'Harlem Shake' shakes up Brownsville School District

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It's become the shake seen 'round the world.

"The Harlem Shake has exploded," YouTube announced in a trend report posted Feb. 12 on its video sharing website. Since the beginning of the month, 12,000 "Harlem Shake" videos were posted to the website and viewed 44 million times.

Three days later, the explosion continued and YouTube needed to update its numbers. As of Feb. 15, there were 40,000 "Harlem Shake" videos on YouTube that had been viewed 175 million times.

Most of the videos employ the same simple formula: One person, usually wearing a mask or costume, gyrates to a song by music producer Baauer for several seconds alone, until a jump cut reveals that the lone dancer has been joined by several others. Local high schools, including the Vincentian and Montour boys basketball teams, have made their own.

All good Internet crazes, no matter how popular, must eventually reach their tipping point.

That moment may have occurred this week at Brownsville Area High School in Fayette County.

A "Harlem Shake" video -- shot in a Brownsville High School classroom and posted online -- prompted a two-day suspension for the 13 students involved. Brownsville Area School Board President Rocky Brashear called the video "very graphic and very vulgar," the Associated Press reported.

The 29-second video was posted on YouTube Tuesday with the title "Harlem Shake Brownsville Style" and the caption, "We all were suspended for this. Made the news too! View and tell everyone! It's hilarious. Did in about 5 mins tho! Haha"

Philip J. Savini Jr., superintendent of the Brownsville district, did not immediately respond to a message left with his office. The district's solicitor, James Davis, said neither he nor Mr. Savini could discuss disciplinary issues at the school district.

The shake may have shuddered to a stop in Brownsville, but it goes on -- and on and on -- all around the Internet, prompting the question: just what is it about the "Harlem Shake" that inspires so many spin-offs?

"I think the beauty of a dance like that is that anybody can do it, because there's nothing technically required. All you have to do is shake it out," said Brenna Jaworski, founder and owner of Pittsburgh Heat Hip Hop Dance Company.

She pointed out that in most of the videos posted online, no one is doing the actual Harlem Shake that dates back decades, a real dance move "kind of like a boogie" involving the shoulders.

Tomorrow night, yielding to numerous requests from her students, Ms. Jaworski will join the craze and film her own "Harlem Shake" video with her students.

Her version, she said, will involve the real Harlem Shake.

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Correction, posted on Feb. 20, 2013: In an earlier version of this story, the first name of Rocky Brashear was incorrect. Kaitlynn Riely: kriely@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1707. This story originally appeared in The Pittsburgh Press. To log in or subscribe, go to: http://press.post-gazette.com/


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