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Internet meme hits Parliament with student-wide Harlem Shake

Kajahni Tharmarajan | Fulcrum Contributor

“CON LOS TERRORISTAS” has been stuck in plenty of heads since the “Harlem Shake” web craze went viral in early February.

For those who haven’t seen it, the dance fever sweeping YouTube and other social media outlets features one dance enthusiast making outrageous movements in direct contrast to the seemingly oblivious people in the background, who later join in on a wild dance party after a sudden video cut. With all the pelvic thrusts, random props, bright colours, and partial nudity, it’s no wonder the video meme is spreading like wildfire, simultaneously causing controversy and creative imitations.

The University of Ottawa will join in on the online joke March 2 as students are invited to participate in a dance party on none other than Parliament Hill.

The independent project is being organized by Jozef Spiteri, vp social of the Student Federation of the University of Ottawa (SFUO), along with Taylor Robinson, who started the Facebook page, and SFUO president Ethan Plato, who originally showed a “Harlem Shake” video to Spiteri. The event is not endorsed by the SFUO, however, because of mixed reactions to the videos.

“I’m not looking to offend anyone, I’m looking to create a sense of community with this event,” says Spiteri. “It’s always a risk, though. I understand the SFUO’s take on it, which is why I’m stepping back from vp social and just doing this on the sidelines.”

A video entitled “Harlem Reacts to Harlem Shake” on YouTube raises concerns that made the SFUO choose not to make it a student federation event. The video features residents of Harlem expressing their thoughts on the fad—many are confused and insulted by the misrepresentation of the dance, which originated in Harlem in the ‘80s. However, Spiteri explains that the “Harlem Shake” referenced in the videos is the name of a song from 2011.

“I think people are confusing elements,” he says. “Everybody has a founded opinion, but it’s interesting to see how people are forgetting different styles of music that go with the dance, and the culture that is behind it.”

Regardless of the mixed opinions, there has been so much interest in the dance video that the U of O rendition will be shot off-campus to accommodate the large group expected to attend.

“We’re worried about the number of people,” says Spiteri. “I would feel comfortable with 200, but we’re worried about an afterflow.”

Concerns over space led Spiteri’s team to Parliament Hill, where the dance scene will take place around 1 p.m. on March 2. The filming approach—which the team hopes will feature multiple takes and camera angles—is influenced by a movie classic.

“Have you seen that scene in Ferris Bueller? I want it to be like that,” says Spiteri.

While the U of O’s public participation in the Internet dance sensation may assuredly draw some form of criticism, it also promises to be a wild and fun time for participants.


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