Foreign performers electrify crowd at arts festival

Kenichi Ebina, the winner of America’s Got Talent in 2013, electrifies the crowd at the #MyMarianas Paradise Festival concert at the Civic Center in Susupe Saturday night. (REICA RAMIREZ)

Kenichi Ebina, the winner of America’s Got Talent in 2013, electrified a jampacked crowd at the #MyMarianas Paradise Festival concert that took place at the 38th Annual Flame Tree Arts Festival at the Civic Center in Susupe Saturday night.

Ebina, who is from Japan and served as the festival’s finale performer, was joined on stage by other performers: South Korean boy band Ulala Session, composed of members Seung-il Kim, Myung-hoon Kim, Do-won Choe, and Jun-seok Ha; South Korean singer Huk Gak; and singer Yixin Wang of China.

Ebina’s signature moves wowed the crowd, majority of whom had whipped out their smartphones to record the performance.

Ebina’s last number was a tribute to the 10th death anniversary of the late King of Pop, Michael Jackson. He copied Jackson’s iconic moonwalk and anti-gravity lean, drawing loud applause from the audience.

Ebina used sound, light and visual effects, making his dance numbers very entertaining.

In an interactive moment, the Japanese performer also taught the audience some key steps of Jackson’s monster hit, Thriller.

After his performance, Ebina gamely posed for photos and videos with the audience beside the stage.

At a news briefing last Friday morning at the festival ground, Ebina, 44, said what he likes about the MyMarianas Paradise Festival is the fact that he would share the stage, through art, with China and South Korea.

“From a political point of view, they have some problems with each other, but in arts, no barriers,” Ebina said.

He said it is a great opportunity for him to share the stage with the two countries to entertain tourists and the people of the CNMI.

Ebina said it’s his first time to visit Saipan and although he had no chance yet that Friday morning to tour around, he loves the weather.

“I’m sure I’m going to have fun here. I wish I could bring my family here but my daughter is [in] school. Maybe next time,” said the smiling Ebina.

He called his performance “dance-ish,” because, according to him, it is not purely about dancing but incorporates elements such as lights and sounds into his performance.

Ebina won America’s Got Talent six years ago, in 2013, out of 75,000 contestants. “I don’t know why. I was lucky. It was a great experience,” he said.

Ebina grew up in Japan and he moved to the U.S. mainland when he was 20 years old. He is now based in Japan and that decision was a family matter.

While in high school in Japan, he was not so much into dancing but a friend taught him a dance step called “running man.” When he moved to the U.S., he recalled being at a dance party and, “at some point, they made a circle, and everybody was showing off in the center. I was shy but there was a moment you’re next. I had to go. I jumped into the circle.”

He did the “running man” and was surprised when people liked it.

“I started practicing dance steps by watching videos…and that’s how I started,” Ebina said.

When asked about his signature “head fall” move, Ebina joked that his head is just big and it sometimes falls.

Ebina said the most memorable part of his stint with America’s Got Talent was when he made it during the audition. He said the reaction of the audience was overwhelming.

“The energy from the audience that hit me was like a machine gun,” he said.

Ferdie De La Torre | Reporter
Ferdie Ponce de la Torre is a veteran journalist who has covered all news beats in the CNMI. Born in Lilo-an, Cebu City in the Philippines, De la Torre graduated from the University of Santo Tomas with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. He is a recipient of many commendations and awards, including the CNMI Judiciary’s prestigious Justice Award for his over 10 years of reporting on the judiciary’s proceedings and decisions. Contact him at ferdie_delatorre@saipantribune.com
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