Chances are, you’re familiar with the Harlem Shake by now. Hell, you’ve probably filmed yourself and a few friends doing the dance, or at least watched one or fifty YouTube videos of other people doing it. And if you don’t know what it is, ask your grandma, because seriously that’s how ubiquitous it is at this point. I kid—kind of. For the five of you who have yet to break it down to Baauer, here’s your field guide to the Harlem Shake.
Identifying Characteristics: The basic format of the videos is all the same. One person—usually masked, usually a guy—starts thrusting to Baauer’s intro solo while other people idly carry about mundane tasks in the background. When the beat drops fifteen seconds in, the video cuts to the entire room of, generally costumed, people going wild to the song. See the example below from Riot Games.
Origin: Like all dance phenomenons before it – ‘Gangnam Style’, the Macarena, that song that’s always played at weddings demanding ‘everybody clap your hands’ – the Harlem Shake seemingly came out of nowhere. True, the original Harlem Shake, as some would say, dates back to the early ‘80s, which itself is derived from an Ethiopian dance called ‘Eskista’. But that Harlem Shake shares pretty much nothing other than a title with the viral video dance craze that’s exploded in that past two weeks.
The song is nothing new. Baauer released ‘Harlem Shake’ in the spring of last year. Then this video, which claims to be the original, was uploaded to YouTube on February 2nd. Now everyone from Stephen Colbert to the Matt & Kim are getting in on the action.
Image via ABC News