Self-taught Japanese dancer Kenichi Ebina won Season 8 of NBC’s primetime hit America’s Got Talent Wednesday night to capture the $1-million prize.
Ebina, 39, beat out 75,000 singers, dancers, magicians, comics and other performers to become the first Japanese to win America’s Got Talent. For the finale Ebina put on an innovative robotics performance featuring moves that seemed to defy both gravity and the limitations of the human skeleton. His competition included a magician and a trio of tenors.
Ebina had been impressing the judges since his first audition in Chicago. An act he described as a “dance-ish” performance impressed the panel of four judges so much that he was sent directly to the live rounds at Radio City Music Hall without having to perform at Vegas week.
Ebina’s innovative approach to his performances also played a role in keeping both judges and audiences amazed. In the quarterfinals he interacted with the characters in a video playing on a large screen behind him while also depicting each character by turns. In the semifinals he performed an elaborate mime routine in coordination with a projected image of himself. A week later he was voted into the finals for an interpretive dance about love, death and the afterlife.
Ebina was born in Kawasaki, an industrial city near Tokyo. He taught himself his rich repertoire of dance moves by studying martial arts, mime, jazz, freestyle, hip-hop and ethnic dance. His career as a public dance performer began as part of the dance troupe BiTriP which took first prize at the Apollo Amateur Night in Harlem, New York City. Ebina then went on to win the Apollo Amateur night seven times as a solo act between 2006 and 2007. In 2007 he gave a dance performance on the TED series entitled My Magic Moves.
In addition to his public performances Ebina has hired out to perform at private events, including for celebrity clients like Madonna.
Ebina is married, a fact that became public when he was asked what he planned to do with the $1 million prize money. He replied that he should ask his wife before deciding how to spend it.