Shaun Briscoe of Greenport has been dancing in his hometown since before he was born.
His mother, Gladys, remembers being pregnant and feeling him move in her belly when she heard music.
“Whenever I walked into a store where there was music playing, you’d actually see my stomach jump,” said Ms. Briscoe, a gospel singer who comes from a family of musicians. “When I would be in a place with elevator music, he would just sway softly.”
The 35-year-old grew up during a time when Michael Jackson — his favorite dancer — became The King of Pop.
Mr. Briscoe, who has a cognitive disability, has memorized all the late singer’s dance steps from his music videos. Local residents may have seen him busting a move around town while his aide, Theresia Hand-Sanchez of Individual Support Services, plays M.J. on her cellphone.
“I’m a dancing machine,” he told her with a smile between songs while dancing last Saturday in the Mattituck shopping plaza. “I’m going to be a star.”
Passersby smiled as he danced to songs including “Smooth Criminal” and “Bad.” Sometimes he’ll hold up an imaginary mic and lip-sync the lyrics. Other times, he sings aloud and keeps dancing, even in the humid summer weather.
One of his mother’s fondest memories dates back about 10 years, when Mr. Briscoe won first place among nearly 300 dancers in a competition in Georgia.
“I was so proud of him,” she said. “He likes to be noticed — he wants to be one of the world’s greatest dancers.”
Ms. Hand-Sanchez first met Mr. Briscoe when she was working at Westhampton Beach BOCES, where he was an elementary student. While she knew he liked to dance, she recalled the first time she noticed his talent. It was when he dressed up as a raisin to dance in a school event — not because he’s a dried fruit fan, but because Michael Jackson had done a cameo in a series of stop animation California Raisins commercials.
“All he wants to do is dance,” she said. “He’s a sweet young man — very happy, social, outgoing and likes making friends.”
Ms. Hand-Sanchez spends Saturdays getting him outside to enjoy the community, including trips to the library, movies and museums. The challenge, she explained, is that there are no places where he can dance indoors.
Mr. Briscoe likes meeting up with his friends at the town’s monthly dance for adults with disabilities, but Ms. Hand-Sanchez hopes to find a space where he can dance regularly.
“If we could borrow a dance floor somewhere that would be great since it’s his form of exercise,” she said.
For right now, anywhere Mr. Briscoe’s feet touch automatically becomes his dance floor. He currently enjoys dancing to the “Hamilton” soundtrack Ms. Hand-Sanchez gave him and he hopes to one day see the Broadway musical.
He’s enjoying what life has to offer despite his disability, Ms. Briscoe said, adding that she’s grateful his family upbringing — as well as support from the community and church — has nurtured his natural talent and taught him to embrace the man he is.
“A lot of the time,” she explained, “we look at our children and say we wish they were normal, but I praise God for just the way he is because he brings joy to a lot of people.”