BY DONNA WESTFALL
Have you watched or danced: the Waltz, the Charleston, the Lindsey, the Twist, Cha Cha Cha, Tango, the Texas 2-step, Line Dancing, Square Dancing, or more? Then, you’re not quite prepared for the Harlem Shake.
How it all started: In 1981 a guy named “Al B” full name Albert Leopold Boyce – died of heart failure in 2006 aged 43, after years of drinking heavily, but, in his prime, he was known for creating the Harlem Shake dance move. He used to perform it as part of the half-time entertainment show in basketball tournaments at Rucker Park, New York.
This internet phenom has been watched by more than 700 million people around the world in just one month. Initially around Harlem they called it the “Al B”, for the local drunk who wouldn’t get off the basketball court. Local teenagers picked it up and renamed it the Harlem Shake. Now, somewhere between 100,000 and maybe as high as a million imitations have sprung up around the world and many can be watched on YouTube.
Gyrating, twisting, flopping and flailing around on the ground in costumes, sleeping bags, wigs and helmets, this dance only lasts about 30 seconds. One person starts the dance. 15 seconds later everyone jumps in. For over a year, the music is always the same due to Baauer, AKA Brooklyn producer Harry Bauer Rodrigues. He “borrowed” a little from 2 other groups and never expected this type of success. Almost as soon as his bass-heavy minimalist dance track Harlem Shake was propelled to the top of the Billboard charts by a viral dance craze and a change in chart rules that took into account YouTube views he was contacted by representatives for retired reggaeton artist Hector Delgado and Philadelphia MC Jayson Musson. Without realizing it, both men were collaborators on a hit. It was Delgado who sang “Con los terroristas” on his 2006 single Maldades, and Musson who rapped “Do the Harlem Shake!” on Miller Time, a 2001 track by his group Plastic Little. Both vocal hooks were fundamental to the success of Baauer’s record but neither performer had been approached or paid. A truly bitter sweet learning experience.
Even superstar South Korean singer, Psy, does the Harlem Shake. Psy’s video Gangnam Style has passed 1 billion views on YouTube in December 2012 which exceeds views by singer, Justin Bieber.
Meme = The definition of MEME is “An idea that spreads like a virus by word of mouth, email, blogs etc.” Meme rhymes with gene. The Harlem Shake has circled the globe mostly due to the internet.
Last night, while vacationing in Ojai, California, we filmed an impromptu performance of the Harlem Shake. Christian Young Life volunteer, Chandler Thomas, part of a team that ministers to high schoolers in the area conceived of the idea to include the dance as part of their regular meeting. They were surprised to learn that all would jump in and flail around to the Harlem Shake. Good sports on their part, all participated and had fun in the process.
Wonder if the Harlem Shake will reach Crescent City.