on her cancer treatment; in February of this year, she tragically lost her cancer battle.
This week, a dance troupe of Lebanese women called Mayyas auditioned for AGT, citing the brave and resilient Marczewski as their chief inspiration — and in process, they honored Nightbirde by earning a Golden Buzzer of their own.
“Lebanon is not considered a place where you can build a career out of dancing. It’s hard, really hard — and harder for women,” choreographer Nadim Cherfan, who founded Mayyas to provide a “safe and creative space” for these talented dancers, told host Terry Crews backstage. “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, when she said, ‘You can’t wait until life isn’t hard anymore before you decide to be happy.’”
Living up to their name, which means “the proud walk of a lioness,” the Mayyas members then strutted onto the AGT stage as Marczewski’s “It’s OK” played in the background. As they told Simon and the other judges of their “daily struggle” back home, some of them visibly teared up beneath their beaded veils. “Unfortunately, being a dancer as a female Arab is not fully supported — yet,” one of them emotionally explained. “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.”
Mayyas proceeded to amaze the panel and live audience with their intricate, super-precise alternative/Arabic dance routine, which earned a four-way standing ovation from the judges. Howie Mandel called it “perfection,” Heidi called it “stunning,” and Simon told them, “It was arguably the best dance act we’re likely to have ever seen, and we are honored to have you here.”
The troupe was clearly on the way to receiving four enthusiastic yeses from the panel, but then an especially enthusiastic Sofia Vergara interjected, gasping, “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! … And 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!” With that, Sofia slammed her Golden Buzzer, then ran onstage to celebrate with Mayyas as they were showered with slow-motion confetti — and “It’s OK” played once again.
This wasn’t the first time Mayyas had experienced this sort of golden glory. In 2019, they earned the Golden Buzzer on Arab’s Got Talent, which they later won; that same year, they represented Lebanon on Season 1 of the international all-stars spin-off Britain's Got Talent: The Champions. (If Simon remembered them from their brief run on that show, which would seem likely given their unique style, he played dumb on AGT this week.) But as the first Lebanese/Arab dance crew to ever appear on AGT, Mayyas nevertheless made history Tuesday.
“Seeing the Mayyas on America’s Got Talent is the most beautiful feeling I have ever felt,” declared Nadim, while Simon told the dancers, “This really, really will make a difference, full stop, in so many positive ways.” Nightbirde would definitely be proud of these lionesses.
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