You know what they say, “What goes around comes back around.” Or “History repeats itself.” Well, for some reason, dance history is repeating itself–well, kinda sorta–in this rash of Harlem Shake videos that have been circulating the ‘net as of late. One day I kept seeing these videos of people doing some weird kind of jerky dance with costumes pop up all over my newsfeed, and I couldn’t help think “This is strange, I thought the Harlem Shake came out years ago? Why are people doing videos about it now? And from what I remember, it didn’t look like that!”
It’s just so funny to me how the freedom of social media can allow for images, memes, and traditions to be rediscovered and reinvented, all with some editing and the click of a button. If I wanted to get all serious about it, I could look at this as yet another way in which street culture is hijacked, pimped by, and conformed to mainstream culture. It’s a C-O-N-Spiracy! But nah, I won’t.
I just listened to a short blurb on NPR about the origins of the Harlem Shake, in which they interviewed Jay Smooth, host of the hip-hop video blog “Ill Doctrine.” He says no harm, no foul, it’s all in good fun: “it’s sort of an example of how a cultural artifact can fly around in this sort of global game of telephone. And these questions of appropriation can rise up, but there isn’t really any intent to steal or make fun of. It’s jut the way that ideas propagate nowadays.” I agree with Jay…it’s all good. But I do agree with what he says at the end of the interview–can we have a compromise and just get at least one person in these videos to do the real Harlem Shake? LOL…
At any rate, I personally got excited about this video with some folks doing the Harlem Shake I’m more familiar with. I love to see young people dance, and I love the fact that social media has given them an outlet to in a sense reclaim their cultural artifact. You gotta love how sista’ girl in the green breaks it down, and then they put the impostor “Harlem Shake” in the garbage can…Have fun and dance on, chil’ren! 🙂