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'Harlem Shake' has Baltimore moving, too

Viral video craze prompts locals to don helmets, start dancing

By Jill Rosen, The Baltimore Sun

8:29 PM EST, February 17, 2013

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Some guys gave flowers. Others candy. But smooth Rod Lopez, a man in touch with the cultural cutting edge, feted his lady love with a "Harlem Shake" video for Valentine's Day.

In it, the 34-year-old owner of a Parkville production company, wearing jockey shorts, shimmies atop a desk while holding a heart-shaped balloon. And no, he says, divorce papers are not imminent.

"She thought it was romantic," Lopez says. "We're making another one tonight with the whole family."

With "Call Me Maybe" history and "Gangnam Style" only a faint viral echo, conditions seemed ripe for another catchy ear worm with even more contagious video possibilities. Enter "Harlem Shake," an electronica confection by Baauer, an otherwise low-profile DJ from Brooklyn, that has taken the country by storm.

As of Friday the song had broken into the iTunes top three. Kevin Allocca of the YouTube Trends blog reported Friday that about 40,000 "Harlem Shake" videos had been uploaded, amounting to 175 million page views. Those include takes by Jimmy Fallon, Ryan Seacrest, Stephen Colbert, Dr. Oz, Sports Illustrated swimsuit models, "The Daily Show" and "Today."

The basic parody formula lasts 30 seconds. In the beginning there's one lone dancer, usually with something on his or head. On cue, everyone joins the party, and the videos always close with everyone dancing — and usually not well.

Baltimore has jumped onto the meme with gusto. Throwing their spoofs into the maelstrom are high school students, office workers and, well, anyone with a smart phone and a yen for 30 seconds of e-glory.

Kyle Edwards, who's 25 and a graduate student at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, thought a little "Shake" would be just the thing to draw some attention to his online radio show, "Rough Around The Edges." After bingeing on 25 or so parody videos, he said to himself, "Hey, we could do this," and then popped a football helmet on his head, swallowed his pride and taped one in the control room with his show crew.

The entire staff of NV3 Technologies recorded and posted theirs Thursday, encouraged by staffers Jeremy Hewitt and Paul Findeisen.

Hewitt, a 28-year-old IT specialist from White Marsh, discovered the craze while planning for his honeymoon, which will be at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Annual Festival. When he looked up one of the performers, Baauer, it didn't take long before he was nose-deep in "Harlem Shake" videos.

"I couldn't get enough of it," he says.

The NV3 version, taped in a conference room of the small technology firm's Canton offices, offers a post-Super Bowl spin, with a dancer in a Ray Lewis jersey doing what one could call a squirrel shake.

"Anyone in the world can make a 'Harlem Shake' video," Hewitt says. "Ours is a little thank-you and a high five to Ray Lewis. So we'll say it's the best."

Purists, such as Deadspin.com, note that the videos rarely feature the true "Harlem Shake," the shimmying dance popular in the early '00s. The name stems from the Baauer track sampling a song by Philadelphia's Plastic Little, in which the singer recounts how he ended a memorable fight: "Then do the Harlem Shake."

Video makers say the ease of making a video has driven the craze. But it's sheer fun that fuels it.

"If you watch any of them online you can see people are just having so much fun," Lopez says. "It's silly, but that's the best part."

jill.rosen@baltsun.com

More 'Shake'

See more local takes on the 'Harlem Shake.'

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