The Harlem Shake takes over the internet (videos – and tips!)

15 Feb 2013

Still from Maker Studios take on the Harlem Shake

What do you get when you combine a masked dancer, a jump cut, a wicked bass drop and some crazy dancing? The year’s biggest internet trend so far: the Harlem Shake. Here, we bring you a round-up of some of the best Harlem Shake videos from home and abroad, and some tips on creating your own.

The Harlem Shake, if you haven’t already heard, was first inspired by a video uploaded to YouTube by comedy vlogger Filthy Frank (AKA DizastaMusic) on 30 January that consists of four people in full-body onesies getting down to the track Harlem Shake by Baauer.

But it was a response to this video from fellow YouTuber TheSunnyCoastSkate that established the template for this meme. It begins with a lone dancer in a motorcycle helmet, whose slick moves are going unnoticed by other, bored-looking people. Then the bass kicks in following the demand to ‘do the Harlem Shake’ and suddenly everyone is dancing maniacally, dressed (or undressed!) bizarrely.

It’s simple, it’s 30 seconds long, and it’s a viral hit.



Filthy Frank has since hit 100,000 subscribers, launched a new channel and is pretty much done with the whole Harlem Shake thing, while TheSunnyCoastSkate has been credited with creating the year’s biggest YouTube sensation since Gangnam Style, accruing more than 7.5m views for its video since uploading on 2 February.

Suddenly, everyone was doing the Harlem Shake. Online video production company Maker Studios (who seems to have created the most popular version with more than 10m views) kicked off the trend of bringing the dance to the workplace, and this was followed by tributes from Facebook, Google, BuzzFeed, CollegeHumor, some firefighters, and the US Naval Academy.


Our picks of the best Harlem Shake videos

According to a YouTube Trends blog post (which features a playlist of the meme’s most popular iterations), more than 12,000 Harlem Shake videos had been uploaded to YouTube by 12 February, reaching a peak of 4,000 new variations posted per day. In all, Harlem Shake tributes have garnered more than 44m views online. Here are some of our favourites from the vast selection.

Musicians Matt and Kim employed the help of a New York audience for their take on the viral sensation, and their video has been spreading like wildfire across social networks.


This video demonstrates why you can’t have a loose cannon in army formation.


Later versions of the video have introduced all varieties of masks to substitute the motorcycle helmet, as well as a variety of comical props. These lads on a Dublin Bus even brought a bodhrán along for the ride.


As you can see, the trend has spread across the globe. Here’s a Portuguese pop culture show’s take.


At some point, the element of someone pouring some kind of liquid all over themselves became common in the videos, though the UGA men’s swim and dive team took this trend one step further.


Here’s a tip: more jump cuts means more madness.


And you don’t even need to film anything – you could always make a Harlem Shake video from already-existing footage.


This one makes me think that Charles Schulz is the true originator of the trend.


And this one is just plain weird.


Origins of the dance

The Harlem Shake meme is not to be confused with the dance of the same name, which dates back to 1981. This body-popping shoulder shuffle is said to have its roots in a northeast African dance and was popularised in 2001 when it began appearing in a number of music videos.


But the name of the meme comes from the Baauer song title, not one specific dance, and a wide variety of moves can be spotted in these videos. Here are some suggestions if you decide to make a Harlem Shake tribute of your own.

Carlton Banks dancing gif

The Dude dancing gif

Adam West dancing gif

Chandler dancing gif

Dancing banana gif

Stormtrooper dancing gif

Spiderman dancing gif

Elaine Burke is the host of For Tech’s Sake, a co-production from Silicon Republic and The HeadStuff Podcast Network. She was previously the editor of Silicon Republic.