Howard, Northwestern students get wild in rendition of ‘Harlem Shake’ meme

Students dressed up in wild costumes Sunday to create Northwestern's
rendition of the Harlem Shake, featuring Burgwell Howard, assistant vice president for student affairs.

Rommel Morales/The Daily Northwestern

Students dressed up in wild costumes Sunday to create Northwestern's rendition of the Harlem Shake, featuring Burgwell Howard, assistant vice president for student affairs.

Cat Zakrzewski, Assistant In Focus Editor

Burgwell Howard said Sunday that Northwestern is a school that likes to always be “cutting-edge” and keep up with the “latest trends.”

Even if that trend is on YouTube.

On Sunday afternoon, about 100 Wildcats left the library and hit the floors of Henry Crown Sports Pavilion to record Northwestern’s own version of the latest Internet video trend, in which dancers shake their torsos and shoulders to Baauer’s “Harlem Shake.” Students from across campus came out in wild costumes and joined Howard and Willie the Wildcat for the video.

“It’s all about community and fun,” Howard, assistant vice president for student engagement, said between takes at Sunday’s shooting.

Although some campus groups, including the football and swim teams, have already made their own “Harlem Shake” videos, Sunday’s video marked the first campus-wide NU attempt. The video went live on YouTube on Sunday evening.

Weinberg senior Henri Pierre-Jacques planned the shooting with his roommate Alex Pezeshki and said he hoped it would get at least a few thousand hits.

Pierre-Jacques said he made a Facebook event to get other students involved in the shooting and reached out to Associated Student Government President Victor Shao on Feb. 11. He said he was really happy with the turnout they received and that making the video was all about making “senior memories.”

“I’m graduating in 39 days,” he said. “I’ve got to use that time wisely.”

The video begins with a group of students playing basketball in SPAC as Willie the Wildcat and Howard dance at center court. It then cuts to a shot of all the students in crazy costumes and purple NU gear, everything from purple T-shirts to horse costumes. They are dancing wildly, waving purple foam fingers donated by Northwestern Wildside, riding exercise bikes and throwing stability balls like beach balls through the crowd. The video ends with a shot of the students and Howard on the ground as Willie the Wildcat looks around.

Weinberg sophomore Meg McPherson came to the event wearing a penguin suit. She said she felt it was important to be there and show her school pride as co-chair of the Happiness Club.

“It was kind of a mix of a waddle with a little bit of booty popping,” McPherson said of her dance moves in the video. “There was a little bit of beak pecking too.”

Howard said he knew the “old school” version of the dance, which began in Harlem in 1981, and he looked up the new version on YouTube after Shao and the students planning the event approached him about being in the video.

“I’m rocking the old school,” Howard joked while dancing with Willie the Wildcat. “Willie’s rocking the new school shake.”

Shao said he was glad people came out to be in the video and said ASG’s involvement would help as they plan their own campus music video. ASG collected proposals for music video ideas until Saturday night, and Shao said they are still planning to produce their own video in early Spring Quarter.

Shao said he thought the Harlem Shake video would allow students to have some fun despite the school’s competitive environment.

“I’m a terrible dancer, but I don’t care,” Shao said. “Northwestern’s got some talent, whether that’s in dancing or having funny costumes.”

Correction: A previous version of this story misspelled Alex Pezeshki’s last name. The Daily regrets the error.