Viral video “Harlem Shake” reaches Syracuse University, students film on Hendricks steps

Rachel Mohler | Contributing Photographer

Students gather outside of Hendricks Chapel to take part in the filming of a video to the tune of "Harlem Shake," in hopes that the video will go viral.

First, Syracuse did “Gangnam Style.” Now, it’s “Harlem Shake.”

More than 70 students crowded the steps of Hendricks Chapel on Wednesday afternoon to be part of a Syracuse University-themed “Harlem Shake” video.

Otto the Orange made an appearance and rolled into the shot as the camera was being set up. Only moments passed before a student dressed as Gumby walked out from the masses and challenged the mascot to a dance-off.

After all, the video wouldn’t have had that special SU style without the dance moves of Otto.

“It was awesome,” said Imani Wimberly, the senior writing and rhetoric

major dressed as Gumby. “I have never done anything like this, and to

say I had a hand in it was amazing.”

Spiderman, a David Bowie look-alike, two dogs and a giant banana were other characters among the group. A Department of Public Safety car also made a cameo as one girl danced atop its hood.

Before the camera started rolling, an aggressive “Get on the stairs!” chant lifted from the dancers as they urged spectators to join. Although the steps were equipped with speakers, the music was barely audible within the cheers and shouts of the students.

At 4 p.m., Shawn Rommevaux, director of social media for the College of Visual and Performing Arts, called for silence and explained the process. Three shots, that’s all they needed. One shot of the calm before the storm and two takes of the violent fist-pumps and jumping. Of course, the dancers needed no coaching, since the dance had gone viral one week ago.

“Harlem Shake” was released in the summer and simmered quietly until early February, when it exploded online. Hundreds of parody videos have since popped up on YouTube — many with more than five million views. Performances have been filmed in offices, dorm rooms and even underwater.

“We were late with our video when ‘Gangnam’ came out,” Rommevaux said. “This time around, we’re filming right as the videos are picking up speed online. We definitely have a chance to go viral.”

The SU version was planned by Rommevaux and Ulf Oesterle, also a director of social media for VPA.

Oesterle was teaching a class about social media in the music business Tuesday morning when he came up with the idea. Without wasting time, he recruited his students to tweet about the event. On-site recruiting happened as the afternoon approached.

“Even though we did this all in a matter of hours, it was pretty easy,” Oesterle said. “The only challenge was that it’s Ash Wednesday, and we had to make sure it was OK to film on the (Hendricks Chapel) steps.”

Despite it being the first day of Lent, the filming happened without a hitch. Some dancers even came straight from church, ashes still marked across their foreheads.

Meah Pollock, a junior in the Bandier Program for Music and the Entertainment Industries and the masked Spiderman in the video, said whether the video goes viral, students who participated will be left with a long-lasting memory.

Said Pollock: “I’m never going to forget this. It was also a lot of fun to wear Halloween costumes in February.”


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