It kept mushrooming on YouTube and multiplied like some weird alien amoeba, but like it or hate it the Harlem Shake will be shaking down Hong Kong Stadium this weekend.
It’s the dance anyone can do; you can’t do it right, and you can’t do it wrong. It gives people with two left feet the chance to look like they have the moves. It gives hope to people like me who dance worse than blow-up human-like forms that flutter in the breeze outside used-car lots and trade shows.
In Chinese New Year week, the Harlem Shake took root around the world. In the Year of the Snake it will weave its way around So Kon Po and the stadium like a Mexican wave.
Its origins are about as far away from Harlem as you can get. And like Gangnam Style, it’s been parodied from Poland to Pittsburgh. More people watched it in the first week than the population of Australia. A week later, there were 175 million views.
The dance for the Harlem Shake is like the definition of jazz … four musicians all playing a different tune. Yet it reflects the Hong Kong Sevens... 40,000 people doing their own thing, living their own Sevens, supporting their own team but somehow with a collective conscience of rugby nirvana.
It has skyrocketed into orbit the song by Brooklyn DJ Baauer. Last summer, he posted the song on YouTube with no visuals.
On February 2, amateur comedian Filthy Frank picked it up and decided to make a YouTube clip in his living room dancing to it with a guy in a Power Rangers suit, another in a Spider-Man suit, and one in a pink full body lycra leotard, complete with head. The human sperm resembled about 400 people I’ve seen going off like a frog in a sock in the South Stand over the years.
I had to wonder if Filthy Frank had been to the Hong Kong Sevens and if he and his mates in the clip weren’t South Stand escapees. Maybe he was the one who broke the song as a hit, and maybe it was some other person who loved the slightly hip-hop beat. This is a dance made for the Sevens.
Less than a month later, there were more than 50,000 memes of it. They seem to operate on the premise that “those who are easily shocked should be shocked more often”, to quote Mae West.
We’ve seen the hundreds of Harlem Shake clips created by bored university students and office workers; we’ve seen firemen, Australian surfers, the Canterbury Crusaders rugby team and even an underwater version with the American swim team.
Common elements include: the solo dancing guy with a box on his head (watch the Lego heads start up the dance in the South Stand next weekend), bicycle helmets for the first dancer are big and reminiscent of the Stig, Ö there’s a ubiquitous superhero costume of some sort, often someone is dancing upside down, Super Mario seems to slip into the clips. There’s always some Mamil (Middle Aged Men in Lycra), commonly in pink, and usually one guy has his shirt off. Several clips feature women in bikinis with helmets on, (apparently pelvic thrusting is unisex these days).
And for some random reason, many feature someone in a sleeping bag, wriggling like an alien pupae that’s been tasered.
The first sleeping bag seemed to appear in the Norwegian Army Harlem Shake. I suppose dancing is one way to keep warm in a Nordic winter when there’s daylight for about, oh, three seconds. In the ever-present void of darkness, the aurora borealis is there to wave at you like the green fairy actually do cometh.
You’ve got to hand it to a bunch of Norwegian soldiers shaking their groove thang and busting a move in stiff army flak jackets you can barely move in, designed to protect them from the rigours of a polar winter.
On the other side of the planet there’s hot, steamy Hong Kong, where a flak jacket might give you heat stroke, but may be the most protective clothing for the South Stand. But in what looks set to be the hottest Sevens we’ve seen for over a decade, less may be more in the wardrobe stakes.
If you’ve got visitors, watch your sleeping bag. You may find one of your house guests not only sleeps in it, he/she wears it all day at the Sevens.