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The Harlem Shake dances its way to Long Island

Students join in to dance the Harlem Shake

Students join in to dance the Harlem Shake at a Harlem Shake happening at Stony Brook University as filmed on YouTube in this frame grab for The Making of SBU's Harlem Shake. (Feb. 20, 2013) Credit: The Statesman, Stony Brook Unive Nina Lin

College students are doing it. The Miami Heat and Norwegian Army are doing it. Even Charlie Brown and Lucy are doing it.

It's called the Harlem Shake, and the only rules for this new fad are to play the song by the same name, wear crazy costumes -- and dance like a maniac. Oh, and film it to upload on YouTube.

Talk about going viral. According to YouTube, half a million Harlem Shake videos were uploaded, with more than one billion views of those videos, over the four weeks since the song's release. The phenomenon of the homemade videos has pushed the song to No. 1 on the Billboard charts three weeks in a row.

And as usual, Long Islanders are on top of the trend, with dozens of local colleges, shops and clubs uploading their own spoofy videos.

"They're funny," says Melville resident Sean Patterson, 24, of the Harlem Shake videos he has watched on YouTube. "I want to make one of my own."

In most of them, it starts with a single dancer, often wearing a helmet, who thrusts his or her hips while others in the camera view ignore it. When the words, "Do the Harlem Shake," are spoken, others join in, gyrating convulsively to the music, often masked, dressed in costumes or swinging odd props. Most of the videos last about 30 seconds.


The odd song itself is the brainchild of Brooklyn-based music producer Harry Rodrigues, who goes by the DJ name of Baauer. The song starts with a Spanish voice saying the nonsensical, "¡Con los terroristas!" ("With the terrorists!") before the music starts, and then changes to the crowd dancing after a voice bellows, "Do the Harlem Shake."

Recent news reports say that Baauer and his record company are being sued. The suit claims the lyrics were lifted from works by musical artists Hector Delgado and Jayson Musson.

The origins of the dance are even fuzzier. Some reports say that the now deceased Harlem resident Albert Boyce started the dance in the 1980s, and since then, other dancers have refined it. But earlier videos of the artistic dance share little with the determinedly spastic movements seen in videos uploaded by college and professional teams -- and just about anyone else with a smartphone.


Long Islanders are certainly getting into the act. There are Harlem Shake videos shot in barbershops, offices and clubs. There's even one outside a Lindenhurst Taco Bell. College campus videos are some of the most viewed. Among them is one filmed at Stony Brook University's campus by commuter student John Feinberg, along with Robert "Wrack'em" Wranovics, who works for the college radio station. It's gotten 13,800 hits as of last week.

"I was on Facebook talking with one of my friends, and thought it would be a fun thing to do," says Feinberg, who gathered the dancing crowd of 300 students through word-of-mouth and social media. Filmed the day after the big snowstorm last month, the lone dancer in the beginning is Wolfie the Sea Wolf, the college's mascot.

Feinberg got approval from college administration, with restrictions. "They didn't want people walking around campus with the masks on. They could only wear them for the filming," he said.

Hofstra's marketing department made one for its women's basketball team that's garnered about 3,400 views. "It was to promote our last two games," says assistant coach Bill Ferrara. "We grabbed as many props as we could. Everybody's personality comes through."

Not everyone is a fan of the videos you just can't stop watching. "It's ridiculous," says Jose Diaz, 31, of Brentwood, likening the videos to the fad of planking.

But as an iTunes reviewer who goes by the moniker of Broken Headphones wrote of Baauer's song; "Don't question it. Just buy the song and dance like crazy."


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