Interview: Kenichi Ebina Q&A
Kenichi Ebina is a solo, self taught dance performer from Japan. He’s performing in Breakin’ Convention, the International Festival of Hip Hop Dance Theatre at Sadler’s Wells in May – and you can also catch him in a variety show at The Box Soho, the New York night club which has recently taken over the old Raymond Revue Bar.
His unique style includes elements of popping, locking, mime, house, jazz, contemporary and ethnic dance – and his career is equally international, eclectic and boundary crossing. He performs and teaches around the world – appearing in his own shows, but also with a wide range of other artists. He’s worked with Cirque Du Soleil, the Alvin Ailey Company, with rock star Neil Young, appeared in the Angelina Ballerina TV show, in an ‘International Humour Festival’ in China and taken part in the TED Lectures 2007.
How did you first get in to dance? **When I moved to USA at age of 20, I went to a college in Connecticut and went to a welcome dance party for freshman and start dancing for fun. When I moved to New York after college, I got more serious.
Did winning Amateur Night and then Grand Champion at Showtime at the Apollo [Theatre, New York] change things for you? **I won 11 times in total over each contest at the Apollo Theater – twice as a Grand Champion of the year. I won “Amateur Night” four times and seven times at “Showtime at the Apollo”. This experience gave me confidence and gave me more enquiries for gigs.
How has your work evolved over the years? **I started out from dancing freestyle hip hop, but over the years, I’ve been infusing other styles of dance and elements for entertainment: mime, music and video editing, illusions, acting.
What brings you to London? (other than Breakin’ Convention!)
The Box Soho, variety show. It’s a night club originally in New York City and it opened in London in January 2011. It’s a high-end club with explicit shows!
How do you find balancing your work between hip hop and your work for Cabaret audiences? **I do many dance styles (but not ballet and b-boy. I wish I could, but I’m terrible!) Anyway, I customise my performance depending on the nature of shows and events. I work for many different occasions: Different types of events from festival, theatre shows, corporate events, hiphop oriented, modern oriented, cultural oriented, corporate, burlesque/cabaret, circus, etc.
Where do you feel most at home performing?
Who is your greatest influence in dance?
Hmmm, I don’t have particular “one”, but many people. If I have to say one, probably the old guy who I saw do his one-man show at the New Victory Theater in New York 10 years ago. But I don’t remember his name though. He was mime, juggler and actor and his show was very entertaining, there was no “boring part” in the show.
Tell us what you’re bringing to Breakin’ Convention
Two pieces: RoboMatrix is a day in the life of a robot man, who wakes up in the morning and does a regular day routine. This time I’m mixing it with one of my other piece: a Michael Jackson tribute.
Eclipse Ninja is fictional story, based in ancient Japan: A young man’s journey of revenge for his village against a brutal Lord of an Empire.
Catch Kenichi Ebina at Breakin’ Convention (Sat 30 Apr – Mon 2 May) on Sat & Sun evenings: www.breakinconvention.com
More about Kenichi: www.ebinaperformingarts.com