Kenichi Ebina's Got Talent!

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Kenichi Ebina is a self-taught dancer, performance artist, choreographer, and winner of America’s Got Talent: Season 8. He fuses freestyle, hip hop, martial arts and ethnic jazz, also incorporating illusions and digital theatrics into his show-stopping act, which earned him the prestigious “Showtime at the Apollo” dance title in 2007. Tokyo Journal’s Executive Editor Anthony Al-Jamie talked to Ebina after his one-man show at Pechanga Resort & Casino in California about life since winning America’s Got Talent, and his plans for the future. 

TJ: What have you been doing since winning America’s Got Talent?
EBINA: Pretty much the same as before, but now I’m busier! I’m doing a lot of shows but mostly short performances – like guest appearances, that kind of thing, and at the same time I have been preparing for my one man show.

TJ: As a contestant, what did you do, and how did you keep your focus?
EBINA: Basically I focused on my promotion. I think the reason why I won, or one of the reasons, is that I made a great impact in the audition. A lot of contestants were doing similar performances [and not standing out]. Like if you’re juggling, it’s just juggling and that’s all. I tried to present not just a dance, but a whole show and to give something different each time. People get bored, so I needed to showcase different aspects of different styles. I think that worked out very well, and people realized that I’m not only a performer or dancer, but also a director and producer. 

TJ: So are you getting enough attention from Japan?
EBINA: Yes, a lot. Before AGT, I didn’t have much work in Japan – most of my work was in the States and other countries. After AGT, somehow I became really big news in Japan. Now I’m more recognized, and I’m getting a lot of gigs, which is good.

TJ: Do you want to do your own production?
EBINA: Right now, I’m not planning to. I’m basically just taking inquiries, like for guest performances. For the full show, I do the production, but not in the sense of funding it or hiring staff.

TJ: So you produce it from an artistic standpoint, but not from a business standpoint? So, do you want to have your own show in Vegas at some point?
EBINA: Yeah. Definitely in the future. Of course, Vegas is very different from all other places. Before I go, I need to kind of pin down and brush up my show. For instance- Vegas is all about entertainment, but what I do also has some theatrical aspects, which may not work in Vegas. That’s something I have to explore. 

TJ: I just came from Vegas actually, and I just saw a bunch of shows - all of them have some theatrics coming into them these days, don’t you think?
EBINA: But mine’s more visually theatrical. For example the kind of animal piece that I did is more theatrical, artistic in a way, and I don’t know whether that would work.

TJ: Ah, in Vegas they’re not patient enough for it, they want something flashy all the time?
EBINA: I don’t know. Maybe people will like it. In the theaters, a lot of people actually like that piece; they say it’s more touching. 

TJ: It must be very difficult to come up with new content.
EBINA: Yeah, actually it’s not like creating or inventing new stuff all the time. It’s more a case of coordinating: putting a lot of stuff together. That’s my strength I think.

TJ: Are you planning on doing anything for the Olympics?
EBINA: Hopefully! I want to, but I don’t know - it’s up to the committee… tj

The complete article can be found in Issue #275 of the Tokyo Journal. Click here to order from Amazon.

Written By:

Anthony Al-Jamie

Anthony Al-Jamie lived and worked in Japan for over 20 years. His in-depth understanding of Japanese language and culture has allowed him to carry out interviews with many of the most renowned individuals in Japan. He first began writing for the Tokyo Journal in the 1990s as Education Editor, later he was promoted to Senior Editor, and eventually International Editor and Executive Editor. He currently serves the Tokyo Journal as Editor-in-Chief.


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