Their Friday shifts are wrapping up, but the stylists at Ballston Spa hair salon Make Me Fabulous stick around for a few minutes. Half a dozen young girls sit in styling chairs, reading People Magazine and turning their heads in front of vanity mirrors, plastic capes draped over them.
No one blinks an eye when a loud beat plays over the speakers and a man in blue jeans and a Stormtrooper helmet begins dancing weirdly behind them. His arms move like a slinky. He shuffles from one foot to the next, in time with the hypnotic beat. He moves up and down, sideways, and gyrates awkwardly.
The girls stare straight ahead, their stylists fussing with their hair until Angela McFarland, a big grin on her face, yells “OK, cut!” and gushes about how great everyone was.
Part one of the Harlem Shake is complete. The Internet meme that went viral earlier this month has already been declared dead, but that hasn’t stopped teenagers, college students, sports teams, news crews, bands, and anyone really who feels like it from making their own version of the Harlem Shake.
It certainly hasn’t stopped Ballston Spa.
“We’re planning on keeping it simple,” said Angela McFarland, publisher and owner of the Ballston Journal. “We’ve got six locations, they’ll have fun with it, we’ll put it out and let our neighbors and readers vote on their favorite. And then, it’ll be over and done. It’s kind of like the Pet Rock fad. It’s a lot of fun when it’s happening, but it’s OK when it’s over.”
The concept is simple, which likely explains the rapid rate at which the Harlem Shake went viral. Each video is about 30 seconds, played over an excerpt from the Baauer song “Harlem Shake.” If you’ve never heard of Baauer, you’re not alone: Hardly anyone had until this meme existed. The song is electronic and bass-heavy, and once you listen to it you’ll understand the meaning of “when the bass drops.”
The video begins with a person in a crowd, usually wearing a mask or a helmet, dancing by themselves for about 15 or 20 seconds. No one in the crowd notices them. Then the bass drops, and the video cuts to the once-still crowd dancing erratically in weird and flashy costumes.
Thirty seconds. That’s all. And fans of the original Harlem Shake videos found the concept easy to replicate, if not attach their own spin to it — in a locker room, at an Army base, on the Subway, at the airport, on your local news channel, even underwater.
“The traditional Harlem Shake is very spaghetti arms,” said McFarlane, wiggling her arms in front of the group. “Are you guys ready? It’s better if you don’t smile. OK, ready?”
It’s been only a few minutes, but the group of teenagers, stylists and parents are all costumed. There’s a guy wearing a sequined coat, bow tie and Michael Jackson glove. A mustached girl in clown shoes and a top hat taps a thin cane on the floor, laughing with her friends who show off their Afros and Viking helmets as they jump up onto the styling chairs. There are feather boas and banana costumes, mullets and masks.
The group gets silent and waits. Over the speaker, a familiar voice belts “Con los teroristas” and everyone begins dancing erratically. They wiggle, shake pompoms, flail their arms and punch the air with hairdryers and curling irons. The meme may be dead already, but it truly is entertaining to see so many ridiculously dressed people dancing so ridiculously.
“All this happened while I was getting my haircut,” said McFarland, explaining how the idea first came about.
She stopped into Make Me Fabulous earlier this week to get her hair cut. She was chatting with her stylist about the Harlem Shake and how much she would love to do a video in Ballston Spa when she got an email from her business editor. He told her Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce President Todd Shimkus was looking for a way to highlight Ballston Spa, much in the same way the Chamber had highlighted Saratoga Springs with a massively produced Lip Dub in the summer of 2011.
“The one thing we learned from the Lip Dub is that the community enjoyed just coming out and doing something crazy different, and this is just the next crazy different thing,” said Shimkus, as he watched the wild dance moves Friday night from the sidelines.
McFarland agreed to take on the project with the Journal’s videographer, Vinny Tucceri, who plans to release the videos over the next few days.
On Friday, they filmed three different themed Harlem Shake videos — at the hair salon, the Ballston Spa Boot Camp and Three Olives Restaurant. Today, they will film videos at the Ballston Spa Veterinary Clinic and the Great Indoors Golf Center. The idea was to give each location a theme that highlights the business.
“I’m a Ballston Spa native, so anything that we could do to support the town and the community and the people who live and work here, we’re all for that,” said Make Me Fabulous owner Alayne Curtiss.
It seems improbable, but things were even a little weirder at the Ballston Spa Boot Camp, with a shimmying George Bush and dancing fitness fanatics wielding light sabers, hammers and Shake Weights inside a warehouse-style gym.
In just a few takes, the group had pulled off another video.
“I think it’s just a neat opportunity, and a great way to just bust up the winter blues,” said McFarland. “But I think the most important thing is that Ballston Spa is more than just antique shops. It’s long since passed that, and there’s some great, really unique businesses here and some fabulous business owners that just have something to offer and show.”
While the Saratoga Lip Dub proved to be a huge undertaking, the Chamber hoped the Ballston Spa Harlem Shake would come together a little easier. More than halfway through Friday night, Shimkus was glad to see that it had.
“These appeal to young people,” said Shimkus. “They’re on YouTube and they’re great for social media. This will say that we’ve got some really cool towns that do some crazy things. It will say, ‘That’s a fun place to be,’ whether it’s to visit or to live.”