kenichi ebina

Kenichi Ebina (Photo by Virginia Sherwood/NBC.)

Throughout Season 8 of America’s Got Talent Kenichi Ebina has been providing the most highly anticipated performances of any act ever to compete on the reality variety show. From his very first audition, it was clear that there was something special about this man.

His interactive dance with the video game, completely conceived and created by him was nothing short of amazing as well as highly entertaining. That performance alone topped 10 million views on YouTube.

I couldn’t imagine what he would do next to top that. Being the clever guy that he is, he anticipated that most of the viewers were thinking the same thing and he didn’t try to make his next performance bigger. Just better. He went in a completely different direction and gave viewers another creative masterpiece, showcasing his abilities not only as a dancer, but as a comedian, exhibiting flawless precision in his interaction with a video projection of himself.

He then showed a completely different side to himself and gave a visually stunning performance depicting an emotional death and ascension to heaven. Kenichi proved again that he has a lot more to offer than the average dancer/contortionist. His movements seem to defy the limits of what a human body is capable of.

There’s been a lot of chatter on the internet about the appropriateness of a contestant born in Japan being allowed not only to compete on America’s Got Talent, but going on to win the season. Kenichi has made no secret of the fact that he hails from Japan and his family still lives there. He has been living and working in the United States for 20 years. Kenichi is a graduate of the University of Bridgeport, located in Connecticut, USA with a Bachelor of Arts degree.

A bit of research on Kenichi reveals that he has been performing in American venues for many years as well. A dance group that he founded back in 2001 called BiTriP (Bi-Triangle Performance) competed in the “Apollo Theater’s Amateur Night” and was awarded first prize in the Apollo Grand Championship Final. He is the only solo performer ever to have won the first place Grand Championship spot at the Apollo twice and has won first place in “Amateur Night 7 times. Kenichi competed in a dance competition on “Showtime at the Apollo” and was named 2007 Grand Champion.

As far as mainstream television appearances, Kenichi has appeared on the PBS program, Angelina Ballerina. He is the founder of Ebina Performing Arts dance company and the group has performed at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. He has also performed with Cirque du Soleil. His tribute to Michael Jackson, which can be found on YouTube is nothing short of astonishing and his genuine fondness for MJ comes shining through.

He has been the keynote speaker at TED, an annual conference attended by thousands, where such notables as Steve Jobs and President Bill Clinton have also been invited to speak. He received an award for Excellence and Leadership in the Performing Arts while in Connecticut. Kenichi taught dance at the New York Dance Center and at the Connecticut Ballet in Stamford.

Since Kenichi was proclaimed the winner last night on America’s Got Talent, Twitter has been flooded with comments by individuals who can’t get past the fact that Kenichi is Japanese. The most hateful things imaginable have been posted and I am appalled by what I’ve read. I say to those who are perpetuating this campaign of hate, please stop. Kenichi doesn’t deserve any of it. He has been inexplicably linked to and blamed for the attack on Pearl Harbor by hundreds of social media users. Others are hung up on the fact that English is not his first language. Really? Does “press 1 for English” ring any bells? But, just for the record, Kenichi speaks perfect English and can be heard doing so in interviews and talks he’s given over the years right here in America. Kenichi is reserved, poised and composed. This does not translate into not being able to speak the language. Thankfully, the individuals posting these types of comments are not in the majority, but their voices, numbering in the thousands, are being heard. Racism is a deeply embedded stain on America’s history, but it doesn’t have to be indelible. Racial hatred is an ugly thing and it can spread like a plague, in fact it is a plague.

The rules of competing on America’s Got Talent are clear. Anyone who is a citizen or is living or working in this country legally is eligible to participate. Many tweets addressed the idea that he never should have been on the show in the first place. Does anyone really think that a mega operation like AGT would ever consider letting someone who wasn’t eligible anywhere near the final?

Kenichi worked hard to get where he is and to ultimately win America’s Got Talent. This was by far one of the best seasons of AGT and Kenichi’s talent, along with the talent of all the other great competitors, was a gift to all of us. Did America get it right? Should he have won the America’s Got Talent Season 8 title? In my opinion, you’re damn right he should have and he did. Now let’s allow him to enjoy his success.



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