He puts on his headphones and dials up Chemical Brothers. It's time to dance. With his signature moves he performs on a unique stage – the sidewalks along Route 1.
Seth Bratten, known as Seth the Highway Dancer, has been dancing along Route 1 for most of the summer. His favorite spot is the intersection at Tanger Seaside Outlets. He has performed before hundreds of thousands of people as they ride to and from the busy Cape Region beaches.
He gets honks, smiles and occasionally people stop to have their photograph taken with him. Some bust out their own dance moves, including one older lady on an oxygen tank he saw dancing as she was stopped in a traffic jam.
Bratten, who moved to the area after attending high school in Seaford and Sussex Central, said he was bored and decided to take his love of dancing to the streets. “It's all in fun; I just want to make people smile,” he said. “I like to make people happy.”
The 20-year-old said people have told him many times that he has cheered them up and saved them from having a bad day. “That's my motivation that keeps me going,” he says.
Working part time at American Eagle in the outlets, Bratten has enough free time to dance three to five days a week. He will keep up the pace until the weather gets too cold.
Now, he will have to suffer some for his art. Bratten, who lives in the Long Neck area, has to walk or ride his bike to the outlets because bus service to Long Neck has stopped for the summer season. “I don't mind because it's good exercise,” he says. As if he needs it. The 6'7” Bratten only weighs 168 pounds. Still, it's at least a one-hour bike ride from Long Neck to the outlets.
When he started dancing in June, his gyrations and slick moves puzzled people. “I was wearing ear buds, and at first people thought I was crazy or on drugs out there moving around. The cops even stopped to talk to me,” he said.
Adding headphones helps because people understand he is listening and dancing to his favorite music, which is a variety including electronic, hip-hop and techno.
“But I listen to all kinds of music; I always have,” he said. “I use to beat out rock and roll songs on pots and pans. My parents loved Stevie Ray Vaughan.”
Music speaks to Bratten. “It's how we go through life. It helps us get through things and helps us express our feelings,” he said.
The idea of dancing out in the summer heat may have paid off. Bratten has received a part-time job offer, has been asked to promote local businesses by wearing their T-shirts and may be performing between acts at this year's World Championship Punkin Chunkin. A local radio station recently interviewed Bratten and is trying to set up a dance off between him and another street dancer who frequents downtown Seaford.
Bratten says he has goals and dreams, and he hopes music and dancing will take him where he wants to go. “I'd like to get a good job,” he said. “My dream job would be becoming a DJ making music and traveling around the world to play at events. It's my dream of dreams; maybe this is a stepping stone.”
After a brief interview, it's time for the tanned Bratten to get back on the sidewalk.
“Hey man, you are a celebrity. I saw you on YouTube,” yells a passing motorist as Bratten puts on his headphones.
“I don't think it's gone that far,” Bratten says with a grin.