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Kenichi Ebina leads 'America's Got Talent' cast at Nugget [Press of Atlantic City (NJ)]

November 6, 2013

YellowBrix

Kenichi Ebina doesn't consider himself to be a particularly good dancer, magician or martial artist, until he puts it all together for his own performance style he calls "dance-ish."

"I'm not good at any (one thing) -- I'm OK," Ebina says. "The parts people like about my performances aren't the dance parts. People never get excited or cheer or applaud when I dance. It's always when I do magic tricks or special effects or trick movements -- that's what they like."

This unusual skill set took Ebina all the way to the winner's circle of the eighth season of the NBC summer reality competition "America's Got Talent."

Ebina is headlining the reality competition's national tour, which makes a stop 8 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 10, at Golden Nugget Atlantic City.

Joining Ebina on stage will be other Season 8 contestants, including 17-year-old magician Collins Key; country guitarist, singer, songwriter Jimmy Rose, who honed his craft while serving in the Marine Corps in Iraq; stan- up comic Taylor Williamson; singer, songwriter, pianist Cami Bradley; comedy, acrobatics duo the KriStef Brothers; and songwriter, rapper Tone The Chiefrocca, known for the song "B-Double-O-T-Y."

Ebina will perform an extended version of his audition routine, which was inspired by the science-fiction blockbuster movie "The Matrix." The performance in A.C. will be 71/2 minutes, compared with the 90-second version shown on TV.

"I came up with my signature move where I fall down and get up, but I wanted the moves to have meaning," Ebina explains. "I made up the scene, so it looks like the "Matrix" movie."

The self-taught performer, who leads his own company, is similarly always on the lookout for outside inspirations to inform and deepen his routines.

"It really depends -- sometimes it's from the movies, sometimes it's from daily life, sometimes it's from playing video games and sometimes it's the conversation I'm having with my friends," he explains.

The AGT competition isn't Ebina's first brush with major fame. In 2001, his dance troupe, BiTriP claimed first place in the grand championship at "Amateur Night" at the Apollo, and then six years later he became the only two-time grand champion of that competition, when he took the top prize for his solo work.

Among Ebina's other credits are appearances on the PBS children's series "Angelina Ballerina," as well as Japanese, French and Chinese TV shows; a full-length show that had its debut at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C.; gigs at clubs in New York and London; and performances at private parties for Madonna, the Moroccan royal family and Simon Cowell of "American Idol" and "The X Factor."

Of the latter, Ebina didn't realize Cowell's level of fame until afterwards.

"It was such a great, big private party," Ebina says. "I was like, 'Wow, this guy has the money.'"

Despite the intricacies and strict timing needed to execute his moves, Ebina doesn't worry about flopping in the spotlight.

"I never get nervous when I perform," he says. "I've been performing for a long time. I'm more excited. I love performing -- there's no reason that I should get nervous."

Now Ebina is hoping to parlay his latest trophy into work as a director on Broadway and in Las Vegas.

"My main purpose was promoting myself as a director, not only as a performer," he says. "I think my strength is in how I put things together."

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