What Is This "Harlem Shake" Thing Anyway?

What (and why) is the Harlem Shake, anyway?

ByABC News
February 13, 2013, 9:01 AM

Feb. 13, 2013— -- "LOL." The gchat pops up on your screen. "Check this out." You click. You watch -- confused and, you admit, delighted -- as a man in a horse mask (or a horse in a man suit?) gyrates arhythmically. You watch, still, as the people around him join in, bopping and bouncing and wielding various props. You might respond like this, or perhaps like this, or even maybe like this.

One thing is for absolute certain: Now that "Gangnam Style" has been mercifully put down among so many discarded pistachio shells, the "Harlem Shake" is the newest "dance craze" to sweep offices and morning shows all across our weary nation.

So. What is this "Harlem Shake" thing, anyway?

Originally, Harlem shake referred to a dance that began in -- yes, excellent guess -- Harlem, New York back in 1981. It has its roots in an Ethiopian dance, "Eskista." You can check out what it looks like on YouTube.

The Harlem shake has been referenced in various songs over the years, including one by Brooklyn-based producer Baauer (Harry Rodrigues). That's the song you're hearing in all forty million "Harlem Shake" videos, even though participants may not actually be dancing the Harlem shake. We all on the same page so far? Yup? Good.

This video -- featuring four costumed dudes humping air -- claims to be the "original" Harlem video, but it lacks a few of the details particular to the meme. These include the following:

- At the beginning of the video, only one person (often masked) is dancing. Anyone else in the room/area are either still or simply not paying attention to the masked dancer.

- When the bass drops, everyone else joins in on the dancing, usually accompanied by costumes and/or props.

The "craze" (again, oof) has even made it onto Today. Whenever something that originated on the internet makes it onto a morning show, it is sure to become: 1. increasingly ubiquitous and annoying in a very short amount of time, 2. until it implodes and disappears, making way for whatever we're going to become obsessed with next.

The Harlem Shake is dead, long live the Harlem Shake! Let's enjoy these notable examples as we grieve its passing:

- The University of Georgia's men's swim and dive team do it underwater.

- The Maker Studios staff does it in an enviable office environment.

- College Humor does it while that one guy over on the side is enjoying his coffee.

- Portuguese TV does it awkwardly.

- Firefighters do it heroically.

- Duo Matt and Kim do it at RPI Field House in Troy, New York.

- Bananas do it absurdly.