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Everything You Need to Know About the Harlem Shake

harlem shake

If you look at the internet at all, you’ve probably noticed a sudden proliferation of Harlem Shake videos. Why, you might be asking, are all these people wearing horse head masks and throwing themselves around shabby dorm rooms? It’s a fair question, and one we’d like to answer for you. This is your essential guide to the Harlem Shake.

Despite its recent surge in popularity, the Harlem Shake, characterized by lots o’ shoulder movement and shaking the upper torso around, is not a new dance craze. The dance was in fact invented over 30 years ago in 1981 by an alcoholic nicknamed “Al B.” The Shake was originally called the Albee after its inventor. The dance has its roots in a traditional Ethiopian dance called Eksista:

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After 20 years of existence, the dance finally gained mainstream exposure in 2001, when it was performed or referenced in songs by Cam’ron and P. Diddy, amongst others. The song that brought it to the fore was ‘Let’s Get It’ by G-Dep:

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If you don’t feel like watching a whole music video, here is a supercut of people doing the actual Harlem Shake:

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Boy, now you wish you could do that dance, don’t you? Here you go:

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Unfortunately, to make your own Harlem Shake video, you’re going to have to forget everything you just learned. Remember what that guy just did? Okay, now look at the video, by blogger Filthy_Frank, that sparked this viral craze:

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The similarities are pretty few. These viral videos all feature a song by electronic artist Baauer, and usually begin with somebody just thrusting their pelvis, while being ignored by surrounding people. When the beat drops, magically all the people are dancing. Few are doing the Harlem Shake, though. Most are either spazzing out, twerking, or doing their best Bernie dance (which is an impression of Bernie from ‘Weekend at Bernie’s II’).

This is the Bernie:


This is people dancing in a Harlem Shake video:

harlem shake

You’ve got the two guys front left (sort of) twerking, one in front doing the Bernie, the two back left just sort of spazzing out. We don’t know what you call that. The guy in the back right is really the only one doing the Harlem Shake. So you don’t have to worry about actually learning a new dance. You might want a horse head or a helmet or some sort of full body suit though — those are pretty popular in these videos.

You can try to make the most epic Harlem Shake video ever, but good luck. This one by indie band Matt and Kim (performed in concert in Troy, NY), is going to be pretty hard to top in terms of sheer numbers:

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And here’s a remix of the video of the baby who wakes up to ‘Gangnam Style,’ this time set to the Harlem Shake.

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So there you have it, the Harlem Shake in a nutshell. Go forth and videos make. Be sure to send them to us if you do!

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