NEW YORK — As many predicted, dancer Kenichi Ebina was named the winner of NBC’s “America’s Got Talent” during the Season 8 finale on Wednesday in New York City.
In addition to winning $1 million, Ebina will headline the AGT national tour, which will travel to more than 30 cities starting Sept. 29.
“I still can’t believe I won ‘America’s Got Talent,’” Ebina said Thursday. “Being a part of Season 8 at Radio City Music Hall was so much fun, and I can’t wait to take my act on the road and perform live for the fans who voted for me from their homes across America.”
Ebina has the distinction of being the first dancer to win the competition; five of the last seven were singers.
The self-taught performer, who resides in Tokyo and New York, has been a favorite of judges Howard Stern, Heidi Klum, Mel B and Howie Mandel since his first appearance at the Chicago auditions, where one of his moves gave the illusion that his head had fallen off his shoulders.
Mandel declared Ebina “the best act I’ve ever seen,” while Klum called Ebina her “most favorite” act of the season.
In subsequent performances, Ebina combined his Matrix-style acrobatics with digital images on a giant screen behind him, interacting with various characters — all played by him — in a life-size video game and a group dance number.
After a piece in which Ebina seemingly died and was brought back to life, Hollywood Life’s Avery Thompson wrote, “We’d be lying if we said there weren’t a few tears in our eyes. From the flashes of light that show him in the air to his amazing lift from an angel at the end, everything about it was riveting.”
Based on votes from the public, he was one of six finalists and ended up in the top three.
After country singer Jimmy Rose was eliminated, Ebina and comedian Taylor Williamson looked nervous as host Nick Cannon paused for several seconds before proclaiming Ebina the winner.
During the finale, finalists performed with celebrity guests. Ebina did a dance routine alongside British opera-pop quartet Il Divo, who performed Elton John’s “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” with special guest Heather Headley. The crowd responded with thunderous applause.
Singer Cami Bradley teamed up with rocker Gavin DeGraw; opera trio Forte sang with singer/songwriter Josh Groban; magician Collins Key had “Today’s” Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb as his assistants; Williamson appeared with “Inside the Actor’s Studio” host James Lipton; Rose did a duet with country music superstar Dierks Bentley.
Before the finale aired, Ebina told his fans, “All contestants are so nice people … Whoever wins, please respect and congrat winner and all of us, no dislike or disrespective attitude and comments. We all feel bad when we hear any of us being disrespected.”
Ebina infuses illusion, mime and special effects of sound, light and video into each dance performance. Born in Japan in 1974, he moved to Connecticut as a student when he was 20. In college, he started dance as a hobby, but it quickly became his passion.
In 2001, Ebina founded an all-Japanese dance group, BiTriP, that won the grand championship of Amateur Night at the famed Apollo Theater. A few years later, he returned as a solo performer and won the grand championship again.
His repertoire includes hip-hop, popping, locking, mime, house, jazz, contemporary and ethnic dance. He is the founder of Ebina Performing Arts and started a full-length one-man show in October 2012. He also appears on the PBS Kids show “Angela Ballerina” and at such clubs as The Box in New York City and London, and The Act in Las Vegas.
The AGT tour, which will also feature Key, Rose, Williamson, Bradley, the KriStef Brothers (comedy and acrobatics), and Tone the Chiefrocca (rapper from Inglewood), includes the following stops:
• Tuesday, Oct. 22, at the Civic Theatre in San Diego
• Wednesday, Oct. 23, at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas
• Thursday, Oct. 24, at the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles
• Saturday, Oct. 26, at Fantasy Springs Resort Casino in Indio
Visit Ebina on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/kenichi.ebina