I was scheduled to speak with Kenichi Ebina at 1:00pm. Unfortunately, I failed to factor in the fact that we live on opposite coasts, making my phone call three hours late! What was I thinking? [clearly, not enough] Fortunately, Ebina is an understanding fellow and graciously spoke with me whilst he drove and made a pit stop at the drive-thru.
For me and a lot of people familiar with Ebina, I know him best as the elastic dancer who was Showtime at the Apollo’s 2006-2007 grand champion. I used to leave the boob tube on after SNL, which used to be directly followed by Showtime at the Apollo. I usually left it on for background noise and for the random act or two that caught my attention, but my attention was absolutely demanded when Ebina stormed the stage for the first time as a solo performer (he previously performed with his dance crew BiTriP back in 2001). Since that first show, Ebina was pretty much a Showtime at the Apollo regular as he kept winning the dance competition–seven times, in fact–and was consequently invited back to defend his weekly titles:
Currently, this Japanese dance sensation is based in New York City and runs his own performing arts center. He dances at a variety of events, and whether the events are big or small, public or private, one thing is for sure: the man knows how to put a smile on faces, and he does so with passion and enthusiasm. If there is one thing that defines Ebina, though, it is his modesty, which was apparent when we spoke about his craft:
TJL: How long have you been dancing?
KE: Since I was 20 [years-old], so that’s around 15 years now.
TJL: Wait, you’ve only been dancing since you were 20-years-old? Did you have previous training in sports or some other sort of dance? The way you move–it doesn’t seem like many people could pick that up at 20-years-old.
KE: Oh, I mean I’ve been dancing hip hop and the so-called street style since I was 20 [years-old]. I’ve never danced before and never took dance classes, of course including ballet as well. Obviously, I’m worst at ballet, haha. But you know, I’m not really good at hip hop.
TJL: Are you serious? I think you’re amazing.
KE: Thank you, but technically, I’m really not that good. Really. I see myself more as a performer using dance.
TJL: Along with using dance, you seem to know how to use comedic elements, as well. How do you express so much in your face when you’re dancing? It seems like that takes a lot of control. Do you have experience in miming?
KE: Miming? Not really. Technically, I’m not that good. For me, I have an imagination, and I want to do it–I want to make it [real].
TJL: For your performance at TED, I noticed that you incorporated magic tricks, specifically a trick with a mini glow stick or something of that sort. How do you approach dance? Are you the sort of person who will learn something and incorporate it into your act if you think it’s interesting?
KE: The mini flashlight magic trick, right? I’m not a magician, but I thought it was good for the shows, so–yeah. For me, it starts with the imagination.
TJL: With that in mind, you really have a knack for telling a story with your body. I couldn’t stop laughing and smiling during your Robocop525 performance.
KE: Really? Thank you! My strength is how I put the show together, not techniques. I like [it] to be about content and ideas. For me, my main target [audience] is, you know, everyday working people, not dancers, mimes, [and] magicians. I want to entertain people who are not interested in [the] performing arts.
TJL: How did you get inspired for the Robocop dance, anyway? Did you watch the movie and think, “Hmm, I want to turn this into a dance”?
KE: Actually, I’ve never seen the movie! I wanted to tell a story about a robot cop, so it’s not related to the movie character. It’s like a character from my imagination.
TJL: Do you mix your own sounds? A lot of your routines involve heavy sound effects. Do you have a team that helps you with that?
KE: Yes, I do it myself. Actually, it’s not that hard. Before, you know, you had to use DJ equipment, but now–with a computer–it’s easy. [There goes that modesty again.]
Besides competing in Kollaboration 9 this February, Kenichi already has a busy 2009 lined up:
TJL: Do you plan to create more dance routines and/or tour this year?
KE: Yes, I will be dancing in Australia next week for the [Australian Open of] Tennis Show [Spiegelworld]. I am also trying [out] for America’s Got Talent. Also [going to] a lot of different places.
TJL: Oh wow, are you excited about America’s Got Talent?
KE: Really excited. But actually, I’ve never seen it. I don’t watch t.v.
TJL: How did you get involved with the Kollaboration 9 event? Have you been acquainted with/worked with Kollaboration before?
KE: They contacted me and asked me to join the show.
TJL: Are you planning on special material for the competition, or are you going to use current material?
KE: Current material. Right now, I don’t have time to make something new for the show. It seems like there are a lot of singers in the competition… actually, I think all of them are singers?
TJL: Yes, I believe you’re the only dancer. Are you nervous about that?
KE: [laughs] Not really, no. It’s just very different.
Correction: The interview has been corrected to reflect the changes, but please note that Kenichi wants to clarify something: “only thing is that I started dance hiphop when I was 20 years old and I’ve never danced before and never took dance classes, of course including ballet as well. Obviously I’m worst at ballet. haha.”
Okay, knowing that he’s never taken dance classes till now, has he officially blown your mind? *kapow!* Whatever he thinks he lacks in specialized technique, he sure makes it up with talent, skill and creativity.
Image courtesy of Ebina Performing Arts.
No reactions to display.