This December, the New Museum will be showcasing a new project titled Level Up: The Real Harlem Shake as part of their Fall 2014 R&D Season focusing on choreography. A collaboration among Salome Asega, Chrybaby Cozie, and Ali Rosa Salas, the work explores the origins of the real Harlem Shake, a foundational dance movement in the style known as Lite Feet. The project will be presented in Amsterdam and Barnard College before making its way to the New Museum. However, due to the very viral song by electronic producer Baauer, the term "Harlem Shake" has become more associated with one of the most popular memes in recent history.
The spastic and comedic dance moves found in Baauer's "Harlem Shake" and all the covers it spawned are, in reality, nothing like the style they are named after. The actual Harlem Shake is a technically rigorous step that involves movement of one's shoulders, feet, and head individually in a stylized manner. The Lite Feet community was reasonably angered that the move, authored by Harlem-based creatives decades ago, was hijacked into a meme that didn't even remotely resemble the dance style.
Level Up: The Real Harlem Shake explores the history of the form but primarily focuses on the role of digital media platforms in archiving the legacy of contemporary dance movements. Specifically, the work focuses on the virtual erasure of the real Harlem Shake through the meme, and the challenges that urban arts communities face regarding ownership and thoughtless appropriation.
We'll keep you posted on the exact date you can learn about and participate in Harlem Shake research at the New Museum this December/