What's the Real Harlem Shake?

Courtesy of YouTube

Harlem Shake: if you've seen one, you've basically seen them all.

Well, not quite.

Over the past few weeks, the Harlem Shake has been making its way around the Harvard community. But the current viral videos stem from an original Harlem Shake, choreographed by a dancer named Al B. It was first known by that dancer's name—"the Albee"—before being christened the "Harlem Shake."

We checked in with some of Harvard's experts to learn more about the original Harlem Shake.

"It was a dance, not a song," said Glenda R. Carpio, a professor of English and African and African American Studies at Harvard.

Kellie C. Jackson, Harvard College Fellow in the Department of African and African American Studies, remembers the real Harlem Shake as something different from the current viral videos. "It was a shoulder shake dance," she said. Jackson referred to the reinvention of the Harlem Shake as "wild, chaotic, and crazy."

For Carpio, what strikes her the most about the original Harlem Shake is the connection between the dancers. "There is a real sense of community in that there are individuals performing and having solos while the rest of the group watches and takes turns, very much like any hip hop street dancing," she said. "I think in the parodies, what is lost is that sense of community."

Pfoho begs to differ.

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