It starts with someone dancing while surrounded by unaware bystanders — flash mob-style. Then, once the bass line drops and floods the ears with a heart-pounding thumping, everyone, bystanders included, starts going crazy.
Dubbed the Harlem Shake, this infectious movement has now become one of YouTube’s main attractions. It began innocently enough on Feb. 2 when comedian and video blogger Filthy Frank created a parody dance video with the Billboard chart-topping electronic dance song “Harlem Shake” by Brooklyn-based producer Baauer as the theme music. The euphoria-inducing version got everyone moving, re-energizing the song which was released last May. But anyone thinking this song is reminiscent of the true Harlem Shake is mistaken.
The wildly viral craze bears no striking resemblance to the original Harlem Shake. Credited with spearheading the original, street dancer Al B entertained crowds at the famous Rucker Park Basketball Tournament in New York during the early 1980s. Al B would shimmy, swinging his arms back and forth quickly before pausing to begin again. Many people outside of Harlem were oblivious to the burgeoning dance until 2001, when Harlem’s own bad boy Sean “P.Diddy” Combs took the dance from around the way to the mainstream in music videos with Bad Boy Records rappers, like G. Dep. After that, the dance seemingly faded into oblivion.
But in Harlem, it was still holding ground. So here is an ode to the actual Harlem Shake dance craze with some of the zaniest “interpretations” that have gone viral on YouTube.