The Harlem Shake, often misunderstood due to its viral internet counterpart, is an authentic hip-hop move with deep roots in the dance community. Today, with insights from renowned dancer Jardy Santiago, we delve into the true essence of theHarlem Shake, teaching you the foundational steps and how to infuse your personality into this classic move. Jardy, who began mastering the Harlem Shake in the early 2000s, offers a blend of historical context and technical guidance to help you learn and appreciate this vibrant dance form.

The Harlem Shake: A Rich History

Originating in the early 1980s, the Harlem Shake was crafted by a dancer named Albie Cisco, whose unique style captivated the original Harlem dancers. These pioneers evolved Cisco’s movements into theHarlem Shake known today. While the dance peaked in mainstream media shortly before Jardy began his journey, its influence persists in the hip-hop and street dance communities.

Understanding the Basics

Learning the Harlem Shake involves mastering a basic rhythmic shake, which serves as the foundation for adding various stylistic elements. Jardy emphasizes the importance of not just performing the steps but embodying the dance with the right attitude and street style.

Starting Position

  1. Feet Position: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  2. Pigeon Toes: Turn your feet inward to a pigeon-toe position—this helps in executing the distinctive shake of the dance.

The Basic Shake

  1. Shoulder and Hip Coordination: Initiate the movement by throwing your left shoulder out while simultaneously thrusting your hip in the same direction.
  2. Lean Back: Incorporate a lean back to add flair and exaggerate the movement.
  3. Rhythmic Pattern: The rhythm follows a four-count beat, often accentuated with “one-two-three-four” during practice to help maintain timing.

Example: Throw hip out on “one,” lean and pull back into starting position continuing through “two, three, four.”

Adding the Shake

  1. Arm Movement: Keep your arms loose and free-flowing. The arms play a crucial role in enhancing the shake effect and maintaining balance.
  2. Full Body Movement: The key to theHarlem Shake is looseness. Avoid stiffness; your body should move fluidly, allowing for a natural shake.

Practice Makes Perfect

Jardy stresses the importance of repetition and attitude in mastering the Harlem Shake. Practicing the basic steps repeatedly until they feel natural and effortless is crucial. The attitude—portraying confidence and embodying the street style essence—is what transforms good execution into a great performance.

Innovating Your Harlem Shake

Once comfortable with the basic movements, it’s essential to personalize the dance. This customization is what sets apart one dancer’s Harlem Shake from another’s.

Personal Flair and Improvisation

  1. Experiment with Speed: Altering the speed of your movements can add a dynamic element to your dance.
  2. Incorporate Lyrics and Surroundings: Use the lyrics of the music and your environment to inspire unique movements that complement the basic Harlem Shake.

Integrating Harlem Shake into Your Dance Routine

The Harlem Shake, while a standalone move, should seamlessly integrate into your broader dance routines.

  1. Transition Smoothly: Learn to flow in and out of theHarlem Shake from other dance moves. This fluidity enhances your overall performance and showcases your versatility as a dancer.
  2. Combine with Other Styles: Don’t hesitate to mix elements of other dance styles into your Harlem Shake, making it truly unique.
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Concluding Thoughts

Mastering the Harlem Shake is about more than replicating steps; it’s about embracing an attitude, mastering the rhythm, and making the dance your own. As Jardy Santiago emphasizes, the journey doesn’t end with learning the move. True mastery comes from continuous practice, personal expression, and the ability to innovate within the framework of traditional moves.

By learning theHarlem Shake, you connect with a piece of hip-hop history and gain a versatile tool in your dance arsenal. Whether you’re performing in a battle, at a club, or anywhere else, the Harlem Shake is a surefire way to impress and express. Keep practicing, keep experimenting, and most importantly, keep dancing with spirit!

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