Learn Hip Hop Dance: Harlem Shake

How to Do the Harlem Shake

Two Methods:

Have you ever wondered how to dance to the internet sensation,The Harlem Shake? If so, you're in the right place! Quick -- go grab your grandpa's WWII helmet and a banana costume. Let's do this.


Making an Awesome Harlem Shake Video

  1. Pick an outrageous setting.The beauty of the Harlem Shake is that it can be done anywhere with anyone (it's better with people who don't dance, actually). The more outrageous the setting, the more outrageous the result.
    • Just stick to places that are legal (even though it's been done on a plane). If you can bust 'er out in a swanky French restaurant or in the middle of Chem class, that's ideal. Somewhere unexpected.
  2. Get a group of people together.They should be pretty inconspicuous and match the setting. A couple of people is sufficient, but you'll probably get a better overall look with at least half a dozen. Whatever your number, make 'em look casual.
    • The more varied your group, the better your outcome will be. Do you have one friend that can breakdance? Super. Do you have one friend who you have to pay to be in this video, but when he busts out his Russian ballerina impression, jaws hit the floor? Better yet...do you have a friend with an armadillo costume? Speaking of which...
  3. Get an outrageous costume.Alright, so if you and your buddies are getting together and Harlem shaking for fun, might as well toss on your pajamas and make the best of it. But if you're going for hardcore YouTube glory, you're gonna need more of a spectacle. A certain "look" is best, but anything that's eye-catching will do.
    • In most videos, everyone has a certain identity. There's the one guy in the gorilla costume in the back being marvelous at being awkward, the one guy acting gangster as all get out, and the other guy that, for some reason, thought it would be a good idea to swing his belt around his head while his pants fall to the floor. Whatever look you choose, make it count!
    • But for the record, you're starting in street clothes -- or whatever matches your environment. The key is to start being perfectly blended in and then BAM! Shake. Groove. Slam.
  4. Start playing Baauer'sHarlem Shake.After a few moments,oneperson should start dancing. Generally, they'll start at the left side of the screen and move toward the right. In most interpretations, they have some sort of headgear on -- which allows for plenty of creativity!
    • Helmets, a ski mask, a turkey -- it all works. And it doesn't have to make sense. In fact, the more absurd, the better. Just covering the eyes works, too.
  5. When the chorus hits, everyone should start dancing.By "dancing," we mean flailing about wildly however you damn well please. This video is not about looking pretty or hitting beats 1 and 5 with a pointed toe. You do whatever you want as long as it's energized and matches the electronic dance beat of the music.
    • Don't be shy. Dance like nobody is watching! You can just close your eyes so you won't see the people around you. If you've ever wanted to pretend you have epilepsy or are being possessed, now's your chance! You've been waiting for this moment for years, haven't you?
    • In most videos, there's an obvious cut where the video starts back up but everyone's changed costumes. You do not have to be a video pro to do this.
    • This part is when you have one guy dropping trou off to the side, one girl doing hair flips constantly, and another guy in the back doing the electric slide in a giant squirrel outfit. You'll probably also have a friend who insists on standing there and just bobbing his head intimidatingly. Every group has one.
  6. End the video in about 45 seconds.Part of the reason the Harlem Shake craze is so big is because the ADD generation can handle it. It's quick and to the point. If you make it any longer, it gets repetitive and boring. And how long do you really want to watch yourself seizing?

Doing the Original Harlem Shake Dance Move

  1. Alternate popping shoulders, left and right.With every beat of the music, you'll pop a shoulder. "Pop" here meaning move it up and out to the side quickly. The rest of your body should sort of flow with each pop -- it's not only your shoulders that are moving.
    • You're sort of moving your shoulders in arch, starting from the inside and going out. When you pop your left shoulder, your right hip should jut out. The hips should follow behind the shoulder by just a split second.
  2. Do it in threes.If you're popping your left shoulder first, go left, right, left. Then pop right, left, right. If you're working with music that's 4/4, you'll be using the half-beats, or theandof 1and2 (for example).
    • Start going faster and faster. Electronic dance music can be really, really, fast and keeping time is absolutely imperative.
  3. Start using your arms.When you pop your shoulders, your arms should be bent at the elbows, with your forearms and hands going toward the other direction. So when you pop left, through your arms right. When you pop right, throw your arms left. Keep your hands in a loose fist.
    • When you pop a shoulder, it moves up a bit. To exaggerate this, move theothershoulderdowna bit. When you add in your arms, this looks especially good and loosens you up. Your arms will then be at slightly different levels.
  4. Add personality to it.Keeping the same basics (popping shoulders and opposite arms), get creative. Move your arms to shoulder level or even above your head. Add in a hand movement on the beats (dirt off your shoulder, maybe?) to jazz it up. It's still the Harlem Shake!
    • When you're working with music that's 4/4 (as most music is), alternate between working in threes (hitting pop, pop, pop on 1and2, 3and4), and working in twos (hitting pop, pop on 5, 6). So you might pop your shoulders five times on 1,and, 2, 3, 4 and then five more times on 5, and, 6, 7, 8.
  5. Know that this is different than the video craze.The Harlem Shake is a dance move that goes back to the 80s -- it's not just some recent YouTube phenomenon, despite what your friends may tell you. The video craze just involves dancing wildly and hasnothingto do with this dance move.
    • However, if you want to get creative, do the Harlem Shake while you're making a Harlem Shake video. Only a few people will understand what you're doing, but they'll appreciate it!

Community Q&A

  • Question
    Where can I find a video of the Harlem Shake?
    Community Answer
    Go on YouTube and search for Harlem Shake.
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Quick Summary

To do the Harlem Shake, start by alternating shoulder pops to each beat of the music by moving your shoulders up and out to the sides quickly. Do your shoulder pops in threes, popping left-right-left first and right-left-right next. Then, throw your arms left as you pop right and right as you pop left, keeping your hands in loose fists. When you’re in a groove with your shoulders and arms, mix things up by adding hand movements on the beats or moving your arms to shoulder level or even above your head while you keep popping your shoulders.

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  • The more absurd the costumes, the better.

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