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Lebanese Cheer As Their Dancers Win America's Got Talent

PARIS, France - The news of a Lebanese dance group winning the TV competition show America's Got Talent brought a rare moment of joy on Thursday to many in this crisis - hit Mideast country.

Mayyas, an all-female dance troupe, dazzled the show's judge and audience on the competition's 17th season before winning $1 million and a headlining show at the Luxor Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. The group paid tribute to their native country during their performances and on social media in the buildup to the finale.

The victory is a major boost for any aspiring artist. But inside Lebanon, where the political leadership is scrambling to overcome years of economic and political turmoil, there was a high-profile rush to congratulate the dance troupe.

Caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati and a handful of lawmakers congratulated Mayyas on social media, while President Michel Aoun's office in a statement said the Lebanese head of state will award the dancer Order of Merit medallions upon their return home.

In their hypnotic winning performance in the finale, Mayyas dressed in gold-colored outfits, as they fluttered in sync on stage in a performance that brought together traditional belly-dancing and inspiration from India, the United States, and the United Kingdom, where their choreographers attended years of dance workshops.

Holding white feathers, they formed flowing snow-covered cedar tree, Lebanon's national symbol, before they swayed together holding glowing balls like a moving constellation of stars.

Lebanese, who have been in the grip of the ongoing crises for years, found a rare moment of pride and joy in their country.

'I am among Lebanese citizens who over the past three years went through severe financial, psychological, and social crises', Marie Ziyade, a fan of Mayyas, told The Associated Press. 'I have always had hope in the people of my country, but Mayyas brought me joy'.

Lebanon's crippling economic crisis had pushed three-quarters of its population into poverty and resulted in a massive brain drain of young professionals leaving the country for better job opportunities abroad.



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