BEIRUT: Jurists crowned Lebanese pop singer Naya champion of dance Sunday night during the season finale of MTV’s “Dancing with the Stars.”
Naya, a young Lebanese singer whose stardom is bound to rise after her win, danced under the instruction of her partner Abdo Dalloul and a team of dance experts brought from Europe to help with the show.
“I can’t describe my feelings. Me, Nada and Rosarita are all winners tonight,” she said upon her win. “All those who participated in ‘Dancing with the Stars,’ they are stars in everything they do.”
The show paired 11 Lebanese stars – from singers and models to comedians and actors – with 11 professional Lebanese dancers. The competition has whittled down the surviving stars over the past dozen weeks based on their ballroom dance performances.
After handing over the mic, Naya jumped into Dalloul’s arms and the two celebrated with a few newly learned victory lifts.
Sunday’s two-and-a-half-hour season finale also featured guest performances by Nancy Ajram, complete with pyrotechnics and a few ballroom dance moves of her own. One of the country’s biggest names in music, Ajram quite diplomatically said that in her opinion both finalists deserved to win.
Previous episodes of “Dancing with the Stars” have welcomed guest performances by the likes of Haifa Wehbe.
Naya beat runner-up Rosarita Tawil, a brains and beauty double threat, who won Miss Lebanon in 2008 and boasts a business degree. Tawil has a background in classical ballet and hip hop that no doubt helped her make it to the final round.
Taking her loss gallantly, Tawil thanked Naya and all of the participants.
“Everyone has been so professional,” she said. “We were dancing from our hearts, not only our bodies. I consider myself a winner, and congratulations to Naya.”
“Dancing with the Stars” Lebanon was the first Arab edition of the show, one that has occupied prime-time network slots for years in the United States and in the United Kingdom under the name “Strictly Come Dancing.” The show was filmed in the giant Forum de Beyrouth exhibition space in Beirut’s Karantina district.
As in popular foreign versions of the show, “Dancing with the Stars” Lebanon was not without its fair share of celebrity drama. Halfway through the season, contestant and supermodel Mirva Kadi was forced to sit out due to an injury suffered while dancing. Kadi returned to the show by the sixth episode only to be eliminated later on.
Organizing producer Janane Mallet told The Daily Star in December that her team was pushing to create a Lebanese version of the same caliber to that of the U.S. and U.K. To make that possible, MTV recruited a group of dance experts from Europe, including Darren Bennett, a veteran of the British show “Strictly Come Dancing.”
In the closing minutes of the season finale, Bennett applauded the hype that the stars and MTV were able to garner around the show.
“I’ve been in many countries,” Bennett said, addressing the stars and a packed and screaming audience. “The way the public has embraced this show here in Lebanon has been phenomenal. All I get asked about is when is season two?”