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Harlem Shake challenges 'Gangnam Style' on online dance floors

LONDON (Reuters) - Hot on the heels of South Korean rapper Psy's "Gangnam Style", a new dance craze is sweeping offices, universities, and even a museum as it goes viral - the Harlem Shake.

The Harlem Shake began as a dance in the 1980s but the latest version featured on a flood of online videos is an electronic dance track by 23-year-old Brooklyn DJ Baauer who released the single last year with the record label Mad Decent.

The video starts with one person, often masked, dancing while everyone else in the room pays no attention but when the chorus kicks in they all join in, usually wearing crazy costumes or with props like blow-up giraffes or bicycles.

YouTube said the craze appeared to have started with a posting by a vlogger and spread quickly, with more than 12,000 Harlem Shake videos posted from the start of the month to mid-week watched up to 44 million times.

Harlem Shake has a way to go to top "Gangnam Style" which made history last December when it became the first ever video on YouTube to reach 1 billion views.

But latest figures show one office version of Harlem Shake has received over 10 million hits while an underwater version by University of Georgia's men's swim and dive team has 7.8 million hits.

The Museum of Natural History in Halifax, Canada, has jumped onto the bandwagon, with its staff donning hats in front of a stuffed moose and carrying Granite the Python in their version.

Curator Jeff Gray said the video was part of the museum's educational outreach (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pkTDbWpDF2U).

"We wanted to do something different, ahead of the curve, and push the notion that museums can be fun and have a sense of humor and not be old, stodgy institutions," Gray told Reuters.

"Granite enjoyed it too. Any chance to get out and meet people."

The interest has also helped drive Baauer's sales, with the single topping the iTunes America chart and second in the iTunes UK and Australia lists on Friday -- much to the surprise of Baauer, aka Harry Rodrigues, who is currently on tour with Just Blaze.

"This Harlem Shake stuff is blowing my mind," he tweeted earlier this week.

(Reporting by Belinda Goldsmith, editing by Paul Casciato)

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