YouTube sensation 'Harlem Shake' reaches Berkshires


Sunday February 24, 2013

PITTSFIELD -- Standing on the slope of a snow-covered hill at Bousquet Ski Area on Saturday afternoon, 9-year-old Derek Bean looked off a short distance where a large group of people had gathered and asked, "What the freak is this?"

Derek probably hasn't been on the video-sharing site Youtube in the last two weeks. More than 50 people -- mostly children in buttoned ski gear -- were gathered at the foot of the snowy slope.

Then DJ Baauer's overnight hit hip-hop dance groove was played over the loud speaker. Huddled around a tent with a video camera pointed at them, the crowd of people broke out into a sudden eruption of spastic, unchoreographed dance chaos where a helmeted man had been dancing alone moments earlier.

Derek had just witnessed the Harlem Shake, an internet sensation started by a single video in Australia but that has now been performed by tens of thousandswith the videos posted on Youtube. And that's all since Feb. 7.

The inspiration behind the "online meme" was some inconspicuous guys from an Australia-based longboarding crew called The Sunny Coast Skate. Their video now has had nearly 17 million views. The Harlem Shake starts with a single dancer -- usually wearing a mask or helmet -- dancing to Baauer's song unnoticed while surrounded by people.

Then the base kicks in. With some simple editing, suddenly there's a large crowd of spastic dancing in the videos that don't last more than 30 seconds.

University students seemingly everywhere have performed the dance, including the University of Georgia's men swim and dive team and the University of Florida cheer team.

The Norweign Army even posted a video on Youtube. Celebrities, including hip-hop musician T-Pain, have posted videos.

Hinsdale resident Adam Larson, who attends MCLA, got a glimpse of the growing fad and gladly offered to edit a Harlem Shake video after his friend Devon When jokingly suggested they create one.

They posted the video on Friday night. Less than 24 hours later, there had been more than 28,000 views of the video Country Harlem Shake (in the 413).

The video, which lasts slightly more than a minute, was filmed at Whispering Pines Farm in Lanesborough. A text message went out for volunteers and 25 to 30 people showed up, Larson said. It was shot atop a Toyota SUV.

He's received text messages complimenting the video. Others suggested that "it's the most dumb video you've made."

He adds though, "It's the most popular [he's done.]"

"It's the fun factor more than anything," said Larson. "There is an element of surprise about what will happen when the base line drops."

A video produced at a ski resort in Wyoming caught the attention of Bousquet's Cindy Bartlett. Ski owner Sherry Roberts was happy to go along.

The helmeted man in the video is Russ Funk, the director of racing and rental.

"They had to talk me into this," said Funk, who hadn't seen the video beforehand. But he didn't offer much resistance.

Tim Schmidt and Shaun Pero, both 17, were happy to join the 50 dancing. Schmidt pumped his arms from atop Pero's shoulders, but in the middle of video being taped, he fell off. From the snowy ground, he proceeded to writhe and then performed the worm.

"I was on his shoulders and he was whomping too hard and it got out of control," Schmidt said.

From several feet away, after the video was filmed in about 10 minutes, Derek, the 9-year-old commented, "This is freckin weird," before running off with a friend.

To reach John Sakata:
or (413)-496-6240


If you'd like to leave a comment (or a tip or a question) about this story with the editors, please email us. We also welcome letters to the editor for publication; you can do that by filling out our letters form and submitting it to the newsroom.

Powered by Creative Circle Media Solutions