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Kenichi Ebina is a performer that blends a myriad of elements – from martial arts, pantomime, magic – into his shows. Hailing all the way from Japan, he garnered great popularity in his appearance in America’s Got Talent, dropping the jaws of viewers with his amazing robot-style, matrix-themed martial arts dance. Receiving great praise for such a stunning performance, he climbed the ladder week after week, continuing to surprise the audience with his creative blend of multi-media and dance.

Kenichi Ebina Got Talent

As he noted before his 2nd Semi-Final performance, “I don’t consider as a dancer, so to compete I need to use my brain. I’m always thinking about my next act. I try to get inspiration from many things, and then boom, I get a new idea.” With the drive and innovative mind to create something new and different, Ebina eventually took the crown of America’s Got Talent Season 8, being chosen as the winner on September 13, 2013. The words of one of the judges, Howie Mandel has described Ebina’s raw talent best, “This is a variety show. You have the variety. You are a comedian, you are a dancer, you are a mime, you are an artist, you are a writer. You do everything.”

From winning the Apollo Amateur Night with his dance group BiTriP in 2001, to becoming the only two-time grand champion for the season through seven wins in 2006-2007, to finally remaining victorious in America’s Got Talent Season 8, Ebina has shown there is no limit to the genius of his creativity, and the efforts of his hard work. The world has had the privilege to see his performing talent on the screen, but to gain some insight into his life and thoughts since his blow-up, we have reached out to have a 1:1 brief exchange with the man himself, Kenichi Ebina.

One on One with Kenichi Ebina’s Got Talent

Kenichi Ebina Got Talent
  1. How did you go about first getting into martial arts? Also, what made you want to blend your background in dance with martial arts, and is this style popular in Japan?

Kenichi Ebina: To be honest, I’ve never formally practiced any martial arts. I merely just mimic [the moves] from many martial arts videos! As a performer, I simply like to mix many different elements into my performance, whether that be dance, martial arts, pantomime, magic, multi-media, etc. For certain areas of my performance, there are scenes where martial arts fit best in terms of flow, so that is where I began to blend them together. I think this blend of martial arts and dance is popular, not only in Japan, but everywhere around the world. I’ve seen and been to many shows that blend these two together, which demonstrates that this is a global interest.

  1. You won America’s Got Talent Season 8. Congratulations! How has your life changed ever since that?

Kenichi Ebina: Thank you very much! I’ve been doing the same thing as I have before – performing at different venues all over. I’d say the biggest change has been the places/countries I go to perform at. Additionally, my rates have gone up since (laughs). Although I am nowhere near a world star like Mr. Jet Li, when I go around to other countries for travel or performance, I do receive some recognition.

Kenichi Ebina Got Talent
  1. How difficult is it to think of new choreography mixing martial arts, media, and dance every single new performance?

Kenichi Ebina: Yes, it is very difficult to create new choreography in general, but I think mixing dance and martial arts is one of best matches to blend together because martial art is not just combat/fighting, it is a form of “art” as its name implies. It is a same type of “physical art form” much like dance. In my perspective, martial arts are no different to the various styles of dance such as ballet, jazz, hip-hop, capoeira, wushu, etc.

  1. Do you have any advice for other future dancers or martial artists that are interested in doing the same thing as you do?

Kenichi Ebina: For me, there are so many dancers and martial artists who are way much better than me. There are many performers who mix dance and martial arts, so I personally don’t think I am the best person to ask. However, everything – from art and culture – always evolves from great examples, so the best advice I could give is to watch and learn through many sources and explore the way to develop and improve yourself.

Kenichi Ebina Got Talent
  1. So many of your performances are multi-media based. Where do you draw your inspiration from for the stories? What made you want to implement multi-media into your performances?

Kenichi Ebina: I get my inspiration from everything: movies, anime, news, articles, games, daily life, dream, etc. To be honest, there are many great reasons I implement multi-media into my performances.

  • It helps to add entertainment and adds to the production value.
  • My physical dance skill is not as high as I hope, so I don’t think it’ll enough to entertain audiences for a long show that goes for 2-hours. Also, it’s tiring if I only do dancing. With multi-media, I can save my energy and stamina. In other words, I can take rests during my performance (laughs). It is the same as performing solo. You use up more stamina than performing in an ensemble / group. If I were a super skillful dancer and had more stamina, I wouldn’t even think of using multi-media, but unfortunately, that is not the case (laughs).
  • Everything including technology, culture and art has been developing throughout human history. Using multi-media is inevitable for further development. As you can see, more and more performers are using multi-media to heighten their performances.
  • In a way, with multi-media, I can balance out my weaknesses in the dancing area because the audience will be distracted by other elements shown on screen. This technique is no different to trick art. For example, when you see a white sheet with a little grey, it may stand out by itself. However, if you see it with black sheet next to it, it would look whiter.
  1. Can you give us any information on what you’ve been up to ever since America’s Got Talent – upcoming performances, shows, events, etc.

Kenichi Ebina: Oh, I’ve been doing basically the same program (performance pieces) in my show for the past couple of years with the difference that I perform at different places. Since most of audience are new and it’s their first time seeing my performance pieces live.

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