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