Harlem Shake, Doing it the East Bay Way

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Marina Swanson

Students participating in East Bay’s very own “Harlem Shake.”

Alexandria Leavenworth
Arts and Life Editor


Students participating in East Bay’s very own
“Harlem Shake.”The Harlem Shake is the new
popular dance movement taking YouTube and the
world by storm.

The videos are based off the new “Harlem Shake” song from recording artist Baauer. The song, which features a unique, loud mix of sounds and noises, is a song of few words but has generated millions of views on YouTube.

Each video is typically 30 seconds long and features a lone dancer for the first fifteen seconds of the song doing sexual dance moves with or without a group of oblivious bystanders. Once the bass drops and the words “and do the Harlem Shake” are sung, the bystanders join in on the dance and do outrageous, jerky dance moves for the remaining 15 seconds.

In addition to the eccentric dance moves, the dancers typically wear outfits as wild as the dancing, ranging from nothing but a pair of underwear to full-body latex jumpsuits.

“[The] Harlem Shake is special because you don’t know where to focus and don’t know where to look,” says Koryen Harper, alumni of CSUEB who helped organize the “CSUEB Edition” of the Harlem Shake. “There is so much going on and so much creativity going into it. You can’t help to hit the replay button three, four, five times to figure it out.”

This new Harlem Shake dance movement is different from the original Harlem Shake, which originated in the Harlem community of New York City in the 1980s courtesy of Albert Leopold Boyce, also known as Al B.

“You’d shimmy really quickly and swing your arms back and forth, then freeze and start up again,” Jay Smooth, Harlemite and host of the hip-hop video blog III Doctrine, told NPR. “[Al B] had a really elaborate story as far as what he saw as the origin of the dance, tracing it back to mummies in Africa, I believe, who couldn’t fully use their bodies because they were wrapped up in the mummy robes.”

Some residents of Harlem aren’t as fond of the video as the rest of the world and believe the dance is a disgrace to the original Harlem Shake.

“They [are] basically taking what we do and our dances and making a joke of it,” said one resident of Harlem in the video “Harlem Reacts to the ‘Harlem Shake’” by SchleppFilms on YouTube.

The reaction video, which has received over seven million views, features Harlem citizens angered by the new Harlem Shake.

The Arizona Diamondbacks, country singer Scotty McCreery, University of Georgia’s Men’s Swim & Dive Team and the Norwegian army have all uploaded videos doing the bizarre dance.

The dance trend has also spread to a variety of colleges such as San Diego State University, University of Texas at Austin, CSU Northridge and Florida International State University.

In mid-February, CSUEB created its first Harlem Shake video featuring residents of the Sequoia freshman dorms on campus, which received over 1,000 views in less than a week.

“I’m a resident assistant in the dorms in Sequoia and just wanted to do one,” says Dustin Stevens, 21, a kinesiology major at CSUEB. “It’s a fad going on and I wanted to get residents involved.”

On Tuesday, a group of students and alumni decided to create their own video as well and invited students to join the movement for a new and improved “CSUEB Edition” of the Harlem Shake.

“I decided to do it because I felt like all the other schools did and I wanted to show our school spirit, if we have any,” says Andy To, 21, a multimedia major at CSUEB who helped organize the event and produce the video. “This is like an attempt to see how much school spirit we actually have.”

The dance turned out to be a hit, with students flocking from all over campus in a variety of costumes to participate. The video stars CSUEB’s mascot, Pioneer Pete, as the solo dancer in the beginning of the video and when the bass drops, an array of students appear with distinctive dance moves and attire.

To put a special “East Bay” spin on the video, To had participants dance to the popular hip-hop/rap song “I’m Different” by 2 Chainz to make the video stand out.

To watch students of East Bay perform the Harlem Shake, search “Harlem Shake CSUEB Edition” by Andy To Productions on YouTube.