Week after week, Kenichi Ebina dazzled judges and viewers with eye-popping performances that saw the dancer fight video game villains, dance with himself and ascend to Heaven.
Howie Mandel called him “the most talented man here.” Howard Stern praised him as “brilliant” and “mesmerizing.”
He received one standing ovation after the next.
So, it was perhaps no surprise that Ebina, a University of Bridgeport graduate, took home the top prize on season 8 of “America’s Got Talent” Wednesday.
“It’s amazing,” said Ebina, who won $1 million and a chance to headline his own show in Las Vegas. “I want to thank my wife and my daughter [for] being supportive all the way through and all the fans that support us.”
Over the course of the night, six finalists were whittled down to two — Ebina and comedian Taylor Williamson. But in a nail-biting decision, the 39-year-old dancer was declared the top vote getter. After hearing the results, all he could do was smile.
“Kenichi, America has voted for you!” Nick Cannon announced. “How does that feel?”
“Oh my God, I don’t know what to tell, but it’s amazing,” Ebina said.
A native of Japan, Ebina earned his associate’s degree in general studies and a bachelor’s degree in mass communications from the University of Bridgeport in 2000. As a student, he formed Soul Beat, a dance group that performed across campus. His first big break came when another dance troupe he founded, BiTriP, won first place at the 2001 Amateur Night at the Apollo Theater.
From the moment he stepped onto the “America’s Got Talent” stage, Ebina dominated the competition. He launched his bid for the top spot with a Matrix-style routine that combined martial arts moves, pop-and-lock, mime and video art. As the weeks went on, he became more and more innovative, receiving repeated standing ovations and consistently garnering the most viewer votes.
“Kenichi demonstrated an innovative approach to movement, even during his time here,” said Jeffrey Johnson, director of the music program at the University of Bridgeport and Ebina’s former teacher. “I’m so thrilled for him.”