I don’t even know what to call the moves in Zelmar Vedders’ dance repertoire.
I’m pretty sure I saw him doing Deion Sanders’ touchdown celebration, but that doesn’t make any sense because Sanders ended his pro career when Vedder was only three-years-old.
You see, Vedder is 10 – a sixth-grader at Joseph Widmer Elementary School in Lathrop that spends his time honing his skills on the football field, the basketball court and the baseball diamond.
And he dances. He dances well. He dances like nobody is watching.
While trying to make sense of what I was seeing at the Manteca Youth Advisory Commission middle school dance Friday night at Golden West School, this one kid stood out from the 500 plus kids that were all trying to seamlessly blend into one gigantic mass.
Maybe he stood out because he was apart from all of them – dancing on his own, separate from his peers, like he wasn’t trying to fit in or impress the girls that were congregating in groups.
He just felt the music and decided to carve out his own expression to it. It was refreshing to watch, and naturally I wanted to know more about how and why he was drawn to cut his own groove.
It turns out that he dances everywhere – he picked up moves from his family members at home, and put his own twist on things in his spare time.
And it turns out that he isn’t opposed to hamming it up for the crowds.
Initially reticent to perform in front of a group, Vedder quickly shed his shyness and started battling with a friend in a style mix-up that was a little bit Saturday Night Fever, a little bit Compton Krump-off.
No, this isn’t the kind of dance that I remember from my middle school days.
Back when I attended Stella Brockman, the dances that we thoroughly enjoyed were school-specific – the same kids that you spent your days running the playgrounds with were the same kids that you grooving with into the wee hours of the evening.
Hundreds of kids gathering in place to socialize and mingle and get to know each other? It blew my mind to watch it play out on Friday, let alone actually get to participate in it when I was that age.
No, I’m not going to go off on a tangent about how much things have changed and how I used to walk to school, uphill, both-ways, in the blinding snow. I’m really not that old.
But there were a few distinct differences between the dances I remember and the one that I witnessed on Friday. First of all, while the boys still predominantly hung out with the other boys and the girls the girls, everybody kind of existed in this giant, amoeba-like mass. You couldn’t really tell where it was going to move from the outside, but the mass itself seemed to have this consciousness of its own.
And there weren’t any wallflowers. I slid up to one kid who had taken himself out of the amoeba, but he did so to chart some time on a mobile version of Grand Theft Auto. That’s a perfectly acceptable substitute. Even those that weren’t dancing or standing in the middle of the massive group were walking an invisible track that seemed to shift as the night went on.
It takes a while to feel out your surroundings. Kids got more comfortable. The dance moves eventually started to flow.
I saw one kid doing what looked like an Elvis Presley impersonation without a guitar – only it was more violent.
I’m sure it had a name, but I guess I’m just not cool enough to know what it is.
That’s for the Zelmar Vedders of the world to know.
It might be hard for some people to swallow their pride and admit that a 10-year-old is cooler than they are, but I’m doing it.
On my best day I couldn’t come close to his worst move.
And as long as he keeps it up – he appears to be a good kid to boot – he’s got a bright future ahead of him.
I still think he ripped off Deion Sanders though. Somebody should give that man a call.