'Harlem Shake' craze? Yeah, Pittsburgh's got that, too

| Friday, Feb. 15, 2013, 6:21 p.m.

Gangnam Style?! Pfft!

That's so 2012.

These days, Harlem Shake videos are ushering in the next dance craze.

Grab a camera, some unusual clothes and a crowd of friends who can go from zero-to-60 on the excitement scale until you yell “cut.”

That's all you'll need to contribute to the fast-growing universe of wildly popular 30-second music clips that have flooded YouTube.

And scores of people — including those from colleges in Western Pennsylvania — have been doing just that, at a rate of 4,000 video posts a day.

Here's the script:

Each video is set to the electronic dance track song “Harlem Shake” by Baauer, and begins with one person, usually wearing a helmet or mask, dancing alone in a crowd of seemingly oblivious people.

Then the bass kicks.

With no transition, the next scene jumps to everyone shaking, flailing and dancing, most times with props and in wild costumes.

The University of Pittsburgh's Men's Glee Club was looking for something to gin up excitement to help promote its European tour this summer. Shakin' it in front of a camera seemed to fit the bill.

Each of its 80 singers brought a tuxedo and a wild costume to film a Harlem Shake clip during Wednesday's rehearsal. The group's video features glee club president Ukwen Akpoji pop-locking in a white motorcycle helmet, amid rows of club singers.

The practice room then erupts into an ocean of revelers that includes people waving flags, a security guard riding a stick horse and a guy with bucket pretending to throw confetti.

“It was a great time,” says Akpoji, a 22-year-old senior pharmacy student. “Our director keeps to the tradition of glee club music, but allows us to branch out and do things like this, something so contemporary and fun.”

Other videos have been posted by students from Clarion University, Pitt's Kappa Sigma fraternity and the Art Institute of Pittsburgh.

The videos' digestible brevity is part of their appeal, so much so the trend may stick for a while, says Steven Hallock, director of Point Park University's School of Communications.

At first blush, the videos may seem to some as kids just having fun. But they also may carry an underlying message.

“It's a fresh breath of nonconformity,” he says. “It shows that all it takes is one person to break out of a conforming world to inspire change.”

YouTube's trends manager Kevin Allocca says the meme is exploding; as of Feb. 11, 12,000 Harlem Shake videos have been posted this month. Those videos have been watched upward of 44 million times.

Chris Ramirez is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at cramirez@tribweb.com or 412-380-5682.

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