[From February Issue 2014]
Director of Ebina Performing Arts
“I am not very good at dancing,” says EBINA Kenichi. “Generally, in terms of dance, Caucasians and black people cut a better figure. I thought I wouldn’t make it because I’m Asian and short,” says Kenichi who, in September 2013, danced his way to winning the famous American talent show “America’s Got Talent,” taking home one million dollars in prize money.
Ebina was born in Tokyo in 1974. He wasn’t especially fond of dancing. Because he had a friend that liked to dance, he would dance with him and they’d go to clubs together. Disappointed in love at the age of 20, when he remembered that he “wanted to go to America,” he went abroad, quitting his job at a gardening shop.
Ebina’s experience of America was invigorating. “For the first time I thought that studying was fun,” he says. “In Japanese classrooms, students silently listen to what the teacher is saying and write it down to memorize. American teachers urge students to be assertive. And the students boldly speak out, even if their English is full of mistakes. It was only the Japanese students who were shy about making mistakes. Even if they got better scores in grammar than the native students, the Japanese students were afraid of failure.”
“The American style suited me better,” says Ebina. “In addition, Japanese people hate being different from others, but in America, people do not have to be the same. I felt like I could be myself in America.”
Around that time, Ebina danced at a school party. “When I performed some steps that I learned from a friend a long time ago, it was well received. It made me so happy that I started to teach myself to dance. I watched videos and went to watch performances, and tried to imitate the moves that interested me. Though it was only a part time job, I got work going to parties and dancing in order to liven things up.”
Wanting to make it as a dancer, people come to New York from all over the world. “The standard is really high and I’m no match,” Ebina says. “But I was able to realize that when I recognized my weaknesses, there were other ways around it. Because my body is stiff I devised ways of making myself look supple, and worked hard on routines and production for the enjoyment of the audience.”
Ebina’s performance features a combination of music, visuals, and lights. He draws from styles of dance that he finds interesting, including, hip-hop, jazz, and ethnic styles. He also does magic. So far he has won “Amateur Night” at the New York Apollo Theater as part of a group, and became grand champion as a solo performer having won the TV version “Showtime at the Apollo” seven times. He has performed in various countries including Japan, Australia, Europe and Asia.
“I think I present particularly well visually,” Ebina says. “So someday soon I would like to direct. There are a lot of performers who are better than me, but there are many people who do not know how to show that off. My dream is to bring them together to create a show.” Ebina is supportive of Japan’s youth. “If you’ve only lived in Japan then you aren’t aware of the advantages of Japan. When you go out into the world, your outlook on life broadens, and if you can speak English, your market broadens to span the globe.”
Text: SAZAKI Ryo